Over the last several seasons, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) has featured concerts devoted to music by members of that greatest generation of late-20th-century American composers. Three years ago, they presented David Del Tredici’s Child Alice; two years past, it was a Philip Glass evening; last winter brought an engaging Joan Tower survey. On Saturday night at Jordan Hall, the ensemble and conductor Gil Rose turned their focus to the music of John Corigliano.
Composers who were born in China, studied music both in their homeland and in the U.S., and remained here to build their careers have become a distinct current within the chaotic ocean of 20th- and 21st-century American music. Now spanning three generations, these composers write music too diverse to be regarded as a cohesive stylistic school: Some mix Chinese and Western instruments, others write exclusively for Western ensembles; some draw on Chinese folk themes, others favor a bracing post-tonal acidity, and still more are neo-Romantics.
Essential in its role as the major large orchestra in Boston for the music of living composers, Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP) stayed true to form at Jordan Hall on Friday, where Gil Rose took the podium for “Time Release.” This first concert of the season included the music of Steven Mackey, Hannah Lash, and Harold Meltzer, most of whom were in attendance. This concert was part of the third annual Boston New Music Festival, a celebration of new music through the collaboration of Juventas New Music Ensemble and other local new music groups; BNMF continues on October 26th with Kadence Arts and the start of another Boston Opera Collaborative’s “Opera Bites” cycle.
Oftentimes, music is perceived foremost as an exploration of harmony — how different sounds work mutually, usually conjunctly, and always carefully to create a pleasing, uncontroversial sound. Yet music is as much, if not more so, about its contrast as it is about its homogeneity: It explores the sonic relations between consonance and dissonance, between order and chaos, between sparseness and abundance.
With their now customary elan and enterprise, Gil Rose and Boston Modern Orchestra Project enlightened, stretched, and amused the audience Friday evening with its concert in Jordan Hall. “Trouble” reflected at least two nuances of the programming: an engaging work of that very name by Vijay Iyer (b.1971), played fearlessly and flawlessly by guest violinist Jennifer Koh, and a 1966 example by Lucas Foss’s Cello Concert (1966), played equally stunningly by Opera Boston’s principal cellist David Russell.
Those of you who are faithful Schmopera readers will likely recall that, when I reviewed Brokeback Mountain at the conclusion of last year’s New York City Opera season, I pointed at the paradox of Wuorinen’s highly dissonant score used to depict a romance, and the ways that paradox works in that opera’s favor. At the time, I figured it was a logical choice, considering how Annie Proulx’s prose worked to set up such a paradox.
Boston Modern Orchestra Project’s innovative semi-staged concert production of the complex, rich and fanciful two-act opera, Haroun and the Sea of Stories deserved more than the single Boston premiere performance Saturday at Jordan Hall. The multiple levels and nested plots of the story have so much depth that listeners need multiple iterations fully to appreciate the work. Based on the children’s novel by Salman Rushdie, with 12-tone music by the contemporary American composer Charles Wuorinen and intricate libretto by James Fenton, a renowned British poet and friend of Rushdie, this satirical 2004 work was created in the post 9-11 era, yet it is even more than relevant to our times. Opera News entitled a conversation about the New York City Opera’s opening night as a “Fearsome Fairyland;” their writer Leighton Kerner had interviewed Wuorinen and Rushdie together, and that seems apt. Gil Rose made use of all of the score’s electricity, eerie sounds, fright, joy and fancy to go along with a production replete with bright costumes, mechanical birds, water genies and beautifully bizarre beasts.
Composers who were born in China, studied music both in their homeland and in the U.S., and remained here to build their careers have become a distinct current within the chaotic ocean of 20th- and 21st-century American music.
Composers with connections to both the U.S. and China have found a distinct place in contemporary music highlighted by a recent concert by the Boston Modern Orchestra Project.
With a thoughtful and absorbing tribute bringing four works by “American Masters,” the Boston Modern Orchestra Project opened its season at Jordan Hall on Saturday night. Founder and director Gil Rose celebrates the 20th year of this very active orchestra this year. The concert especially excited me for two reasons: seldom-heard orchestral works by four Americans, and a gesture in memory of Steven Stucky, who died unexpectedly earlier this year. Robert Kirzinger of the BSO gave an able and helpful talk about the music before the concert began.
David Del Tredici’s ambitious ‘Child Alice’ reveals a complicated vision.