NYCC at New York's Saint Peter's Church at Citicorp Center

Sunday, May 17, 2015 1:11 PM

Review by independent New York classical music critic Mark Greenfest.

The New York Composers Circle (NYCC), a membership organization of composers and performers, hosted A Concert of New Music with members’ and guests pieces, at Saint Peter’s Lutheran Church, at Citigroup Center (54th St. and Lexington Ave.) in New York, April 21, 2015 at 7:30 PM.

The NYCC was founded in 2002 by Jacob Goodman. Its members include the late Elliott Carter, John Eaton, the late Ezra Laderman, Tania Leon and Paul Moravec (honorary members).

The composers of New York Composers Circle April 21, 2015 New Music for Winds and Piano – l-r: Max Giteck Duykers, David Picton, Peri Mauer, Gayther Myers, Susan J. Fischer, Richard Brooks, Eugene Marlow.

Selections included works by Susan J. Fischer, Peri Mauer, Gayther Myers, Max Giteck Duykers, David Picton, the late Orlando Legname, Eugene Marlow, and Richard Brooks.

The program opened with Susan J. Fischer, Intermezzo, (Scott Bartucca, oboe; Esther Noh, violin; John Popham, cello; Stephen Gosling, piano), which has lush, neoromantic melodies, with soaring, expressive lines – musical and beautiful. (Ms. Fischer, who is the founder of the National Academy of Music Arts (NAMA), is a Canadian composer who lives in NYC and has a masters from NYU.)

This was followed by Peri Mauer, Journey,  (Virginia Chang Chien, oboe), in which long sonorities glide in a mysterious way, with short, hopeful chirping passages cascading in the lyrical and thoughtful flow. This exceptional piece for solo oboe is a new work in one movement, “inspired by the soulful sound of the oboe, it is intended to convey a pensively evocative expression of delight, introspective and magnetic,” according to Ms. Mauer, who is also a professional cellist, and has a degree from Bard and a masters in composition from the Manhattan School of Music.

Then, we heard Gayther Myers, The Workday, (Roberta Michel, flute; Christina Van Alstine, clarinet; Stephen Gosling, piano; Kate Sheeran, horn; and Christa Robison, oboe), that has songful dancing of independent voices that dialogue with each other in a freely expressive and playful manner.

Last on the first half, we heard Max Giteck Duykers, Dark Body, (Margaret Lancaster, flute; Esther Noh, violin; John Popham, cello; Stephen Gosling, piano), a piece that is densely interwoven, with dark textures; for instance stacatto piano chords accompany long flute lines, soaring violin passages are contrasted by pizicatto cello – interesting and complex. Dr. Guykers recently got his Ph.D. in composition from Stony Brook University.

The second half opened with David Picton, Turning Leaves for Sandy, (Keve Wilson, oboe; Oren Fader, guitar). This is a sweet theatrical showpiece for freely soaring oboe with a charming guitar accompaniment; this piece segues from reflective into energetic sections. Mr. Picton got his degree in composition from Mannes in 1980.

The next piece was by the late Orlando Legname, who was the chairman of music at SUNY Oneonta, and died in December at 51. Legname’s Vortici D’etere, (Margaret Lancester, flute; Christa Van Alstine, clarinet; Esther Noh, violon; John Popham, cello; Stephen Gosling, piano; and Tamara Cashour, conductor), had been performed in Italy in 2007-8. It opens with a piano gesture of percussive chord, contrasting with very short flute and clarinet; this piece is nocturnal, dramatic, and varied.  It segues into very energetic passages – intriguing and satisfying, succint and moving. Dr. Legname had taught in the music technology program at NYU and had his DMA in composition from the University of Maryland.

We heard some exceptional performances from this chamber ensemble led by composer-pianist-singer Tamara Cashour, who conducted them very well.

Then, we listened to Eugene Marlow, Trois Chansons pour en Poetesse, (Margaret Lancaster, flute; Roberta Michel, alto flute). This duet is very French and sweet – and, it becomes lively and exciting.  Eugene Marlow, Ph.D., teaches at CUNY Baruch College; leads the Heritage Ensemble, and has composed over 240 pieces of jazz and classical music.

The final piece was by Richard Brooks, former Chairman of music at Nassau Community College, founder of Capstone Records, former president of the American Composers Alliance and former Executive Director of the NYCC, who had been artistic advisor to the Lark Ascending. Brooks’ Into the Twilight, (Margaret Lancaster, flute; Nanci Belmont, bassoon; Esther Noh, violin; Hannah Levinson, viola; Stephen Gosling, piano), demonstrates sophisticated and lively writing for an eclectic ensemble, with tonal and atonal passages – some of which are striking – and with a broad range of musical freedom and variety of expression, within a free-ranging yet thoughtful structure – a musical gem. Dr. Brooks had studied at Crane at SUNY Potsdam, has a masters in composition from SUNY Binghamton, and a Ph.D. from NYU. He noted that his piece is in one movement with several contrasting moods, “The title is purely fanciful; I liked the poeticism, but it has no direct bearing on the music.”

After the concert, there was a complimentary wine, cheese, cookie and fruit reception, as is usual for the NYCC.

The composers and performers of New York Composers Circle April 21, 2015 New Music for Winds and Piano – Back row: Scott Bartucca, Gather Myers, John Popham, Matt Marks, David Picton, Stephen Gosling, Richard Brooks, Oren Fader – Middle row: Margaret Lancaster, Christa Van Alstine, Roberta Michel, Max Giteck Duykers, Susan Fischer – Front row: Tamara Cashour, Peri Mauer, Esther Noh, Virginia ChangChien. – (Not pictured: Keve Wilson, Hannah Levinson, Nanci Belmont, Gene Marlowe)

Various composers have led the NYCC in the past 13 years, including Debra Kaye, John de Clef Pineiro, Richard Brooks, and Hubert Howe, who is its current director.  The organization grew since its founding in 2002, (when shocked New York composers banded together in this membership organization shortly after 9/11), and has regular concert program and monthly salons at which members, guests and students discuss works in progress and play selections. The NYCC, although not well known, plays a valuable role in developing new music and fostering collegiality among composers, performers and audience in New York.

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