Hungarian Rock and Other Crazy Stuff

Present Music celebrates the equinox with a heady mix of music.

By - Mar 17th, 2016 06:10 pm
Winter into Spring

Winter into Spring

Present Music has begun a new tradition. Following up on last year’s successful, spring-time “Equinox” concert,  this Sunday’s concert, “Equinox: light and dark” will again celebrate the transition from winter to spring. This year’s will also explore “Connections” — between the roots of classical music and contemporary composition.

The program will be ordered from “dark” to “light”:

Georg Ligeti wrote Hungarian Rock, a chaconne for harpsichord which exploits the capacity of that instrument to produce a cascade of short interval notes. The piece sparkles with energy. A piano would have difficulty producing the effect. (Sunday’s performance is likely to be on an electric keyboard.)

A J.S. Bach chorale, Before your throne I now appear,  reflects a meditative reflection on death and the afterlife. Rumored to have been dictated by Bach on his deathbed, the chorale was more likely revised at that time. Contemporary Russian composer Sofia Gubaidulina incorporated the theme and the mood in Meditations on a Bach Chorale. The work incorporates a shimmering glissandi sound from the strings that recall the organ used by the Bach chorale.

Robert Honstein

Robert Honstein

Night Scenes from the Ospedale, by composer Robert Honstein is all about Vivaldi. Honstein collaborated with an early music group for The Vivaldi Project. He wrote contemporary interludes to accompany performance of a set of Vivaldi concerti. Vivaldi’s opus 3 set, known as “L’Estro Armonico” (Harmonic Inspiration) contain the same energy and appeal as the better known “Four Seasons” set. Honstein was inspired by imagining evening scenes at the convent, orphanage and music school, Ospedale della Pietà, where Vivaldi taught.  Night Scenes from the Ospedalewill be performed in sequence with original Vivaldi selections.

Andrew Norman‘s Music in Circles features a slow awakening of instruments, often sounding electronic, but clearly anticipating spring. Artistic Director Kevin Stalheim describes the opening, “Imagine six musicians suspended in space far away from each other like planets. The musicians play a few spare notes – unaware of each other. Then they begin to add notes to their own little sound worlds. The musicians keep adding notes to their own worlds in a circular, slowly-moving journey of transformation that start and end in the same place.” The orbits come together and then separate again to end the piece.

Celebratory clarinets welcome spring in Judd Greenstein‘s Clearing, Dawn, Dance.

The program will end with a bright, expansive composition by John Luther Adams, Light That Fills the World. Listeners will be reminded of the slowly unfolding composition Present Music performed two years ago at the Layton Sculpture Gardens.

I find it difficult to describe a Present Music program accurately in advance. Stalheim can be expected to offer twists on the performance of some of these works and to add other surprises as well.

Present Music will perform at 7:00 p.m. at Turner Hall Ballroom at 1040 N. 4th St., Milwaukee. Single tickets ($15, $25 and $35, students always HALF off) are available at the website  or at (414) 271-0711.

In collaboration with Braise Restaurant and Culinary School, Present Music will host a “sensory adventure” with a multi-course blindfolded dinner, to be held at 5:00 p.m.on the balcony of Turner Hall. Reservations are closed for that event.

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