Tuesday, January 28, 2014

RTE Orchestra Horizons Series II

One week to the day after a spectacular (and free!) concert featuring Rhona Clarke, I was back at the National Concert hall to see RTE National Symphony Orchestra in the second of four installments of the Horizons Contemporary Music Series.  This week- the work of Waterford-based Marian Ingoldsby.

The program of the afternoon:

"Coloured Time"

Marian Ingoldsby- Overture (1994)
Webern- Variations for Orchestra (1941)
Marian Ingoldsby- The Heron and the Weir (2008)
Takemitsu- How slow the Wind (1991)
Marian Ingoldsby- Dance (2014)- RTE Commission / World Premiere

Before the concert, the composer sat down with Contemporary Music Centre Director Evonne Ferguson.  The interview began with some reflections about how the composer's style and voice have changed in the 20 years since writing the first piece on the program, Overture, and what it feels like to hear one's own work performed after so many years.  Ms. Ingoldsby replied that her style in the earlier works was heavy on big splashes of color and contrast from the orchestra, and hearing it transports her back to some of her own thoughts, feelings, and worldview all those years ago.

Her second piece on the program, The Heron and the Weir was inspired in her own hometown of Carrick-on-Suir.  She would often see a heron when taking evening strolls on the river walk, and tried (successfully, I might add) to capture that image of serenity, especially with the strong and pleasing woodwind colors (there's my concert band director coming out again!)

When asked about her world premiere piece, Dance, she admitted that the title came after the composition was finished, so it wasn't written as any particular kind of dance.  The ever changing rhythmic character of the piece would make the dancing, to use her word, "wonky."  The piece is a major direction shift from the other (more minimalist) pieces on the program, with vibrant, energetic, and unpredictable rhythmic pulse.  She even quoted the irrepressible Monty Python- "...And now for something completely different."

Regarding the other pieces on the program (from the interview and from her program notes), the composer says of Webern, (paraphrase) 'He develops ideas and melodies so cleverly, even in a tone row.'  Variations is a piece of startling complexity and simplicity.

Embedded here is another performance of that same piece, done by the Berlin Philharmonic.  The recording of this performance is available from NOVA on RTE Lyric fm (link at bottom of this post.)

Webern (and some of his contemporaries) composed in the Serialist style.  A tone row functions like the scales that we all know and love, but is composed of (usually) all twelve notes, often in (seemingly) random order.  This gives Serialist music a very uncentered, unpredictable, and sometimes (intentionally) uncomfortable feel.  

With the Takemitsu piece, we continue the theme of minimalist, nature (and bird!)-inspired music.  How slow the Wind comes from an Emily Dickinson poem:

How slow the Wind-
how slow the sea-
how late their Feathers be!

Again embedded for convenience is a different orchestra recording of the piece.

This is another complex piece built of very simple themes (a six-note statement is revisited over and over again.) It is "simple complexity."  Only in art can we use phrases like that and get away with it.

The program performance was fantastic.  The composer constructed a great and refreshing lineup of contrasts in her own work and that of Webern and Takemitsu.  The final, world premiere of Dance was indeed a breath-taking, barn-burning, bold brash bruiser- and was, indeed, "Something completely different."  I always love sitting in on premieres of new music.  To think that I am among the audience who hears a piece of music performed for the first time, ever is something special.  To also think that the good people at RTE and CMC give me (and the rest of the audience) a chance to be a part of these special premieres for no cost is truly remarkable.  

A big personal "Thank you!" goes out from me to the following for a wonderful (and did I mention again free!?) concert (with links!)-

RTE Lyric fm and the Sunday night show, NOVA.  Check this link to listen to this concert in full.  

Two more free performances!  January 28 and February 4, 2014.  Check the links above for times and tickets.

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