New World Percussion Consort opens season with a bracing mix

By Sam Lopata

Laquita Mitchell was the soloist in Ginastera's "Cantata para America Magica" Saturday night with the New World Percussion Consort.

Laquita Mitchell was the soloist in Ginastera’s “Cantata para la America Magica” Saturday night with the New World Percussion Consort.

New World Symphony percussion fellows were joined by students from the Miami School of Music Saturday night for the Percussion Consort’s first performance of the season. Together, the musicians presented an exciting and varied program.

Conductor Michael Linville led off the evening with Ionisation by Edgard Varèse. The composition evokes the chaos and soul of a great city with its layered and jarring textures. Images of sirens and jackhammers along with the clangs and clatters of traffic are heard on this piece, which reflects the unending life of a great metropolis.

New World Symphony member Emma Gerstein was the soloists in Lou Harrison’s Concerto for Flute and Percussion, a work that reflects the listener the strong influence of Indonesian gamelan music on the composer. As Gerstein took the time to explain, since a metal flute is used rather than a traditional bamboo one, the flutist is asked to bend pitches as to affect more authentic tones and intervals.

The first movement which is marked to be played “fastish” (and therefore open to considerable interpretation by the soloist) was taken rather sprightly. This proved to be a charming contrast to the stately second movement which projects a more stoic beauty. The third movement was strong and rhythmic, and all the performers did a commendable job in keeping the strong pulse lively.

Shaun Naidoo’s Sentient Weather, a piece which was commissioned by the New World Symphony, finished off the first half of the program. The piece was accompanied by a video by Clyde Scott, here reworked to utilize the sail-like walls of the New World Symphony’s unique space as individual projection screens.

Naidoo’s inspiration for Sentient Weather was an experience driving through a valley in Utah where he saw five different storm systems converging. Appropriately, the five percussion fellows independently reflect individual systems whose music comes together as the tensions rise.

Initially the center three screens showed a single sprawling image; though by the time all five were utilized, the walls projected slightly differing visuals to match the five individual percussionists – each on representing a different storm pattern. While each musician affected an intriguing chaos of a rising storm, it was particularly striking when the ensemble converged in flashes of thunder.

Ginastera’s Cantata para la América Mágica provided a powerful ending to the program. This formidable work is an exploration of Ginastera’s experience with twelve-tone music. Soprano Laquita Mitchell tackled the daunting solo role with a warm and alluring tone.

The ensemble skillfully shaped the cantata. The second movement, “Nocturne and Song of Love” was ominous and twisted. This tormented beauty led to the climactic third movement “Song for the Departure of the Warriors,” which was full of bombastic excitement. The fourth movement is an interlude with a quiet and eerie tension. Mitchell was enthralling in the final movement, “Song of Prophecy,” imbuing the final lines with great suspense and tension.

Posted in Performances

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Sun Nov 17, 2013
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