Sunday, January 08, 2012


The Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, in its eleventh year, once again provided a marvelous forum for an unusual music experience. Six young composers presented recent works.  Three received their world premieres, the others first performances by a major orchestra.

It was an amazing evening at Orchestra Hall in Minneapolis. Michael Holloway’s “Theta Beta Theta” evoked heart and brain rhythms, with oriental underpinings, particularly in the center section.

Andreia Pinto-Correia’s “Xantara” certainly evoked misty shores and images of mysterious Moorish castles floating above swirling fog banks. There was no evidence of her jazz background in the piece, but there was a sense of directional loss at times.

Hannah Lash offered up a piece in two parts, “God Music Bug Music,” a polyrhythmic brass-heavy clash of subtle tonal changes and an incessant driving pulse.

Shen Yiwen, from Shanghai provided the most American-sounding piece. His “First Orchestral Essay” provided immediate connections to Aaron Copeland and was the most melodic work of the evening.

Adrian Knight’s “Manchester,”  brought to mind a series of musical interludes from the West Coast, called  Music of the Spheres. Composer Brian Eno had a persistent presence in that series. This was a quiet, peaceful, contemplative work.

The evening ended with Brian Ciach’s strange and sometimes wonderful offering called “Collective Uncommon: Seven Orchestral Studies on Medical Oddities.” He had a very specific point in this piece.  It was written for the Mutter Museum of Medical Oddities, located in Philadelphia. A number of non-traditional sound producers were utilized, including sundering heads of lettuce, and talking dolls.

Fred Child of NPR handled the host duties, introducing and interviewing each of the composers, Osmo Vanska led the brilliant orchestra. The Institute and this program of “Future Classics,” was under the able direction of Aaron Jay Kernis. The composers were warmly received. I think the audience recognized the enormous efforts these compositions represented, as well as considerable effort from the orchestra. Altogether, this was an enthralling, sometimes difficult but really interesting evening.

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