Originally published on March 18, 2009 and reproduced with minor revisions
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players have released an announcement of the final concert of their current season:
The San Francisco Contemporary Music Players closes its 2008-09 season with an adventurous evening of music that builds upon the spectralist tradition. On Monday, March 30, 2009, at 8:00pm at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts Forum (pre-concert talk at 7:15pm), the Players will perform works by Philippe Hurel, Tristan Murail, Alessandro Solbiati, and François Paris.
The climax of this concert is a screening of the 1930 film “À propos de Nice,” the first major work of legendary writer/director Jean Vigo, with a live performance of a new score by French composer François Paris. Paris describes his piece as “an imaginary dialogue with Vigo across the years to which I feel invited. A dialogue in which the filmmaker will surely always have the last word…” This piece is scored for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, and string quartet, and will be conducted by David Milnes. The composer will discuss his score in the pre-concert talk.
David Milnes leads the ensemble in the U.S. premiere of Alessandro Solbiati’s Sestetto à Gérard, an homage to the French spectralist composer and UC Berkeley professor, Gérard Grisey. Solbiati’s piece uses special tunings and harmonies that are similar to those in Grisey’s masterpiece, Vortex Temporum, which was performed by the Players to much acclaim in 2003 and 2004.
Daniel Kennedy performs Philippe Hurel’s Loops IV for solo marimba, the fourth in a series of playful works built around repeated patterns. Hurel writes, “The loops fascinate me because they involve repetition, and repetition fascinates me because it is the basis of all transformation in time.”
Pianist Julie Steinberg plays Tristan Murail’s solo works, La mandragore (The Mandrake) and Cloches d’adieu, et un sourire… (Bells of farewell, and a smile…). The latter is dedicated to composer Olivier Messiaen.
For many (including myself) this will be an evening of works all of which are unfamiliar (quite the opposite of my recent Schubertiad experience). Fortunately, there are several ways for the sympathetic listener to become acquainted with much of the content:
- The Web site for the entire season is a Flash program. Clicking on the “Moving pictures, picture music” box bring up not only details but also audio previews of excerpts of the Solbiati premiere and the two Murail compositions. These will not give much of a sense of the works in their entirety; but they give a sense of the sonorities of those works, which counts of a lot in preparing listeners’ expectations.
- An in-depth examination of the Solbiati premiere will take place the preceding day (Sunday, March 29) as the “Contemporary Insights” offering for the full concert. This will include a discussion of the composition, elaborated with the performances of excerpts. After having introduced the work, the ensemble will perform it in its entirety, followed by a discussion with the audience. The venue is the ODC Dance Commons, 351 Shotwell Street (between 17th and 18th Streets). I shall not be able to attend this event, but I have been at previous such presentations. The space is highly conducive to both performance and conversation.
- As mentioned in the announcement, the concert itself will be preceded by a talk in which both Paris and Solbiati will participate, with Milnes serving as moderator.
I suppose some may think of all this as “homework.” I prefer to think of it as supplementing the concert experience. The hope is that, if you are given a few tastes as your first impressions, you will be more inclined to come for the entire meal. I, for one, find that an admirable strategy!