Sunday, October 20, 2013

Curious Flights: Transatlantic Crossings

Curious Flights photo IMG_20131018_210738_zpsa3f842f1.jpgFriday night I heard Curious Flights present a genial concert of chamber music, featuring works by British composer Edwin Roxburgh. The program opened with Oakland-born Dylan Mattingly's Six Night Sunrise, a pretty, stream of consciousness piece for violin & piano that ends with a racing finale. I liked violinist René Mandel's clean, smooth playing. Pianist Miles Graber was a solid accompanist.

Clarinetist Brenden Guy & percussionist Nicholas Reed were a tight duo in Roxburgh's Dithyramb I. The piece is somewhat theatrical & required Mr. Guy to play 3 different sizes of clarinet while interacting with Mr. Reed playing a variety of drums, gongs & xylphones. There were high, ear-piercing moments, bent pitches & dance-like passages. Both musicians played with sharply articulated phrasing & close communication. Mr. Guy & Mr. Reed were joined by violinist Tess Varley for a suite of jaunty, tuneful & syncopated pieces by Larry London. Mr. Reed had a rustic solo played on tin cans of different sizes. He is a flirtatious player & makes wicked eye contact with his partners. He sometimes looks like he is moving underwater. The composer was in the audience.

After intermission, Mr. Reed, surrounded by an array of percussion including gongs, vibraphone & bongos, played a solo piece by Roxburgh. The music begins & ends in near silence & is mysterious & foreboding. Mr. Reed moved stealthily round his circle of instruments, flipped mallets in the air & played without a score. The concert ended with Roxburgh's humorous How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear, performed by an orchestra of about 30. Nikolaus Hohmann, wearing a red bow tie & standing to the side of the orchestra, was a droll narrator, reciting a half dozen of Lear's nonsense poems while the orchestra played underneath. The music was often cartoonish, though "The Dong with a Luminous Nose" had a distinctively dark atmosphere, opening with a clear & sustained clarinet solo from Mr. Guy & then elongated notes from the strings. The orchestra convincingly imitated a sitar in "The Akond of Swat," which also included lovely oboe solos by Sydne Sullivan. Mr. Roxburgh himself was originally supposed to conduct but was unable to travel from England due to a personal situation. The orchestra sounded great & played neatly under his replacement, Dustin Soiseth.

Curious Flights photo IMG_20131018_212020_zps7504b483.jpgThe audience was sparse but supportive & recalled all the performers for 2nd bows. When my concert companion tried to remember the name of a local composer who looks like Santa Claus, a man seated in front of us suggested Terry Riley. It turned out my friend was thinking of Lou Harrison.

§ Curious Flights
Transatlantic Crossings

Six Night Sunrise (2010)
René Mandel, violin
Miles Graber, piano

Dithyramb I (1972)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Nicholas Reed, percussion

Scenes from Dobashi (1998)
Brenden Guy, clarinet
Tess Varley, violin
Nicholas Reed, percussion

Aube (2008)
Nicholas Reed, percussion

How Pleasant to Know Mr. Lear (1971)
Curious Flights Chamber Orchestra
Edwin Roxburgh Dustin Soiseth, conductor
Nikolaus Hohmann, Narrator

October 18, 2013 | 8:00 p.m.
San Francisco Conservatory Concert Hall


Michael Strickland said...
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Michael Strickland said...

Nicely written. And I'd say Terry Riley looks more like Gandalf, while Lou Harrison was definitely Santa Claus. Love that your plus-one could remember his look, but not Lou's name.

Axel Feldheim said...

Thanks. I enjoyed your account of the concert as well, especially of the visual details that I did not notice from my seat. My plus one that night is such a clever boy.