Critic as matchmaker, via Facebook
Geoffrey Gordon, a composer who splits time between Cedarburg and the wide world, is a night owl. So am I. We both spend a lot of time in front of computers, and we’re both on Facebook.
Occasionally, Gordon pops up in the instant message window of my Facebook page. In one late-night missive several months ago, he expressed interest in writing a concerto for a soloist in the Milwaukee Symphony. He thought the right idea for the right person might lead to a commission.
I like Geoffrey, and I like his work. He is largely self-taught as a composer, and he is among the lucky few who make a living writing concert music. He’s won significant prizes and has been busy for years fulfilling commissions all over the U.S. and Europe. He has more than 40 works in print. I still recall his wonderful score for The House of Bernarda Alba, which Gordon wrote for Yves de Bouteiller’s ballet of that name way back in 1994 for his now-disbanded dance company.
Gordon’s an interesting guy otherwise, with great curiosity and a keen interest in art and literature. He’s a good talker; some might recall his days as a youthful announcer on now-defunct WFMR classical radio.
I told him I’d think about concerto options. The obvious choice was Frank Almond, the MSO concertmaster and a world-class violin soloist. But violinists have plenty of high-quality concertos to choose from, and I thought the MSO might be more likely to bite on a concerto for a very gifted player who is a little harder to feature.
I thought of principal clarinetist Todd Levy, but the orchestral rep is full of clarinet solos, so the audience hears him front and center all the time. Then it hit me: Megumi Kanda.
Kanda, the MSO’s principal trombonist, played Ferdinand David‘s (1810-1873) Concertino No. 4 for Trombone and Orchestra with the MSO in January 2008. She played very well, but the piece is dull and obvious.
I’d met Kanda a few times and knew that in addition to being a great player, she is a lovely person. And judging by the David piece, she and trombonists in general would welcome a good new concerto. They need something to play.
He did, she was interested, and they took the idea up the line at the MSO administration. Geoffrey called just before Christmas to say that he was close to signing a deal with the MSO and that the premiere had been tentatively set for January 2011.
You never know how these things will turn out — it’s hard to write a really good piece of music — but right now I’m feeling pretty good about helping two talented people and an important organization get together.
Togetherness — isn’t that what Facebook’s all about?