Friday, July 25, 2014

Bartok and Reich

Donovan Pavilion, Vail
Today is the first anniversary of the death of my stepmother, Pat. I was informed of her death last year while we were in Vail for the music festival, and that day I walked across the street to listen to a performance of the Barber Adagio for Strings. The first concert we went to this year with NY Phil also played the piece, in honor of Lorin Maazel. My wife also lost her grandmother this year, and the same day the NY Phil played the Adagio would have been her 101st Birthday. Sunday is also the anniversary of our move to Denver, so it has been an emotional week for us.

This concert was Monday night. It featured two pieces for keyboards and percussion by 20th century composers, Béla Bartók and Steven Reich. The venue is beautiful, but they need to turn off the air conditioning during a quiet performance; most of the Bartok was overwhelmed by the fan noise. I had not heard the Sonata for Two Pianos and Percussion before, But I have always liked Bartók's approach to composition, and this piece was quite nice. Both pianists, Anne-Marie McDermott (who is also music director for the Bravo Vail series), Gilles Vonsattel had their hands full and played quite well. Third Coast Percussion was featured on both pieces.

The Reich piece was very well received, his Sextet for two keyboards and percussion. The piece made use of four percussionists, playing vibraphones, marimbas, crotales and various other percussion. Perhaps the most interesting orchestration in the piece was the use of bowed vibraphone, which gave a very eerie sound to the piece. (The player could have used more rosin, though, it lost volume as the piece progressed.)

I've always felt that Reich is everything that most people wish Philip Glass could be. His music is much more coherent and has a better overall arch to it, and his orchestration is at least interesting, which is more than I can say for Glass. The only thing I did not care for in this piece was the use of synthesizers, which seemed to wish that they were a horn and a tuba. (Why not just get the real thing?) Other than that, it was a very interesting piece from start to finish, and the crowd enjoyed it.

The whole concert was under an hour long (excluding an insanely long break between the two pieces). It might have been nice to open with some short fanfare so that people feel like they got a full concert out of the program. Otherwise, this was a nice way for us to finish our stay in Vail, and I look forward to next year.

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