A Night to Remember: Contemporary Music at NYC's BargeMusic

Sunday, September 30, 2012 1:48 PM

Reviewed by David M. Abrams

Thursday, September 20, 2012 Bargemusic’s audience was thrilled by the debut of the talented PUBLIQuartet in the first concert of the pace-setting New York Composers Circle in Bargemusic’s “Here and Now” series. It was also the World Premiere of composer Peri Mauer’s Nudibranch Friday, for violin and cello, and the world premiere of composer and concert pianist Nataliya Medvedovskaya’s Color Dreams for solo piano. PUBLIQuartet consists of Curtis Stewart, violin,  Jannina Norpoth, violin (visiting for this performance), Nick Revel, viola, and Amanda Gookin, cello. Each composer was present and gave a short introductory comment before the playing of each composition.

The concert began with Medvedovskaya’s String Quartet No. 1, which she composed at the age of 18 at the time of the collapse of the Soviet Union when she lived in St. Petersburg, Russia. This string quartet was premiered all over the world by the legendary St. Petersburg Quartet to laudatory reviews, and PUBLIQuartet’s performance of it tonight captured its dramatic power with subtle nuance and depth of emotion. First violinist for this piece was Jannina Norpoth, who plays with a beautifully flowing sound and vibrant energy, and it was wonderful to hear the very high intelligence and emotion in the playing of Nick Revel in this profound and deeply moving Medvedovskaya composition.

Next we heard composer Richard Brooks’s String Quartet No. 3, a work of three very enjoyable movements that brought out the myriad dimensions of this very interesting and pioneering composer. Richard Brooks is the President of New York Composers Circle, who worked very hard with the brilliant Artistic Director, President and Executive Director of Bargemusic, Mark Peskanov, to organize this concert, and it was a special treat for the composers and the audience to hear PUBLIQuartet’s fine performance of his string quartet.

The duo of Curtis Stewart, first violinist, and Amanda Gookin, cello, of the PUBLIQuartet then played composer Peri Mauer’s fascinating Nudibranch Friday. In her introductory comment, Ms. Mauer explained that nudibranch, shell-less marine mollusks that comprise the sea slugs, are characterized by fascinating shapes and intriguing patterns and their intricate color and form inspired her to compose this wonderful duo . The piece is made up of 7 continuous sections, each based on a different nudibranch. Violinist Curtis Stewart has a warm, clear sound and sparkling rhythmic energy and cellist Amanda Gookin has a deep, rich tone and a lovely rubato that enriched both the slow and fast sections of Ms. Mauer’s unusual composition. Peri Mauer’s innovative compositions are at the forefront of contemporary music, and Nudibranch Friday is clearly one of her most captivating and imaginative compositions.

Composer and concert pianist Nataliya Medvedovskaya played her Color Dreams for solo piano, a suite in three movements from the composer’s nightly dream life. “Music Box” is a hypnotic, jewel-like movement with interesting harmonies and beguiling contrapuntal lines. “Aphrodite’s Dance” is soft, gracious, lilting and enchanting and may well be one of the most beautiful pieces we have heard for solo piano. In “Gossiping Girls”, the composer gives us her witty vision of these naughty young females. The emotional expressiveness of tone color and artistry of pedaling, insight and sophistication, and dance-like delicacy of touch in her playing remind one of the Brazilian pianist Guiomar Novaes and of her countryman Vladimir Horowitz. Nataliya Medvedovskaya is definitely a composer and concert pianist to watch in the future.

PUBLIQuartet gave Richard Russell’s Adagio for String Quartet a soft caressing tenderness and great charm. PUBLIQuartet’s interpretation of this piece showed why it is one of the most popular contemporary works for string quartet. The last composition of the evening was Max Giteck Duykers’s very exciting Glass Blue Cleft for string quartet. Immediately, it opens with passionate fortissimo. Marvelous cross rhythms and subtle contrapuntal lines weave back-and-forth throughout the composition, as pensive and intense emotions ebb and flow and gradually burst forth to their greatest tutti exuberance at the end.

PUBLIQuartet accomplished a near miracle in preparing this concert in only one month of receiving the compositions none of the musicians had ever seen or heard prior to this concert. Each composer met with the quartet in one short rehearsal of their work and all composers were amazed and pleased by the depth of understanding and great beauty of playing of the very superb PUBLIQuartet.

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