Thursday, April 10, 2014

Cantori New York - Beecher - 04/09/14

Artistic Director & Conductor: Mark Shapiro
Lembit Beecher: The New Amorous World
Jason Wirth: Piano

Nobody has ever had to twist my arm to take a day off, especially when it promises to be filled with sunshine and music (and a very efficient trip to a blissfully crowd-less Trader's Joe). So that's what I happily did yesterday, first for a lovely walk up Riverside Park to the Interchurch Center of New York for Cantori New York's mini-concert at mid-day, and then for an equally lovely walk down Central Park to Carnegie Hall for Mitsuko Uchida's full-scale recital in the evening. There really should be more days like this.

Since I had no idea what to expect from Cantori, I made sure to come with my mind and ears open. It turned out that the piece du jour was Estonian-American composer Lembit Beecher's brand new "The New Amorous World", which will be included in the choir's next series of concerts in May. So yesterday's performance was kind of an exclusive preview before the upcoming world première, with the clear understanding that this was still a work in progress.
I was not familiar with Charles Fourier's utopian vision, but the 19th century French philosopher had however come to my attention before for his steady support for women's rights. This was a tough job in those days, and he did it. As for the thoroughly thought-out, obviously well-intentioned, and yet often utterly bizarre, society he had come up with, with its pointedly defined rules for organizational structures and human relations, it was used by Beecher as a basis for a 30-minute dense choral work, from which yesterday stood out pêle-mêle some interestingly textured parts, a general upbeat mood, an occasional speaker, a sporadic instrumental accompaniment, and some insistent stomping-like sounds that, for a brief moment, made me think that the chorus was about to break into The Rite of Spring. They did not, but on the other hand, they managed to make their way through a cantata that was presenting some refreshingly innovative philosophical and musical ideas, not unlike Stravinsky's ground-breaking masterpiece in its own time, for an action-packed lunchtime break. One down, one more to go.

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