Vine’s sixth quartet “Child’s Play” was commissioned with the support of recently retired Musica Viva Chairman Michael Katz and his wife Frédérique Katz, The Seattle Commissioning Club, who are long-time friends of the Quartet, and Carnegie Hall, where the group is a frequent visitor and where a future performance of the piece is already scheduled.
From the quietly dissonant opening of Play, the quartet draws on the behaviour and moods of children to create a charmingly uplifting – though never saccharine – suite of movements.
The music has an appealing, easy-listening quality that alternates between bustling, playful rhythms and soothing calmness. Sleep, as one might expect, is portrayed with beautiful gentle sonorities underpinning melodic lines of simple elegance.
"It's about the childishness in all of us and that sort of wide-eyed innocence. So I took five elements of childishness or of that unbridled passion that we can tap on. The other thing about the title is that it's mildly ironic. Frequently when you say that something is 'child's play' it's really rather complex so there's a combination of that irony but also a fascination with simple wishes."
Abbie Betinis’s Rhapsodos is a voyage of melodies and textures that will quickly find a place in the recital repertoire, for it’s expressive, dramatic and playable. Listeners and critics alike will enjoy this piece. The audience yesterday responded immediately to its narrative, which plays with Odysseus’s journey in a way that somehow manages to embrace the epic and the intimate.
Willis and the orchestra welcome the opportunity to present the world premiere of Ott’s original score, “In Pieces”, which commemorates the city for its support of the arts. It is a pure, symphonic, 18-minute work performed in three movements. The work, which the Seattle Commissioning Club entrusted especially to the Auburn Symphony, is a reflective arrangement of optimistic and dark times in society.
The music combines short interludes and vignettes with more complex structures. There was a wide range moods and styles in the quartet writing, from passages reminiscent of Bartok and Janacek in a piece like Through Mist to Copland and Ives Americana in First Light. Two of the interludes had a boldly stated melody on a lower instrument pitted against frenetic high harmonics. Other devices from the string trick-box were smears and scordatura. The Escher Quartet traversed the styles and captured the shifting moods with energy and panache.
Zimmerli takes familiar elements from 19th-century classical music and the standard sequences of jazz and pop, adds ethnic influences and has a sharp talent for a catchy tune. In this, his music is somewhat cinematic. His motifs are meticulously developed and his textures atmospheric, yet at the Wigmore, where he conducted, he seemed a little diffident about the mix of genres: “I’m not quite sure what I’m doing tonight,” he announced after the first number, “Flash.”
Heggie’s brand-new song cycle, This Is My Beloved, got a tremendous performance from Gilfry (who sang the challenging 20-minute work without a score), accompanied by the composer at the piano and two other instrumentalists, violinist Andres Cardenes and cellist Anne Martindale Williams. Based on a book of erotically charged poems by Walter Benton (1907-76), the song cycle (like the book) traces the arc of a love affair from the first rush of joyous emotion to the lonely resignation of the end.
Novacek’s 35-minute piece with a hectic, assertive cluster of jazzy elements played with brio by the composer and cellist Michelle Djokic. The stinging dissonances were refreshing after Zimmerli’s sweetness, and the hymn-like final movement left in its wake a shared silence as beautiful as any music.
Dorman wrote Lost Souls for Israeli pianist Alon Goldstein, who will be performing the work in Kansas City. For Dorman, this work is channeled straight from his relationship with the pianist: “I love Alon’s playing. He seems like he is from a different era – the way he carries himself, his mannerisms – it seems like he was born and lived in the 19th century,” Dorman recalls.
The concerto represents the first commission of the Seattle Commissioning Club, organized three years ago. Commissioning new work is the most daring financial support to the arts because it has the greatest chances for failure. So, kudos to the five couples in the club.
Between those surprise bookends, Friedmann and her pianist husband, artistic adviser Jon Kimura Parker, have programmed a host of firsts. Among them is the Northwest premiere of Minnesota-based composer Abbie Betinis’ “Rhapsodos” for clarinet and piano (Aug. 16-17). A joint commission by the Seattle Commissioning Club and Minnesota Commissioning Club, the premiere will showcase the clarinetist for whom it was written, famed Brit Michael Collins.
Here in the Northwest, the 2-year-old Seattle Commissioning Club is underwriting its first major project: a new Horn Concerto by Samuel Jones, the Seattle Symphony’s resident composer and the creator of a highly popular Tuba Concerto two years back. The club, a group of five couples, got its inspiration from a similar club in Minnesota that commissioned a new work at the Seattle Chamber Music Society’s Summer Festival at the Lakeside School a few years ago.
One that’s...found a venue for each of its commissions – is the Seattle Commissioning Club, which premiered its first piece in 2008. Last April, its latest commission – Patrick Zimmerli’s Aspects of Darkness and Light – went up in London’s Wigmore Hall.