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New York New Music Ensemble, "Latin Roots Festival": James Baker (conductor), New York New Music Ensemble, Americas Society, New York City, 21.3.2011 (BH)

Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon
: Páramo (1999)

Mario Davidovsky : Chacona (1973)

Felipe Lara : Livro dos Sonhos I (2004)

Alejandro Viñao : Formas del Viento (2008)

Ezequiel Viñao : Viento Blanco (2010, world premiere, written for NYNME )

New York
New Music Ensemble

Jayn Rosenfeld, flute

Jean Kopperud, clarinet

Linda Quan, violin

Chris Finckel, cello

Stephen Gosling, piano

Daniel Druckman, percussion

James Baker, conductor

Matthew Gold, percussion (guest)

Michael Truesdell, percussion (guest)


In the first of two concerts under the "Latin Roots Festival" umbrella, the New York New Music Ensemble (marking its 34th season), played five works from a diverse quintet of Latin American composers. Scores of listeners packed the salon-like chamber at the Americas Society, its pale yellow walls lit with chandeliers, as the Society's Music Director, Sebastián Zubieta, introduced the program.

Born in Mexico, composer Ricardo Zohn-Muldoon now teaches at the Eastman School of Music, following graduate study at the University of Pennsylvania with George Crumb. There is something of Crumb's coloristic sense in Páramo, inspired by Mexican writer Juan Rulfo's novel, Petro Páramo, which among other things, deals with the disorder of time. Written for sextet, the music is all about energy: I couldn't help but think of Paul Klee's classic drawing, Die Zwitscher-Maschine (Twittering Machine), while watching the percussionist merrily whacking chimes, wooden blocks, ratchets, guiros, wooden wind chimes – even pots and pans. Quite different is Mario Davidovsky's Chacona, a 20th-century variant on the Baroque form, with intense bursts of sound from violin and cello (Linda Quan and Chris Finckel), coupled with unusual timbres from the piano (Stephen Gosling). Widely considered one of the Argentine-born composer's best works, it was given heroic attention.

One of the clear hits of the night was Felipa Lara's Livro dos Sonhos I (Book of Dreams I) for clarinet and piano, with the Brazilian composer starting them off with insistent, accented stabbings. The pianist supplements the keyboard by occasionally stomping the pedals for their unique percussive effects. Meanwhile, the scalding clarinet part seems to escalate in torment, before it returns to its original insistent note. Mr. Gosling was joined by clarinetist Jean Kopperud, each vying for top honors in ferocity.

Composer/brothers from Buenos Aires, Alejandro and Ezequiel Viñao shared a teacher, the Russian composer Jacob Ficher, and their titles share a common word, but based on these examples, their work couldn't be more different. Alejandro's Formas del Viento (Wind Forms), for flute and percussion, uses a daunting "stacked" marimba and vibraphone – i.e., one behind the other – to create a sort of mega-keyboard, which Daniel Druckman navigated at times with one hand on each. The lyrical flute role, given great warmth by Jayn Rosenfeld, intertwines with the percussionist in repeated melodic cells. Ezequiel's Viento Blanco (White Wind) , in its first performance, seemed to be another audience favorite. Using wood block and marimba, Viñao sets up a swirling rhythm against which the clarinet, flute, and cello do spiraling figures, almost like jazz improvisations. Later the percussion changes to a trap set and bongos, with the clang of a rock band, maintaining a motoric rhythmic spine, while a note-heavy piano part meant even more finger fatigue for the hard-working Mr. Gosling. Rounding out the roster of some of the city's most admired musicians were Matthew Gold and Michael Truesdell on percussion, with conductor James Baker lending taut guidance where needed.


Bruce Hodges

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