Ostrava Days (6):Student Compositions Performed with Mixed Results

12/09/2011

Czech RepublicCzech Republic Ostrava Days (6): Smith, Feery, Peszat, Sturalova, Ryczek: Conrad Harris (violin), Theo Nabicht (bass clarinet, contrabass clarinet), Thomas Verchot (trumpet), Zuzana Biscakova (piano), Chris Nappi (percussion), Ostravaská Banda String Quartet, Janacek Conservatory, Ostrava, Czech Republic. 02.09.2011 (GG)

Andrew C. Smith:
Amanda Feery: Rattle
Piotr Peszat: IL-3398/LN-H PsychoNeurotic Institute for the very, very nervous
Lenka Sturalova: Scream
Mateusz Ryczek: Shreds of Sleep

While the concerts are the public face of the Ostrava Days festival, the hidden part that will pay dividends in the future is the Institute, where young composers work on their craft with musicians and mentors in lectures, seminars and rehearsals. For many of them, the culmination is a performance as part of the festival, including this afternoon concert at the headquarters for it all, the Janacek Conservatory near the center of the city.

The concert was brief, and the works relatively modest but full of interesting ideas. Repeated exposure to student works over a few decades reveals that when they have problems, the primary concerns have to do with balancing organization and confidence. Composing is tough, and those two qualities are the most hard-earned parts of the craft.

The weaker pieces filled the central portion of the program and each had problems with the aforementioned confidence and organization, although each also had plenty of good ideas. Amanda Feery’s Rattle, for solo bass clarinet, benefited from the impressive playing of Theo Nabicht, starting with notes laid out in an attractive rhythmic pattern, and Nabicht “ghosting” some of the pitches in a jazzy style. There’s an energy that befits the title, but never anything that really shakes loose, and Feery strays, abandoning what seems to be her best material in search of something hopefully more interesting. While development is an important quality in composition, not every idea needs to be pursued, and some music wants us to stick with it. In short: a good core, but a meandering composition.

Piotr Peszat’s work is certainly the only composition that claims as its inspiration Mel Brooks’s movie High Anxiety. The title – IL-3398/LN-H PsychoNeurotic Institute for the very, very nervous – perhaps gives that away, but the style and content don’t. It’s a dialogue between piano (a weirdly tinny one from the Bohemian brand at the Conservatory) and marimba, and has some good quasi-improvisational moments, but it’s both unfocussed and coy, never revealing its intentions. Each instrument is pitched mostly in the middle range as well, which tires the ear a bit. Peszat has a nice Expressionistic language, but not much structure.

Scream has the opposite problem, too much structure that gets in the way of the music. Like Feery, Lenka Sturalova is too restless, not sticking with good material long enough to use it well, but jumping into a canon and then out of it before it has come to any full statement. Only four minutes long, Scream seems too full of notes and activities. The time may seem modest, but it’s long enough to explore something fully.

Andrew C. Smith’s enigmatically titled “-“ is appealing for that very quality. It’s quiet, hesitant and spare, but there’s an underlying tunefulness veiled by the modest and controlled writing. The piece is just long enough, and does just enough. Smith conveys the sensation of just barely recalling music in the memory, and tosses in some charming resolutions of his microtonal lines. Mateusz Ryczek’s closing Shreds of Sleep is also satisfying, featuring a great, slightly greasy string quartet sonority and motion that is deliberately queasy – strong elements, and he sticks with them, limiting his focus on their development. The modest ambitions of these final two works are examples of how assured music is made.

George Grella

Comments

Comments are closed.

Recent Reviews

Season Previews

__________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! English Music Festival’s 2020 online series of concerts and talks __________________________________
  • NEW! Glyndebourne 2020 cancelled and looking to the future __________________________________
  • NEW! Opera Philadelphia announces Digital Festival O __________________________________
  • NEW! The Singapore Symphony in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Musikfest Berlin 2020 __________________________________
  • NEW! Berlin’s Staatsoper Unter den Linden 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at Dresden’s Semperoper __________________________________
  • NEW! Zurich Opera in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Southbank Centre in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! The Met: Live in HD in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020-2021 at London’s Barbican __________________________________
  • NEW! Birmingham Royal Ballet in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • NEW! Carnegie Hall’s 2020-2021 season __________________________________
  • NEW! London’s Wigmore Hall in 2020-2021 __________________________________
  • Subscribe to Free Review Summary Newsletter

    Search S&H

    News and Featured Articles

    __________________________________
  • NEW! Educating Rita, says who? __________________________________
  • UPDATED! 2020 Salzburg Festival – 1 to 30 August __________________________________
  • NEW! Did we really need Vera Lynn during the war – and when will we all meet again? __________________________________
  • NEW! 2020 Three Choirs Festival – postponed __________________________________
  • UPDATED ONLINE NEWS! IMPACT OF CORONAVIRUS (COVID-19) PANDEMIC __________________________________
  • NEW! ACCOMPANIST OR PARTNER? PIANIST SUSIE ALLAN IN CONVERSATION WITH JOHN QUINN __________________________________
  • NEW! Need to escape reality? Enter into the magical world of composer David Hertzberg __________________________________
  • NEW! BTHVN2020 – Beethoven anniversary goes into overtime __________________________________
  • SOME GOOD NEWS! Extraordinary generosity of the Longborough Festival Opera audience __________________________________
  • Remembering Margaret Rutherford: murder on and off screen __________________________________
  • Remembering George London’s life and legacy on the 100th anniversary of his birth __________________________________
  • PIANIST LOUIS LORTIE IN CONVERSATION WITH GEOFFREY NEWMAN __________________________________
  • PIANIST JONATHAN BISS IN CONVERSATION WITH CHRISTOPHER SALLON __________________________________
  • A Q&A WITH SARDINIAN TENOR PIERO PRETTI __________________________________
  • Archives by Week

    Archives by Month