Cornish College is fast becoming Seattle’s center of daring, modern classical music performances. It is a rapid turn around for a college and a music program which identifies itself readily with John Cage, a composer critical to the growth of avant garde music in the United States. The school doesn’t boast a resident student orchestra like the University of Washington, but it has brought the Seattle Modern Orchestra to the school to perform as part of its music season. It’s talented and busy faculty routinely perform in recitals at the school and around town. In addition, more than a few of them are involved in curating programs and events of their own — like tomorrow’s May Day, May Day new music festival at Town Hall.
Cornish’s 2010-2011 season ended last Friday with a retrospective concert of Argentinian, American, Jewish composer Osvaldo Golijov. Anchored by the Odeonquartet, the program included a line up of musicians that included Joseph Kauffman (bass with the Seattle Symphony); Laurie DeLuca (clarinet with the Seattle Symphony); and Paul Taub (flute and Cornish faculty member).
Two of Golijov’s more popular pieces — the string quartet version of Tenebrae and Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind — along with three lesser known works filled out the program.
The Odeonquartet is well acquainted with Golijov’s culture bending style. This wasn’t the first time they played Tenebrae, evident by the subtlety of their playing which created an ambient, almost floating effect. The piece slightly favors the violins. Artur Girsky and Gennady Filimonov drew out a beautiful, poignant performance while cellist Rowena Hammill and violist Heather Bentley provided an impeccably somber foundation essential for the twelve minute piece.
Dreams and Prayers of Isaac the Blind followed and it too is a work cast in a veil of mystical sound. This isn’t surprising since Golijov drew his inspiration for the piece from the kabbalist rabbi Isaac the Blind.
Golijov says about the piece, “The movements of this work sound to me as if written in three different languages spoken by the Jewish people throughout history. This somehow reflects the compositions‘ epic nature. I hear the prelude and the first movement, the most ancient, in Arameic; the second movement is in Yiddish, the rich and fragile language of a long exile; the third movement and postlude in sacred Hebrew.”
Clarinetist Laurie DeLuca carried significant responsibility for conveying the epic scope and the changing, Judaic tongues. From ribald, squawking klezmer to orthodox cantorial style, Her playing inhabited every mood with precision and affect. A member of the Seattle Chamber Players and Seattle Symphony, she is Seattle’s best proponent of modern music for the clarinet. Likewise, the string players navigated Golijov’s treacherous music with great character.
The second half of the program ended with a performance of Lullaby and Doina for flute, clarinet, strings, and double bass — an adaptation of music from the composer’s score to Sally Potter’s film the Man Who Cried. Paul Taub and Joseph Kauffman joined DeLuca and members of the Odeonquartet with their own excellent playing for this brief tribute to the composer’s cinematic music.
Before Lullaby, two works for soprano and string quartet — Lua Descolorida and How Slow the Wind — featured Terri Richter as vocalist. Richter’s singing was nimble and assured with the right amount of bite, which based on my hearing of Golijov’s other music for soprano, seems to be a requirement. But, while Richter possessed the right vocal qualities for the music, she overwhelmed the other musicians with the amplitude of her singing. Poncho recital hall is not the Met. She didn’t need to work so hard to be heard in the fifth row where I was sitting.
Odeonquartet playing Tenebrae (part of it at least) last year when they toured Russia.
"Berkeley Rep scrutinized InstantEncore and the competition. We opted for IE and have no regrets. Designing our mobile site and app was affordable, collaborative, and on-time. We launched both, and we love them. We can’t wait to see what they do for the Theatre."