Tuesday, February 09, 2010

Earplay 25: Ear and There

Earplay 25: Ear and There
Monday, February 8, 2010 7:30 PM
Herbst Theatre

The Earplay Ensemble
Mary Chun, conductor
Tod Brody, flutes
Peter Josheff, clarinets
Terrie Baune, violin
Ellen Ruth- Rose, viola
Thalia Moore, cello
Karen Rosenak, piano

Guest Artists
Michael Seth Orland, piano
Chris Froh, percussion

Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez
and of course Henry the Horse (2006)

Sam Nichols
Unnamed, Jr. (2009)

Kaija Saariaho
Je sens un deuxième coeur (2006)

Seymour Shifrin
The Modern Temper (1959)

Bruce Bennett
From the Ashes (2005)

A committed audience filled just a portion of Herbst Theatre last night for this program of contemporary chamber music presented by Earplay. I have never been to one of their concerts before, though they are now in their 25th year. Conductor Mary Chun introduced each half of the program with a description of the pieces, including their duration. Sanchez-Gutierrez's and of course Henry the Horse is for clarinet, violin & piano 4 hands. It was often fast, jumpy & chirpy. The slow second movement made me think of the inexorable ticking of a clock.

Sam Nichols's Unnamed, Jr., for viola, clarinet & piano, is a moody piece in which the instruments seem to pursue independent but interweaving lines of thought. Mr. Nichols was in attendance & made a surprisingly swift leap onto the stage to take a bow with the musicians. His piece was a perfect lead in to Saariaho's trio for viola, cello & piano, Je sens un deuxième coeur. This is a set of 5 deeply serious mood pieces, ranging from brooding to rough.

After intermission Karen Rosenak & Michael Seth Orland played Seymour Shifrin's The Modern Temper for piano 4 hands, a busy piece with bouncy passages of dance music. The program ended with Bruce Bennett's From the Ashes, a 20 minute work for violin, viola, cello, piano, clarinet, flute & percussion. It's a colorful work in which a lot happens. At the center is a tam-tam solo in which percussionist Chris Froh enthusiastically attacked the instrument with brushes, sticks & his elbow, inevitably leading up to a rattling crescendo. Also notable was a passage in which the bass clarinet made a barking sound which was taken up by the strings. I liked the playing of flutist Tod Brody, whose piccolo sound is impressively solid & not a bit shrill. The composer was also in attendance, though Mr. Bennett was not quite as sprightly as Mr. Nichols in getting onto the stage.

The audience was invited to a wine & cheese reception afterward, where we could mingle with the performers & composers.

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