Aaaaah, new music! It’s been two years since the last time I attended the Minnesota Orchestra’s “Future Classics” concert. My heart broke last year because I could not attend. So, last night’s concert at Orchestra Hall was long overdue for me but well worth the wait. I had considered also attending the rehearsals this year, but it wasn’t crucial for my Perceval research and I had freelance writing deadlines. Alas, the rehearsals are usually as interesting to me if not more than the concert….
As in the past, Minnesota Public Radio hosted the concert in the person of Fred Childs, host of “Performance Today.” He interviewed each of the young composers before the orchestra played his or her piece. Although some interesting tidbits came out about one or two composers, for the most part, these interviews went on far too long. It’s nice to hear the composer speak briefly about his or her music, but the whole point of the concert is the music and its performance for us to hear.
This year’s pack of composers demonstrated their talent in their compositions for this concert. The Orchestra and Music Director Osmo Vanska demonstrated their talent by preparing for this concert in only about five weeks of score study and three rehearsals. On the first half, the music tended more toward the atonal experimental, with interesting rhythmical motifs and slides. The concert began with a work of greeting, Namaskar, from Thai composer Narong Prangcharoen. His music greeted the audience with assertive percussion, drum, and angular phrases. The first half ended with a symphony — finally a composer offered a new symphony! But it was only 14 minutes long and I craved to hear more, for the musical ideas to be further developed, for the depth of the symphony orchestra to be explored. The two short pieces sandwiched between began quietly, creating an ethereal musical landscape with clusters of movement and sound.
The second half began with the presentation of the the Gold Baton from Columbia University to Osmo Vanska for his support for and continuing work on behalf of new music and composers. Congratulations, Mr. Vanska and the Minnesota Orchestra! Bravo. Keep up the excellent work….
The music that followed provided the meat and potatoes of the evening’s musical feast. I would LOVE to listen to these three works again and again. The first celebrated “The Body Electric” inspired by Walt Whitman’s poetry. The music moved fast and rich with a joyful energy. The second work evoked the bells of the Russian Orthodox Church and Russia with its earthy strings and wonderful percussion effects. The composer skillfully presented her motifs and developed them, giving us a musical glimpse into her native country. The last rousing, driving music reminded me of circus music that’s been manipulated by a master and echoed Charles Ives in a playful way.
In years past, the rehearsals and concert of the Composer Institute have been important to me for my research into composers for the Perceval novels. Through them, I’ve reconnected with my love of new music which grew out of a 20th Century Music course I took when I studied in Vienna, Austria. As I listened last night in Orchestra Hall, I felt certain that composers and classical music have a future. The question I raise in Perceval, though, is sadly relevant today: how much are we willing to pay to support this music and the people who make it their life’s work? In the novel, Evan Quinn grapples with a government and society obsessed with Capitalism and money — if it doesn’t make a profit, it’s doomed, whether it’s art or not. We are gradually moving in that direction, I fear….