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Earplay’s second concert of the season, given Monday at Herbst Theatre, included four highly individual pieces in the first half. The program ended with Elliott Carter’s amply proportioned Triple Duo from 1983, a virtuosic workout for all of its six players, ably led in this performance by the ensemble’s resident conductor, Mary Chun.
Earplay’s 25th season of concerts began Monday with a program at Herbst Theatre featuring works by composers who have a Bay Area connection, past or present. The opening selection was Mexican-born Carlos Sanchez-Gutierrez’ provocatively titled and of course, Henry the Horse (2006), a collection of four short, attractive pieces scored for clarinets, violin, and piano duet. Each of the pieces “pays homage to, and is a commentary on, a contemporary work of art.”
Monday’s concert by the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players was titled “Made to Order,” an allusion to the highly inventive and original sonic landscape of every piece on the program. Or, it could just be an acknowledgment that three of the four pieces were commissioned for performance by the SFCMP. In any case, individuality and experimentation pervaded the program, which was given at Herbst Theatre.
Sheer inventiveness and originality were at the forefront of Earplay’s final concert of the season on Wednesday. This adventurous and enterprising group, which presents some of the best and most interesting contemporary music heard in the Bay Area, ended its 24th season with a fascinating, unusual program that looked both backward and forward from 1949 to the present.
Born a hundred years ago, just a single day apart, Olivier Messiaen and Elliott Carter, otherwise such strange musical bedfellows, had their December birthdays jointly celebrated Monday in San Francisco's Green Room, in a concert by the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble. Messiaen died in 1992 at age 84, but Carter lives on, seems in steady good health, and with his abilities intact continues to write music.
The Left Coast Chamber Ensemble began its season with a program blending the (relatively) old and the new. Monday night’s concert at the Green Room in San Francisco’s Veterans Memorial offered a group of five pieces featuring the first performance of Wayne Peterson’s distinctive String Trio, composed in 2007, and commissioned by the LCCE.
This year, Composers Inc. marks its 25th anniversary as an active, vital musical presence in the San Francisco Bay Area. Over the years, its loyal, supportive audiences have been grateful for the broadly eclectic programming and consistently high level of performances they have heard. Although a listener might not always agree with their choice of music, Composers Inc. has achieved a good track record for an impressively long period.
Earplay's 23rd season came to an end Wednesday night at Herbst Theatre with a concert of four chamber pieces written over the past quarter century, plus a major work by British composer Peter Maxwell Davies from 1975: his ample, richly textured Ave maris stella (Hail, star of the sea), for six instruments. Based on a plainsong theme with nine continuous variations, and lasting 25 minutes, the piece is dedicated to the memory of a friend and fellow member of the trailblazing chamber ensemble The Fires of London.
For its opening concert of the season last Tuesday, Composers Inc. presented an often intriguing mix of pieces, including two piano solos, a couple of unusual duos, a trio, and a quartet finale. Pianist Eliane Lust began the program with a crisp, dynamic rendition of Three Pieces for Piano, by Jeffrey Miller (2007). The outer pieces, “Invention” and “Dance,” were contrapuntal, with motives combining and dissolving in animated interplay. The middle piece, “Elegy,” a reflective study in chordal textures, provided an apt contrast.
Every year the music department of Mills College in Oakland presents a concert prominently featuring the music of Darius Milhaud, in celebration of the long and fruitful association between the college and the composer, who was in residence there for many years. On Friday, violinist Graeme Jennings and pianist Christopher Jones performed two early sonatas by Milhaud, concluding their program with pieces by Stravinsky and Carter, both of whom were among Milhaud's friends and admirers.
On Sunday afternoon at Old First Church, composer Elinor Armer faced the risks inherent in any recital dedicated to a single composer's work. She must have come away from it with an enhanced sense of achievement, because the program's seven compositions were well-performed, enthusiastically received, and richly indicative of her talent and accomplishments. The concert was titled "Bestiary," referring to several of the pieces that were composed in homage to creatures real and imaginary.
Everything came together beautifully in the finale of Thursday’s concert by the New Century Chamber Orchestra at St. John’s Presbyterian Church in Berkeley, and it was Paul Hindemith’s strikingly original concerto for piano and strings, The Four Temperaments, that was the catalyst. Composed in 1940 as a dance score for George Balanchine and the New York City Ballet, it became a signature work for the company in Balanchine’s distinctive choreography, and remains in their repertory to this day.