Wednesday, April 11, 2018

Juilliard Chamber Music: Mixed Ensembles

I went to Juilliard on Monday evening to hear a program of chamber music simply entitled "Mixed Ensembles" that had been coached by renowned flutist Carol Wincenc.  The program featured works by a number of 20th and 21st century composers, all of them for flute and various combinations of other instruments with a harp featured prominently among them.

The full program was as follows:

All the works were interesting, but the one I thought most deserving of mention was Sato Matsui's City of Lights that was actually given its world premiere at this recital, not an event one normally encounters at a Juilliard student recital.

There was no intermission at this performance; but while the musicians were setting up for Sextuor Mystique Ms. Wincenc, with composer Sato Matsui at her side, took a moment to address the audience.  After first having mentioned that the Villa-Lobos work was a "mascot piece" performed every year, Ms. Wincenc went on to explain that she had asked Ms. Matsui to compose an original work for the same unusual combination of instruments - celesta, harp, guitar, saxophone, oboe and flute.  Ms. Sato then described the inspiration she had found in big cities such as New York that were filled with sights and sounds and that she accordingly had sought to capture a similar "explosion" of light and sound in her own composition.

The roughly ten-minute work was highly enjoyable and, not suprisingly considering the instrumentation with which Ms. Sato had to work, had a truly unique sound with the saxophone at times imparting to it a definite jazz aura.  Even the celesta, hardly ever given a starring role outside Tchaikovsky's "Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy," was featured prominently and actually given the cadenza to play.

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