The New Juilliard Ensemble
Conductor: Joel Sachs
Marie Samuelsson: Förnimmelser
Hebert Vázquez: Pinturas del mundo flotante: Bajo una ola en altamar en Kanagawa
Roberto Sierra: El sueño de Tartini
Donald Crockett: Dance Concerto
Bryan Conger, Clarinet
Now that summer is officially in and the cultural season is officially out, life is tough for the poor music lovers who do not have the money or the time to make it to the countless prestigious music festivals around the world. Luckily, New York City has had its own mini-festival in July since 1971 when MoMA decided to offer some first-class contemporary music performed by first-class musicians in its lovely sculpture garden.
The weather has not always cooperated in the past, but last Sunday was as perfect a summer evening as could be expected for an outdoor event, and the extra-long line of regulars and newcomers certainly attested of that. Undaunted by the challenge, my friend Vy An and I waited forty-five minutes outside and one hour inside before venturing into international contemporary classical music territory in the expert company of The New Julliard Ensemble conducted by Joel Sachs (in his 25th season this year!).
The concert started with the US premiere of Swedish composer Marie Samuelsson's "Förnimmelser", whose various "Notations" lovingly evoked people dear to her. Soulfully conveyed by a tight septet consisting of clarinet, bassoon, horn, violin, viola, cello and bass, those musical musings had the ethereality and tenderness that come with cherished memories while still being accompanied by an unmistakable touch of Nordic coolness.
Then we moved from Scandinavia to Central America for another US premiere with Mexican composer Hebert Vázquez's "Pinturas del mundo flotante: Bajo una ola en altamar en Kanagawa." Those "Paintings of the floating world: Under the wave off Kanagawa", which are part of an unfinished chamber music work, vibrantly conveyed the ukiyo-e woodblock prints and paintings that were popular in Japan from the 17th through the 19th centuries with contemporary Western instruments. Delicately outlined or vigorously splashy, the music changed along with the imaginary images during this time- and border-transcending experience.
After a short intermission, we got to enjoy the world premiere of the final version of Puerto Rican composer Roberto Sierra's "El sueño de Tartini", a virtuosic account of what the devil's music may have sounded like in "Tartini's Dream", which incidentally was also the inspiration for his famous solo violin piece "Devil’s Trill Sonata". Unsurprisingly, the result, which involved flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano, was sometimes eerie, often mysterious, generally unpredictable, and always exciting. The devil would have been proud, possibly jealous.
We ended our evening with the New York premiere of American composer Donald Crockett's "Dance Concerto", which featured Bryan Conger in a star turn at the clarinet and eight other musicians in equally confident performances, , everybody seemingly ready to "dance the night away until dawn" indeed. We did not, but reluctantly left our little mid-town oasis to go back to the gritty urban reality.