It was a memorable season of exquisite songs for NOVA Chamber Music Seriesand the closing concert will crown it as it should be. migration songs (May 1, 3 p.m., Libby Gardner Hall) offers a sampling of familiar works and pieces that deserve wide attention – all selections signifying cross-cultural fertilization in music.
No NOVA season with Fry Street Quartet at the helm since the musical directors of the organization would not be complete without at least one work by Béla Bartók: Six dances to the Bulgarian rhythm. This is the final set of pieces from the final volume of his ethnomusicological masterpiece Mikrokosmos. Perhaps the quintessential metaphor for migration, Butterflies remember a mountain is a 2013 work by Arlene Sierra, a London-based musician named last year as Associate Composer of the Utah Symphony.
Timing well with Eid al-Fitr, marking the end of Ramadan, the concert will mark the North American premiere of tesseraea 2015 piece by the Syrian-American composer Kareem Roustom, who works in many different genres and settings. The work, based on an Arabic folk song, is written for a standard brass quintet. His commissions include the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, the Kronos Quartet, arrangements for pop icons Shakira and Tina Turner, and a recent collaboration with British choreographer Shobana Jeyasingh. The concert will end with Antonin Dvořák String Quintet, Opus. 97which also carries the American title, just like his famous string quartet. The composer wrote this while living in a small town in Iowa that reminded him of his own rural roots in his native Bohemia.
NOVA’s kaleidoscopic journey this season has produced distinguished moments at every Songs Series concert. Earlier this month, Songs of the Americas featured Clarice Assad’s String Quartet Canções da America, which the Fry Street Quartet had commissioned from the composer. The perfect six-movement musical travelogue highlighting the folk dance cultures of South American countries as a tribute to the continent’s female composers, the quartet was the perfect vehicle for the members of Fry Street, who made a full kinetic reading of it. of blood. Likewise, the Utah premiere of Anthony R. Green’s Gettysburg Addressa 2010 work composed for soprano, clarinet, cello, piano and percussion, was among the best performances of the season, with Devin Maxwell leading the chamber ensemble.
As noted last fall in The Utah Review’s season preview, NOVA continues to convincingly demonstrate that chamber music series can span far beyond conventional expectations in terms of time, style, and instrumentation. As well as a single selection by Beethoven, there were two pre-1700 works and a handful of works from the 19th and 20th centuries, including Clara Schumann, Prokofiev, Brahms, Dvořák, Bartók and Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. One of the works was the 1944 string trio written by Gideon Klein, believed to be the last piece of music he wrote while imprisoned in a Nazi concentration camp. The rest were an impressive amount of 21st century composers, with a solid representation of female composers. For example, Clarice Assad and Gabriela Lena Frank worked on two gigs while Jessie Montgomery had one. There were several firsts of various kinds, including world firsts, North American firsts, and Utah firsts.
songs of gratitude perfectly set the tone for the season last fall, representing NOVA’s first live concert since before the pandemic. Highlights included Brittany J. Green’s …experience life, composed for trumpet, piano, percussion and live electronics, which has a palpable cinematic feel that is gratifying in evoking its own range of intimate meditative imagery. Claudia Assad Metamorphosis, a work for viola and piano, was sensitive to the difficult but salutary reconciliation around the grief of a son following the loss of his mother. The performance undoubtedly represented the imagery of the critical stage of metamorphosis in which a butterfly finally emerges from the chrysalis.
songs of life was delightful in its fast and spirited pace of works emphasizing memories, playfulness, joys and the spontaneity of life. Two works from Utah added a musical festival touch to the event. 2014 by Devin Maxwell Git along little dogs used excerpts from Woody Guthrie’s cover of the classic Roy Rogers song in a perfect ensemble version that encapsulates what it means to look at the Wild West in a new light. 2012 by Neil Thornock fall out, performed by Utah Symphony percussionists Eric Hopkins and Keith Carrick, created a delicious confrontation between the xylophone and the vibraphone, as well as some objects to add additional effects. There were many freebies in this concert from Alfred Schnittke’s outstanding performance Serenade at the showcase of the harpist at Ravel Introduction and Allegro and 2010 by Gabriela Lena Frank Milagros (Miracles), a work with Bartókian accents but which emanates from the composer’s Peruvian heritage. The Fry Street Quartet gave a splendid reading to the work’s eight movements.
The 2022 segment of the season opened with songs of perseverance which included the Utah premiere of Wang Lu’s Extinction rate for solo piano, beautifully managed by Kimi Kawashima. The 2016 work comprises five short movements, which incorporate polyrhythmic layers to signify the heartbeats associated with the accelerating number of species that have gone extinct in recent years as well as the effects of human-induced development. Fry Street Quartet has devoted much of its artistic mission to issues surrounding the preservation and conservation of the environment, as well as to the pressing concerns of climate change and water resources.
Songs of Play featured notable premieres in Salt Lake City — pearla sonata for violin and piano, by Stephanie Ann Boyd and counterplay by Utah composer Luke Dahn, for trombone and piano. pearl is a scintillating gift for the violin, and Madeline Adkins, Concertmaster of the Utah Symphony Orchestra, along with pianist Viktor Valkov, unboxed all the gems in this box set. dahn counterplayfeaturing Mark Davidson, the Utah Symphony’s principal trombonist, and Valkov, blended marching strokes and a deft hand of counterpoint that became a musical version of a game of chess.
And the bonus, the only gallery concert at the Art Museum of Utah, highlighted how NOVA in recent years has turned its attention to British composers, who historically have not been represented in the repertoire. The Fry Street Quartet has earned a reputation as strong for its interpretation of the works of Benjamin Britten as for that of Bartók. The concert also included the season’s only two works representing the period before the 18th century with composers John Dowland and Henry Purcell. As summarized in The Utah Review, judging by the performance and a warm reception by the audience, Britten’s case as one of the greatest composers of the twentieth century (and perhaps the era’s best candidate for a permanent place in the directory) has been done with impressive results.
The theme songs reinforced NOVA’s brand of programming that encourages associations of composers, styles and musical philosophies, which embody an intellectually stimulating balanced diet for music lovers who not only appreciate familiar staples, but are also ready to sample offerings of what is truly a golden age of cross-fertilization of musical expression.
For tickets and more information, see the NOVA website.