Network for New Music (NNM) artistic director Thomas Schuttenhelm introduced Millennial Music, a concert featuring millennial composers, with a provocative reference to Charles Rosen’s book, The Romantic Generation, a well-respected analysis of Romantic composers and techniques. Are there parallels to be drawn between today’s composers and the generation of Robert Schumann (1810-1856)?
As cellist Thomas Kraines, violist Burchard Tang, and pianist Mark Livshits played Rene Orth’s Reflections #2, the first sounds of the cello made me think of Bach — with the initial harmony sounding tame and classical. The piece took on more modern colors as Tang and Livshits joined in and brought things down to earth with a resounding chord. Orth’s trio was perhaps the most Romantic music of the concert.
A study and a romp
The second world premiere (a NNM commission), Joshua Hey’s I Am in Here, was a bold study of pitch. Both violin and cello were tuned to Hey’s specifications. The sounds were imaginative and daring — with wild glissandi and tapping of the strings with the hairs of the bow. Violinist Hirona Oka and cellist Thomas Kraines managed to vary their pitches and still meet at a nexus of sound with superb control.
Pianist Charles Abramovic joined Oka for a lively rendition of Sky Macklay’s FastSlowHighLow. This piece is a romp through the high and low registers of violin and piano. It was hard to hear the subtlety of the violin’s playing the same pitch on two different strings in the first movement, but Ona’s use of bow overpressure and sliding between notes was prominent in the three latter movements.
erebus and los minisculos
Pianist Andrew Hsu played his own composition, erebus, with guest clarinetist Yoonah Kim. Kim started playing with almost no sound on the clarinet and slowly added volume in Hsu’s musical painting of the active Antarctic volcano, Mount Erebus. The piano part simulated cracking ice and delicate, impressionistic harmonies. The piece has wonderful ideas, but needs trimming.
Gabriel Bolaños’s los minuscolos might have come off better in a larger room. In this performance of his work for bassoon and electronics, adapted for cello, the electronic sounds were shortchanged.
The final piece in the concert was Charles Peck’s piano quartet, Sunburst, which has a wild and shimmering first movement titled “Reflect,” and settles into smooth chords for the second movement, “Absorb.” Kraines’s cello pegs began to slip after being tuned down earlier in the concert; he had to retune in the middle of the first movement. The undaunted musicians (Abramovic, Ona, and Tang) recovered quickly.
Judging from this concert, today’s music is in good hands with the millennial generation.
What, When, Where
Millennial Music. Rene Orth, Reflections #2; Joshua Hey, I Am in Here; Sky Macklay, FastSlowHighLow; Andrew Hsu, erebus; Gabriel Bolaños, los minusculos; Charles Peck, Sunburst. Thomas Kraines, cello; Burchard Tang, viola; Andrew Hsu, Mark Livshits, and Charles Abramovic, piano; Hirona Oka, violin; and Yoonah Kim, clarinet. Network for New Music. February 17, 2019, at Rose Hall at the University of Pennsylvania, 3340 Walnut Street, Philadelphia. (215) 848-7647 or networkfornewmusic.org.