Saturday was a playful and eventful night for the 2010 UBS Chamber Music Festival of Lexington.
For the third consecutive year, the festival presented the world premiere of a piece commissioned by the festival. But before that, festival president Charles H. Stone, artistic director Nathan Cole and Lexington Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell made some news.
They announced that the four-year-old festival and nearly 50-year-old orchestra will join forces to commission new works. Every two years, Terrell and Cole will collaborate on selecting a composer who will write new works for both entities.
Stone said that for several years the festival and the Philharmonic had been, “cross pollinating to find a program that we could come to that would benefit both organizations and shine a bright light on the musical community in Lexington.”
Terrell, joined on stage by the Philharmonic’s new executive director Allison Kaiser, said the conversation about co-commissioning began in the midst of conversations about the orchestration of Daniel Thomas Davis’ Book of Songs and Visions, which was the festival’s first world premier in 2008. Terrell said he had commissioned the orchestration of that chamber work while he was resident conductor of the Charleston Symphony Orchestra in South Carolina.
The commission got put on hold and Terrell ended up getting hired by the Philharmonic in 2009, so the orchestral premiere will now, somewhat coincidentally, take place in the same city as the chamber premiere for the work. Future commissions will not necessarily be variations of the same work.
“Composers are hungry for much work and new pieces to be written,” Terrell said. “The venues are very slim for those opportunities to exist.”
Terrell said the commission, starting in 2011, will be for the chamber festival’s Saykaly-Garbulinska Composer-in-Rsidence to be the Philharmonic’s composer-in-residence the following season.
Prior to Saturday’s concert, Terrell said he had checked and could not find a similar commissioning collaboration anywhere in the country.
“This will draw enormous attention to us on a national scale,” Terrell said to the audience.
Terrell and Stone said, before the concert, they were in talks with a composer for the first joint commission, but were not ready to announce who it will be.
Affirmation of the composer-in-residence program came immediately after the announcement with the world premiere of Geometries by Roger Zare.
Geometries is about math.
I hate math.
But listening, even a math dunce like me can detect some of the mathematical structure of the work. But what really comes across in the two-movement, 14-minute piece is a passion.
In Fractals, the first movement, a theme starts in the clarinet at then moves through the other three instruments – piano, cello, and violin. It’s a sweet, simple theme that seems born from sunrise over the landscape surrounding the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion where the festival takes place.
The second movement, Tangents, introduced several themes that move toward each other for a symphonic finale. Zare, who has been composing mostly for orchestras recently, got the most of the quartet, making it sound like a much larger ensemble, particularly through the piano and clarinet.
This may have been Zare’s biggest accomplishment: He gave Beethoven a tough act to follow.
Saturday’s concert started as it began, with Ludwig Van.
Both Beethoven works highlighted violinist Akiko Tarumoto as an engaging, animated player. A great moment came at a brief rest in the third movement of Beethoven’s Sonata in G Major for Violin and Piano when Tarumoto stood with her violin tucked under her chin, staring at the score as if to say, “It’s on.”
Her and pianist Alessio Bax’s playfulness carried over into Bela Bartok’s Contrasts for Clarinet, Violin and Piano. The evening closed with a solid Beethoven composition, his 1810 String Quartet in f minor, Serioso, which telegraphed many of his future compositions. In the hands of Tarumoto, Cole, cellist Priscilla Lee and violist Burchard Tang, it was a fitting end to a night that took composition very seriously.