New York Stringer: NYCC Benefit Concert

Monday, October 30, 2006 10:34 AM

by David Katz

One of the delights of living in the New York City area is the rich cultural offerings available. The New York Composers Circle provided such a delight on October 29 [2006], when it presented a fund-raising concert of contemporary music at Steinway Hall. Featuring compositions and performances by its members, the NYCC concert demonstrated the high standards of invention, skill and artistry that its mission statement evokes.

The benefit performance displayed the breadth of genres in which the NYCC membership works. Vocal music, from art songs to pieces that would not be out of place on Broadway, instrumental and orchestral pieces that reflect varying degrees of tonality, and even a very exciting ethnic dance number were on the program.

Of the eleven composers represented at this concert, nine make their living from music; the other two are serious composers who happen to have day jobs in other professions. Regardless of how they earn their bread, the quality of composition was uniformly high.

The concert opened with “Conflict”, by Cesar Vuksic, performed by himself at the piano. This jagged and
somewhat uncompromising work was uncompromising in its performance demands. Mr. Vuksic acquitted himself well, both as composer and performer.

“Three Songs for Baritone and Piano”, by Debra Kaye, Gayther Myersand Eugene McBride, followed in the art song tradition. Each brought an emotional complexity and melodic suppleness to the concert. The performers (Daniel Kline, baritone, Ricardo Rivera, baritone and Victor Frost, piano) gave these songs the expressiveness they require.

“Four Intermezzi”, by Jacob Goodman, were performed by Cesar Vuksic on the piano. Mr. Vuksic gave these
intermezzi the near-virtuosic performance they deserved.

“Penseroso”, by John de Clef Pineiro, was a short violin piece that stretched the possibilities inherent in bowed
and plucked strings. This number had great compositional interest, which the violinist, Yuri Vodovoz brought out fully.

“Remember Me”, by Patricia Leonard, and sung by soprano Lauren Bradley, was as tuneful as the great Broadway ballads of the heyday of the new York stage, before Andrew Lloyd Weber and his ilk lost their way. The lovely melody was supported by a sensitive lyric, also by Patricia Leonard. Victor Frost provided piano accompaniment.

Jennifer Griffith's “Five Easy Pieces (in A)” were five short, interesting piano works, each named for a composer whose first name started with “A”. Ms. Griffith performed her own composition.

“Mother to Son”, composed by Miki Nakanishi, was a piano composition intended to support the spoken word, a poem by Langston Hughes read by Gayther Myers. The poem was powerful; the music and effective counterpart.

“From Les Sentiments d'Amour”, by Eugene Marlow, were three love-themed piano compositions. Nataliya
Medvedovskaya was the pianist. Ms. Medvedovskaya turned in a brilliant performance, with dexterity and incredible dynamic control. This composition and its performer were true highlights of the concert.

By far the most popular offering was “Duo-Kopanitza”, by Andy Teirstein, a dance-rhythm composition inspired by Bulgarian melodies. In twos and threes, and sometimes adhering to the Kopanitza rhythm of 11/8, the violin (played by Yuri Vodovoz) and the viola (played by Mr. Teirstein) chased each other around melodies that had the audience moving in their seats. The piece received a standing ovation.

As an example of the work done by New York Composers Circle members, this concert illustrated the high
standards and fertile musical imaginations for which the members strive. Contemporary music for too long has been painful to audiences; these NYCC composers have made their work an audience delight. As James Byars, oboist for the New York City Ballet Orchestra, remarked after the concert, “That was the best modern music concert I have ever been to.”