Elena Ruehr Walk Through A Strange Landscape
Christina J. George The Last Words
Kevin Puts Seven Seascapes
Morton Gould Benny’s Gig
I’m not sure exactly how this fits into the theme of landscape that informed this concert, but I suppose, as a piece written to be played in the Soviet Union in 1962, just months before the Cuban Missile Crisis, it has something to do with the fate of the world. Ironically, as clarinetist Eran Egory introduced the piece, it has peculiar contemporary resonance with Russia’s attack on the Ukraine.
The piece itself is a combination of jazzy moments and more speculative ones. Apparently, when it was played in the Soviet Union in 1962, Nikita Khrushchev heard the concert and complained it was “too dancy.” Actually, I thought the dancy parts were the best. Somehow, they showed off the jazziness and kineticism of the clarinet while enabling a kind of tonal rapport with the bass. At time when the jazziness abated, however, he thinness of this duo’s instrumentation came through. The players here were capable, but the instrumentation for a duo of this sort seemed to require superhuman efforts to give it depth. Egory is a decent clarinetist and able to keep up with the jazz, but his tonal range seemed, in this case, somewhat limited and it’s very hard to get a clarinet and bass to fill that out without some considerable capacity and effort. In any case, the Latin tempos of various of the movements, interleaved with the jazzier elements of others, had significant appeal.
Elena Ruehr Walk Through a Strange Landscape
Elena Ruehr apparently loves the sound of loons on lonesome lakes, and that was apparent in her lovely, nuanced, quite interesting piece Walk Through a Strange Landscape. It begins with an openness and the call of the loon but develops at various points into something considerably more kinetic. Providing treble leadership in this arena goes to Jennifer Montbach on oboe and Noriko Tuagami on viola, but the continuing force of the development is held in place by Sarah Bob on piano, who forcefully renders the rhythms and themes that push the piece forward. Again, for the conception, the instrumentation is a little thin, but somehow the artistry of development keeps it interesting.
Christina George The Last Words
Christina George won a competition for compositions by students and her The Last Words broke the silence after the intermission. A small poem inspires the development, which is largely the tracing of a lost, empty love. As pianist Sarah Bob described it, the composer’s instruction to not use the pedal at a certain point was inspiring in a way because it signified the emptiness of love. I’m not sure how his fits in with the general theme of landscape but I suppose the vacancy of that uninvolvement could represent something like a vast open space. The effort, though incipient and clearly by a beginning composer, shows promise and capacity.
Kevin Puts Seven Seascapes
The final piece, Kevin Puts’ Seven Seascapes had a large ensemble and all kinds of textures. Clearly this is a spacious piece and begins with a thoughtful and expansive opening that closes the piece as well. Because of its significant instrumentation, there are all sort of opportunities for the different instruments to show their wares. One of the most telling moments came when the strings collaborated in a downward slide – simple but telling. A horn fanfare was declarative and open and the flute occasionally got a chance to sing. The piece’s signature at the opening has the quality of a stoic hymn of the Copland sort, and it ends that way as well. But in the guts of the piece are many different textures, all, in theory, calling forth the sea. They all had their moments.
– BADMan (aka Charles Munitz)