by Maggie Molloy
This week’s marvelous music calendar has everything from minimalism to medieval poetry!
Pianist R. Andrew Lee Performs Shepard, Knight, Evans, and Gibson
For pianist R. Andrew Lee, less is more. Throughout his career, he has garnered critical acclaim as one of the foremost interpreters of minimal music. But despite the genre’s somewhat misleading title, minimalism is anything but basic.
“I am entranced by the invitation that minimal music offers the listener,” Lee says. “Rather than pushing and pulling listeners through a piece—manipulating us (no matter how deftly) into some experience—minimal music presents an invitation to explore a musical space slowly and carefully. Where Beethoven gave us drama that touches our souls, for which we rightly praise him, minimal music gives us a sunset, and we gaze in wonder.”
This weekend, Lee is coming to Seattle to share two evenings of newly commissioned minimal music. The Friday program opens with a performance of Craig Shepard’s “December,” an exploration into the rumbling overtones of just a few bass notes on the piano. Lee will also perform the world premiere of two new works: local composer Nat Evans’ improvisatory “Desert Ornamentation” for piano and electronics and Adrian Knight’s “Obsessions,” a piece which explores stubborn habits, routines, patterns, and, well, obsessions.
Saturday evening features a performance of Randy Gibson’s immersive “The Four Pillars Appearing from the Equal D under Resonating Apparitions of the Eternal Process in the Midwinter Starfield.” The only thing longer than the title is the piece itself—it’s over three hours! But don’t worry, it doesn’t drone on. Rather, the ambient drone piece creates an entrancing melodic soundscape by patiently exploring the overtones of each D on the piano, in combinations and alone, with the aid of electronics.
The performances are this Friday, April 17 at 8 p.m. and Saturday, April 18 at 7 p.m. at the Chapel Performance Space at the Good Shepherd Center in Wallingford.
Turtle Island Quartet and Simple Measures: It’s Island Time
Take a much needed vacation from the April showers with a trip to Turtle Island—Turtle Island Quartet, that is. This weekend you can relax to the soothing sounds of this Grammy Award-winning ensemble whose innovative and eclectic music combines the best of classical and jazz.
Since the quartet’s inception nearly 30 years ago, they have cultivated a massive and diverse body of repertoire consisting primarily of original compositions and arrangements by quartet members. This weekend, they are joining forces with musicians from Seattle’s own Simple Measures classical chamber music group to present an evening of captivating “clazzical” music, including a works composed by Turtle Island violinist David Balakrishnan and cellist Mark Summers, as well as octets by the Beatles, Darius Milhaud, and more!
The performances are this Friday, April 17 at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.and Sunday, April 19 at Mt. Baker Community Club at 2 p.m.
Donald Byrd’s “Carmina Burana” World Premiere
When you hear the word “cantata,” you probably think of an old-fashioned, early 17th century vocal work used for church services or other religious occasions—and you’d be correct. But the 20th-century German composer Carl Orff updated this antiquated musical medium in 1935 when he composed his scenic cantata “Carmina Burana,” a 25-movement vocal work based on 24 poems from the medieval poetry collection of the same name.
And now, Seattle’s own Spectrum Dance Theatre is pushing the piece even further: this weekend they are presenting the world premiere of choreographer Donald Byrd’s fully staged “Carmina Burana” in a co-production with Seattle Theatre Group. Byrd reimagines Orff’s popular work, combining music and dance to illustrate a larger narrative: the journey from doubt and disillusionment to restoration of faith in humankind. The performance is scored for two pianos, percussion, and voice, featuring the operatic expertise of singers Cyndia Sieden and José Rubio.
Performances are next Thursday, April 23 through Saturday, April 25 at the Moore Theater. Doors open at 7 p.m. and the show begins at 8 p.m. A matinee show will also take place on Sunday, April 26. Doors open at 1 p.m. and the show begins at 2 p.m.
The Esoterics Present “AGONIA”
When it comes to expressing the most intimate human experiences of pain and suffering, few artistic media are as compelling as the human voice. But the voice can also be a powerful tool for expressing compassion, joy, and release—and as it turns out, suffering and reprieve are deeply intertwined. This weekend, the Esoterics are performing three modern choral masterworks inspired by medieval poetry on the theme of agony and liberation.
The Esoterics’ “AGONIA” program begins with Russian composer Alfred Schnittke’s ghostly, mystical “Verses of Repentance,” a piece which explores contrasts between dark and light, chaos and control, sin and salvation. Next is American composer Ned Rorem’s haunting cycle of madrigals, titled “In Time of Pestilence.” The program ends with the tragic lament and ultimate triumph of South African-born English composer John Joubert’s “Pro Pace Motets.”
“AGONIA” is next Friday, April 24 at St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church in Seattle at 8 p.m. The Esoterics will also perform their “AGONIA” program at Christ Episcopal Church in Tacoma next Saturday, April 25 at 7:30 p.m. and at Holy Rosary Catholic Church in West Seattle next Sunday, April 26 at 3 p.m.