CANYONLANDS, Dumke Recital Hall, David Gardner Hall, Feb. 22
The two composers featured on Tuesday’s Canyonlands concert, Wayne Peterson and Augusta Read Thomas, have a similar yet uniquely different approach to composing. Their music is intense, driven and substantive. Peterson writes expansively and lets his thematic material unfold on a large scale. Thomas’ works, on the other hand, are for the most part short, concentrated and concise. Their music says a lot, but they express it by startlingly different musical vocabularies.
That was underscored at the Canyonlands concert, where three pieces by each were performed. The pieces were nicely juxtaposed and their placement on the program showed how distinct they are, and yet they fit wonderfully together and created a satisfying and musically rewarding whole.
Two of Peterson’s works were on the first half: Duo, for violin and piano, and Scherzo, for violin, cello, flute and clarinet.
Duo is an intensely driven work with relentless energy that only briefly is broken up by a slow lyrical interlude. The music is jagged with occasional jazz rhythms and intervals. The jazz element, however, is only hinted at rather than turning into an integral part of the structure.
Violinist Curt Macomber and pianist Stephen Gosling gave forceful reading that captured the raw power of the piece yet also brought out the underlying expressiveness that runs throughout.
Scherzo, in which Macomber was joined by cellist Chris Finckel, flutist Carlton Vickers, and clarinetist Jaren Hinckley, is a light, flighty piece that the quartet played with polish and finely crafted and seamless phrasings.
Sandwiched between these two was Thomas’ Piano Etudes, played by Gosling who gave a compelling account that was musically refined and technically remarkable. The etudes are homages to six 20th century composers: Luciano Berio, Béla Bartók, Olivier Messiaen, Pierre Boulez, Morton Feldman and David Rakowski. But instead of quoting the composers, Thomas culls the inherent essence of each and puts her own spin on it. And it was an amazing musical portrait of each composer. For example, Thomas ingeniously captured the sonic world of Berio and the colors and textures of Messiaen. Each movement was a compelling vignette.
Thomas’ Dream Catcher opened the second half. Scored for solo violin and played by Macomber, the piece has an ethereal quality as if the music just floats in the air. And Macomber captured that brilliantly in his reading.
Peterson’s Rhapsody was next on the program. More lyrical than his other two pieces, it still has a rich palette of vibrant sounds and Finckel and Gosling captured that forcefully with their bold playing.
Rounding out the evening was Thomas’ …a circle around the sun…, for piano trio. At around four minutes this was the shortest piece on the program and it was striking how much Thomas managed to pack into it. The music is rather static, revolving around a couple of notes, but the piece is nevertheless vibrant and exciting. And Macomber, Finckel and Gosling gave a sparkling reading that radiated warmth and passion.