Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Attending concerts is one of my favorite pastimes. I am fond of all music: world music, new or "unusual" music, as well as the "classics." Last Sunday, Longy offered a concert of Chinese music with traditional instruments. I am glad I went, particularly because I now can recognize the instruments that make the sounds. There is a man who often sits at Park Street station playing the Erhu or Chinese violin, but the performers at this concert opened my eyes to the true abilities of the instrument. As there are not too many traditional Chinese music concerts advertised at the BSO or other, this concert was a wonderful opportunity to really experience Chinese music.

On the topic of not-so-common music, the article "Probing discoveries from adept ensemble" caught my attention. It focuses on a new group called "Discovery Ensemble" directed by Courtney Lewis. They performed Britten's "Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge," Frank Martin's "Jedermann," and Beethoven's Seventh Symphony (in that order). Of these three works, Beethoven's symphony is the most performed by far. Britten's Variations is what launched him into international recognition after its performance in 1937 at the Salzburg Festival. Martin is not as well known, but composed well into his eighties.

Discovery Ensemble is breaking out of the repetitive repertory that many classical ensembles are stuck in. The same symphonies, concertos, and operas have been performed over and over again. There is new music that has been composed and performed, but it makes up a small percentage of classical concerts. By including Beethoven's symphony, Discovery Ensemble is gently moving away from what has become the "regular" concert. Many larger ensembles are moving in this direction as well. The LA Master Chorale released a CD last year with compositions by Nico Muhly, a 2004 Julliard graduate.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with performing the "standard" works by great composers, but there are many more out there from the past to choose from, not to mention all the new compositions being written today. Some of them aren't necessarily groundbreaking, but then again many of the composers from 200 years ago weren't either.

Here is a link to the article:


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