The MATA Festival is celebrating its 10th season, partly by showing off how far it has come since its early days as Music at the Anthology, a new-music series resident at the Anthology Film Archives. Since the Anthology days the festival has traveled a circuit of churches and small halls, but for the last couple of years it has been ensconced at the Brooklyn Lyceum, an old public bath converted into a concert hall. And having presented chamber groups and soloists in its first decade, the five-day festival passed a milestone on Tuesday night, when it imported the energetic Boston Modern Orchestra Project and its conductor, Gil Rose, for its first orchestral offering.
Alejandro Rutty’s amusing Conscious Sleepwalker Loops offered an immediate test of the ensemble’s mettle by pulling it briskly through a catalog of 19th- and 20th-century styles, slung together in much the same way a rock musician might make a mashup. It begins like the frothy overture of a 19th-century operetta and juxtaposes bits of almost-but-not-quite Berlioz, Stravinsky, Bernstein, Bartok, Gershwin, Piazzolla and John Adams. Throughout, the textures are bubbly and the rhythms are lively and fast changing.
Derek Hurst’s Clades, a concerto grosso, was played by the smaller Firebird Ensemble as the concertino group. Mr. Hurst explored some interesting ideas about shifting textures and large and small groupings within the orchestral fabric. But he said what he had to say within the first few moments, and then droned on for another 20 minutes.
Ken Ueno’s On a Sufficient Condition for the Existence of Most Specific Hypothesis threatened to do the same but was regularly saved by his imaginative use of sliding string timbres and colorful percussion, to say nothing of his own vocal acrobatics (he is a throat singer) and electronic sound effects.
The program closed with a new Double Violin Concerto by Lisa Bielawa, a founder of the festival and a natural eclectic. Ms. Bielawa’s concerto has a strong current of neo-Romanticism that finds its voice in the lyrical violin writing, as well as a penchant for dark, brooding orchestral scoring that calls to mind the Eastern European asceticism of Arvo Pärt.
She also catered to the particular strengths of her violinists. Colin Jacobsen was given a straightforward, sweet-toned line, and Carla Kihlstedt, the other violinist, often shadowed him. But surely few concertos require a soloist to sing while playing, as Ms. Kihlstedt was asked to do in the vigorous second movement. She did it with all the zest of a virtuoso country fiddler. Apparently this is one of Ms. Kihlstedt’s specialties; she accomplished a similar feat in Ms. Bielawa’s Kafka Songs (2003) on a recent recording.
The MATA Festival runs through Friday at the Brooklyn Lyceum, 227 Fourth Avenue, Park Slope; (212)<133>563-5124, matafestival.org.
Copyright 2008 The New York Times Company