I have come to expect interesting music that I've probably never heard before at Philmore Ensemble concerts and they did not disappoint last night. Duane Large, artistic director of Philmore Ensemble, consistently finds a wide variety of music that is usually based on a theme. Inspiration for his most recent theme came from the beneficiary of the concert - "Unite for HER", a wellness nonprofit focused on care for women diagnosed with breast cancer. A strong local flavor was present as all but two of the composers is living in the Philadelphia region today. In fact, two of the composers were in the audience: Efrain Amaya and Kala Pierson. The only deceased European composer in the lineup was Louise Farrenc who was highly regarded and successful in a domain dominated by men during her era. It is disappointing to note that even today success in classical music composition for females is scarce.
I was particularly struck by the variations in Efrain Amaya's "Pres-ent for flute and cello". There was more story to the work than was indicated by the titles of the three movements, but I think I enjoyed it even more not knowing those details. Its unpredictable progression caught me off gard on several occasions by unexpected turns in a delightful new direction. His Latin roots also appeared at times in entertaining slides and tempos. Flutist, Amanda Heckman, skillfully ran through the wide span of flute techniques called for in the score and made it appear effortless. Cassia Harvey's passionate cello performance complemented Heckman.
The "Melisma" movement from Andrea Clearfield's "The Long Bright" was introduced with a video of Clearfield, who explained the touching story and text for the work. This is a different video, but tells the story behind work and describes Clearfield's compositional process. The full Philmore Ensemble and guests (Piano, flute, guitar, soprano, violin, and cello) were on stage for this piece and I enjoyed the evolving and lush harmonies and moving lyrics.
The Philmore Ensemble repeats this concert today: May 6th, 2012, in Wynwood, PA, so read here for more information.
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