UC San Diego's Department of Music
June 10, 2018
LA JOLLA SYMPHONY & CHORUS CLOSE SEASON WITH TRADEMARK ECLECTICISM
As La Jolla Symphony & Chorus Music Director Steven Schick and composer Rand Steiger discussed, in a pre-concert talk on Saturday evening, the genesis and construction of Steiger's "Template for Improvising Trumpeter and Orchestra," Schick candidly observed that he would be interested to see how the audience responded to the eclectic program they were about to hear.
He didn't have long to wait. Enthusiastic applause greeted Steiger's explosive collaboration between full orchestra, virtuoso trumpeter and digital processing.
Peter Evans' blazing trumpet, from its first notes, blew a howl of protest at being hurled into the world as a biological template, one of millions of such patterns, with no instructions on the way forward. And the improvising part? Well, that's the living we face from that moment on. This work is one of the most successful combinations of orchestra, improvising performer and digital augmentation I've ever heard, with alternately growling and soothing signal augmentation organically integrated into the fabric of the music.
Courtney Davis' "Yet Unheard" is at once a threnody and an exaltation, a song of lamentation and a call to make justice of tragedy -- the death of Sandra Bland in a jail cell three days after being arrested for a traffic altercation in 2013. Close collaboration between composer, poet Sharan Strange and the vocal soloist Helga Davis gives a kaleidoscopic effect to the work as the soprano moves from song and chant to whispers and screams. Chilling and cathartic, "Yet Unheard" opened the concert hall to the world outside its doors.
Asher Tobin Chodos' arrangement of Ornette Coleman's "Lonely Woman" is hard to absorb in a single hearing because it is elusive and many-layered. Tobin veils the haunting melody in smoky orchestral texture fronted by a jazz quartet of vocalist (Davis), trumpeter (Evans), bassist Kyle Motl and percussionist/drummer Kjell Nordeson. Tangy harmonies come and go, the rhythmic framework continually shifts, and the music's center of gravity moves from one part of the orchestra to another.
FaurÃ©'s "Requiem" stood in direct contradiction to the cultural world in which it emerged. The last decades of the 19th century were a veritable orgy of territorial expansion and scientific discovery. From the time he began to compose it in the mid-1880s until its final revision in 1900, the Eiffel Tower rose on the Champs de Mars, the Panama Canal nearly bankrupted Eiffel as he joined the parade of builders who tried to complete it, and French rationalism -- the belief that every problem has a solution -- had its heyday.
But FaurÃ© was after something else. His "Requiem" celebrated heavenly repose, not fear of damnation. But "repose" does not necessarily imply "rest", and this "Requiem" requires -- above all else -- a sense of urgency and the intensity of settled, even fierce, belief.
Despite robust orchestral playing, that urgency was missing on Saturday evening. The chorus struggled with ragged entrances and unblended textures. Baritone Jonathan Nussman and soprano Priti Gandhi supplied neither stern admonition nor fervent supplication. The "Requiem" has real muscles, hidden though they may be by French restraint, and they must be used if this great masterpiece is to make its proper impact.
This performance was the first of two that mark the close of La Jolla Symphony & Chorus' current season (repeated today at 2 in UC San Diego's Mandeville Hall), and its wide-ranging program reminds us of the importance of this musical asset to San Diego's cultural life. If you haven't experienced it yet, that concluding concert is a good place to start.
[more info >>]
<< View Current News Show detail for all Current News View Archived News >>
Please Note: The Department of Music does not take responsibility for the content of external websites, Facebook pages, and other outside UCSD.
Share this News Item