“Exploring New Composers” at LPAC

David Johnston

This past weekend, LaGuardia Performing Arts Center hosted “Exploring New Composers,” a two-night festival featuring our 2011-2012 Composers-in-Residence. In short – the composers, guest artists and performances were absolutely amazing. Following are some highlights.

Friday evening’s festivities began with Ron Tucker and ensemble, et al. performing four mesmerizing percussion ensemble pieces, including three brand new works composed during the residency (Cans, Variations and Cymbals as Drumheads). The beauty and creativity of Ron’s instrumentation was evident as ensemble members constantly wove in and out among the various percussion instruments.

On piano, Raphael Fusco presented two beautiful vocal works – Lover’s Gift: Three Poems of Rabindranath Tagore for baritone and Drei Sonette an Orpheus for baritone and soprano. Especially impressive were the performances of guest artists Drew Santini (baritone) and Sarah Brailey (soprano), as Drei Sonette was completed just a few days prior to the performance!

Concluding the first evening were Paul Yeon Lee’s haunting Sanjo for flute and Scattered Wind for daegum and piano. Fellow Composer-in-Residence Demetrius Spaneas performed both pieces, skillfully conveying the other worldly sounds of the Korean daegum on both flute and clarinet. We were also delighted by this collaboration between two residency composers.  (Check out the video clip above to hear these guys in action.)

Beauty, Mirth and Good Cheer ushered in the second evening with Demetrius Spaneas’ performance of his lovely Three Graces for Solo Clarinet. Fellow “Wolf’s Gang” ensemble members Jed Distler (piano) and Alexandra Honigsberg (viola) joined in to perform Demetrius’ chamber piece Autumn Yearning, a stirring and soulful work based on a traditional Chinese folk song.

Danielle Eva Schwob presented Shiver (for flute, harp and vibraphone) and Breathing Under Water (for flute, harp and viola). Danielle’s collaborating guest artists were beautiful to both watch and hear. The pieces, while very different, were equally striking and beautifully orchestrated.

And finally, guest artist Jay Hassler gave an amazing performance of Joshua Green’s A Brief Portrait at Length for solo bass clarinet. A Brief Portrait at Length will also have its premiere in Italy this summer. Congratulations, Joshua.

Our sincere gratitude to all of the composers for sharing their tremendous musical gifts. We have been honored to work with each of you. And many thanks to Steven Hitt and LaGuardia Performing Arts Center for hosting this first-time event.


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