Tippet Rise on Tour: A digital festival of exquisitely curated content and remarkable performances

United StatesUnited States Tippet Rise on Tour: Spring Festival16-18.4.2021. (RP)

16 April 2021Katie Hyun (violin), Pedja Mužijević (piano & speaker). Filmed at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, on 20.11.2020.

Vytautas Barkauskas – Partita for violin solo Op.12
Satie – Desiccated Embryos
Kurt SchwittersUr Sonata (excerpt)
George Antheil – The Hundred Headless Woman (excerpts)

Filmmaker – Tristan Cook
Audio Engineer – Noriko Okabe

17 April 2021 – Richard Goode (piano & speaker), Claire Chase (flute), Tyler Duncan (baritone), Erika Switzer (piano), Tessa Lark (violin). Filmed at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music, New York, on 13.9.2020.

Charles Tomlinson – ‘If Bach had been a beekeeper’
J. S. Bach – Prelude and Fugue in C major BWV 870 (The Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II)
Wallace Stevens – ‘The Snowman’
Debussy – ‘Des pas sur la neige’ (Preludes, Book I)
Brahms – Intermezzi Op.118 Nos.1 & 2; ‘Unbewegte laue Luft’ Op.57 No.8
Yoon – ‘The Haunted Orchard’ for flute and electronics (World Premiere)
Mozart – Sonata No.15 in F major K 533/494
Coleridge-Taylor – ‘You lay so still in the Sunshine’
Milhaud – Two Love Poems Op.30
Schubert – ‘Wanderers Nachtlied II’ D 768
Corigliano – ‘STOMP’

Filmmaker & Audio Engineer – Adam Abeshouse 

18 April 2021 – Arlen Hlusko & Gabriel Cabezas (cello), Benjamin Beilman (violin), Filmed at the studio of sculptor Joel Shapiro, Long Island City, on 8.12.2020.

Matthias McIntire – ‘Footsteps’ for cello and fixed media
Giancarlo Latta – Sarabande attacca to J. S. Bach’s Sarabande from Suite No.5 in C minor BWV 1011
India Gaily – ‘Mountainweeps’
Ryan Wilmot – ‘Fears I May Cease to Be’ from Inspirations
John Keats – ‘When I Have Fears’
Jessie Montgomery – Duo for Violin and Cello
Chris Rogerson – Partita for Violin

Filmmaker – Jean Coleman
Audio Engineer – Noriko Okabe 

Tippet Rise Art Center must be a remarkable place. Located in Fishtail, Montana, against the backdrop of the Beartooth Mountains on a 12,000-acre sheep and cattle ranch, it was conceived by co-founders Peter and Cathy Halstead as a place where art, music, poetry, architecture and nature unite to form a complementary and stunning whole. Tippet Rise hit the mark with this exquisitely curated three-day spring festival, which is free and available to everyone.

The festival is the musical equivalent of the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, whose founder, Albert C. Barnes, amassed one of the world’s most important collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and modern painting and displayed them alongside African masks, native American jewelry, Greek antiquities and decorative metalwork. (Progressive for his time, Barnes believed that people – like art – should not be segregated.) In this digital festival, Tippet Rise achieved the same ends with music and poetry in which Baroque, Classical, Romantic and Surrealist works are contrasted with and complemented by those of today.

Each performance opens with footage of Tippet Rise in winter: bleak, bare and breathtakingly beautiful. With musicians unable to travel due to the pandemic, performances were filmed in two locations in New York, the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan and the studio of Joel Shapiro in Long Island City. In addition to the minimalist sculptor’s works, the studio offers glimpses of the city outside its windows.

The festival opened with violinist Katie Hyun performing Vytautas Barkauskas’s Partita for violin solo. In each of its five movements, the Lithuanian composer makes use of a twentieth-century dance in the framework of a Baroque suite. Bathed in red light, Hyun gave a fierce, electrifying performance of the work, save for the slow middle movement in which Barkauskas combines the blues and the Dies irae, a medieval Latin hymn on the Day of Judgment sung in Requiem Masses. In that, Hyun impressed with the beauty and sensitivity of her playing.

Surrealism is rarely encountered in the concert hall, but that is where Pedja Mužijević, Tippet Rise’s artistic advisor, ventured in Is it Real? Mužijević played the piano and provided the narration in Erik Satie’s Desiccated Embryos, in which the French composer pairs parlor song with sea cucumbers, bits of Chopin and Schubert with drunk shrimp and lobsters, and crabs with operetta and a hunting call. In music and speech, Mužijević captured the bizarreness, as well as the high art, with a wry wit and elan.

Mužijević also recited an excerpt from Kurt Schwitters’s Ur Sonata. Schwitters, who dabbled in Dadaism, Constructivism and Surrealism, is most famous for his collages. Ur Sonata is an example of his sound poetry, in which he used phrases such as ‘Fumms bö wö tää zää Uu, pögiff, kwii Ee’, supplying instructions for the reciters of the work which deal mainly with the correct pronunciation of the letters.

The final dip into Surrealism was a performance of excerpts from George Antheil’s The Hundred Headless Woman, a collection of 45 piano etudes composed to capture the essence of a Surrealist collage-novel of etchings by Max Ernst. Mužijević played Antheil’s music with the typewriter-like precision required for the composer’s nod to his earlier ‘mechanistic’ period.

The second film featured pianist Richard Goode reciting poetry as well as playing the music of Bach, Debussy, Brahms and Mozart. Charles Tomlinson’s ‘If Bach had been a beekeeper’ introduced Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in C major, and Goode read Wallace Steven’s ‘The Snowman’ before playing Debussy’s ‘Des pas sur la neige’. Although not linked thematically to either composer, both poems deal with the calm and solitude necessary to hear the sounds of nature. Goode performed these works from the core piano repertoire with the consummate musicianship and depth of feeling that one associates with this exceptional artist.

Stillness was the thematic thread that ran through the five songs performed by baritone Tyler Duncan and pianist Erika Switzer. The rarities were Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s setting of Antonia Radclyffe Hall’s ‘You lay so still in the sunshine’ and Darius Milhaud’s Two Love Poems set to texts by the Bengali poet and philosopher Rabindranath Tagore. These two very different men bound words and music in a gentle lyricism that is timeless. To close, Duncan and Switzer performed Schubert’s ‘Wanders Nachtlied II’, which was a benediction of calm and beauty.

‘The Haunted Orchard’ for flute and electronics combined the talents of two extraordinary creative artists, Korean-American composer, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Bora Yoon and Claire Chase, who was the first flutist to win the MacArthur genius award. ‘The Haunted Orchard’ is a co-commission by Tippet Rise and the Adele and John Gray Endowment Fund as part of Chase’s Density 2036, which she founded to create a new body of repertory for flute between 2013 and 2036. It will culminate on the centenary of Edgard Varèse’s groundbreaking flute solo, ‘Density 21.5’.

Yoon creates a musical soundscape that envelopes the listener in the mysteries of nature and the supernatural. It is spooky, ethereal music, which required Chase to perform on the entire family of flutes. Chase in performance is as engrossing as Yoon’s evocative score.

Violinist Tessa Lark brought the segment to a rousing conclusion with John Corigliano’s ‘STOMP’. Written for the 2011 Tchaikovsky Competition in Russia, the work is modeled on American fiddle music, and it requires the violinist, as one might expect from its title, to stomp along with the music. Lark got into theatricality of ‘STOMP’ and soared through the virtuosic demands of this short, energetic piece.

Arlen Hlusko (cello)

Four works from cellist Arlen Hlusko’s collaborative composition project are featured in the third concert of the festival. Born out of the need to interact with other musicians in this time of isolation, the project resulted in 20 collaborations with composers from around the world. In order to make the pieces easy to find and as accessible as possible, Hlusko posts them on Instagram. Apart from being innovative and resourceful, Hlusko is also a superb musician.

Having left off with Tessa Lark stomping in the previous concert, the first of the four works in the third concert finds Hlusko playing the cello paired with a track of natural sounds, including her own footsteps.  A native of Toronto, Matthias McIntire is a violinist, violist, composer and music educator in the San Francisco Bay area. The melodies that he wrote for this brief work entitled ‘Footsteps’ for cello and fixed media were stunning in their simplicity. It was if beautiful sounds, including the tingling of a bell, were running through one’s mind on a hike through the woods.

Composer and violinist Giancarlo Latta is interested in the intersection of music new and old. For the competition, he reworked an earlier improvisation for violin that he paired with Bach’s somber Sarabande from Suite No.5 in C. Latta is another master melodist. whose innate sense of line and structure made his ‘Sarabande’ a seamless prelude to that of Bach.

India Gailey, an American Canadian cellist, composer and improviser, addresses climate change in the four short works that comprise ‘Mountainweeps’. Gailey’s atmospheric music captures the creaks of the glacier and the flutter of the wind. Ryan Wimot’s ‘Fears I May Cease to Be’ was inspired by Keats’s sonnet ‘When I Have Fears’. Wimot’s melodies spoke of the uncertainty of this past year, when so many feared that the pandemic would prevent them from fulfilling their dreams.

The final two works of the festival were Jessie Montgomery’s Duo for Violin and Cello and Chris Rogerson’s Partita for Violin. Montgomery is a chamber musician and music educator, whose focus as a composer is on the vernacular, improvisation, language and social justice. She was daring enough to write a tribute to the 200th anniversary of ‘Star Spangled Banner’ and had the talent to make it a triumph.

Benjamin Beilman (violin) and Gabriel Cabezas (cello)

Montgomery’s Duo is an ode to friendship. In between the fast-paced, frenetic ‘Antics’ and ‘Serious Fun’, the second piece of the three-part work, entitled ’In Confidence’, is a moving ode upon which violinist Benjamin Beilman and cellist Gabriel Cabezas lavished beautiful sound and found an emotional connection to its underlying sentiments.

The festival ended with a partita, just as it began. Chris Rogerson is an American composer with a list of commissions, to say nothing of the performers, ensembles and orchestras that have performed them, all of which attests to his talent and individual musical voice. His Partita is a tour-de-force that uses the Baroque suite as a framework for music that is timeless. Whether in the rapid-fire bravura passages or the long, slow-spinning melodies, Beilman’s tone was luminous, singing and alive.

How else to end this remarkable digital musical festival from Tippet Rise but with something current, fresh and exhilarating?

Rick Perdian

For more on Tippet Rise Art Center and to view the festival, click here.

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