Cabrillo Festival resumes where it left off

Pianist Lara Downes, Music Director Cristian Măcelaru and Cabrillo Festival Orchestra | Credit: rr Jones

Thankfully, the fog of Covid-19 was cleared just in time for the Cabrillo Contemporary Music Festival’s 60th anniversary season, live again. It’s a remarkable achievement for this resourceful and important advocate of West Coast contemporary music, who has assembled himself for two weekends at the historic downtown venue of the Santa Cruz Municipal Auditorium. show.

Even new productions, many of which are West Coast (if not world) premieres, sound bold yet incomplete or not fully integrated into their skin As witnessed by the Saturday and Sunday evening concerts on the first weekend of the festival The progressive spirit prevailing here infuses hope for the future and unfolding “now” of contemporary music.

Composers of colour and women’s work received particular attention, and on Sunday the spotlight turned to now-formed but always adventurous a cappella group Roomful of Teeth.

Ivan Enrique Rodriguez | Credit: rr Jones

Saturday’s orchestral programme, led firmly by Music Director Christian Marcellaru And dubbed Paola Prestini’s eponymous piano concerto “Let Me See the Sun,” a musical and social commentary on the rifts and inequalities of America’s condition.Puerto Rican, New York composer Ivan Enrique Rodriguez’s Fiery and Questionable Orchestral Poems metaphor of power title taken from james baldwin But to moderate the impact by removing a word from the original phrase (“white is a metaphor for power”). Introducing the work, the composer explained that the idea had to do with the racist hierarchy he discovered while trying to establish himself in the still predominantly white world of classical music.

Musically, the score begins with a bang, then carefully blends into an overlapping matrix of energy and gestures. The fleeting melody drifts by, like a twisted quote from “America the Beautiful,” but angrier than Charles Ives can express. The sonorous dissonance instantly turns into a sort of blurry-edged heroism that ends with fragments of “The Star-Spangled Banner” and plunges to the end with an overly rude zeal. Something subtler would make the overall statement stronger, but the musical experience seized on its own terms.

Written for pianist Lara Downes and premiered virtually a year ago, Prestini’s piece is a rough reference to the recent national friction of the #MeToo and Black Lives Matter movements. As the composer explained before the premiere, her goal was to embody conflict and harmony in the dialogue between piano and orchestra, while embracing the innate “we” in collaborative acts, ultimately opting for optimism. This dramatic shift is evident in her musical design, which oscillates between simmering tension, muscular bursts, and peaceful determination.

Paola Prestini speaks before the premiere of her piano concerto let me see the sun | Credit: rr Jones

Stacey Gallop Battle of the ballots Themed on the 19th Amendment and the heroic struggle for women’s and black suffrage, it’s filled with Valerie Joi’s written account of the formidable spokeswoman from a century ago. The music itself has the feel of a documentary or feature film soundtrack, subtly presented, but seems a little out of place in the context of this festival.

Senior member of the show John Harbison brought the most powerful and mature production of the night, his 2007 the great gatsby Suite, extracted from his 1999 opera. Here, the orchestra is at its best, adorned with banjos and other items from the early jazz toolbox, navigating alternating period compositional elements and exciting Stravins in the Harbison orchestral palette. Skye voice.

The juxtaposition of cheerful, escapist relinquishment and dissonant power presents the exchange of Fitzgerald’s Gatsby saga. In Harbison’s double-personal music, the dark side of the American Dream came to the fore and became the theme of the evening’s show.

A delightful Sunday night with Roomful of Teeth crossed the realm of expressiveness and emotion, as expected from this star vocal ensemble.The first half of the song is from ascendera project by Wally Gunn, text by Maria Zajkowski, explores a fascinating terrain at the left end of the art-pop spectrum, an impression reinforced by the driving presence of drummer Andy Meyerson.

room full of teeth | Credit: Bonica Ayala

But it was in the second session, the concert’s a cappella, that the group took a unique stride and found a deeper voice in its still-evolving identity, which has since formed in 2009. Come a long way. The complex and creative ideas of vocal music are embedded in the structure of the RoT, as evidenced by a few works: The Diverse Directions of Missy Mazzoli Vespers Sparrow (2012), Composer Peter Shen’s Provocative Vocal Stance shards torn from text (2019) and highlights RoT member and new music explorer Caroline Shaw’s small island (2016), based on Shakespeare’s storm.

For the past, the group called for the first piece written for it, Judd Greenstein’s minimalist push Aioaccompanied by a reenactment of Alev Lenz’s ethereal “Fall Into Me,” one of several moments in the concert that earnestly channeled the influence of early choral music.

Somehow, listening to these tight-knit parts in an old legato context, with well-honed and individual ensemble sounds In the vibrant live environment of the Santa Cruz Civic Triggered a bold update impression. Music is back. The Cabrillo Festival is back.

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