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Within EarShot: BPO New Music Readings Present the “Concert-as-Rehearsal”

Image culled from the BPO web site.

The “Earshot and Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra New Music Readings” on February 23, as previously reported, gave the assembled audience at Kleinhans Music Hall the rare opportunity to hear orchestral works-in-progress performed.

It’s fairly common to encounter a working rehearsal-as-concert, in which a renowned guest artist collaborates with the orchestra to perform a completed, often familiar composition in advance of the actual concert for a public audience. It’s much more uncommon for the public to be given the opportunity to hear a concert of four new and incomplete works rehearsed live. On February 23, this paradigm–the concert-as-working-rehearsal–helped to showcase young composers (Daniel Schlosberg, David Marenberg, Elizabeth Lim, and Stephen Gorbos) fine-tuning their craft within the context of the symphony orchestra’s great historical tradition. All four of the artists demonstrated highly developed styles that revealed an innate understanding of orchestral language and their individual dialects within that language.

Inspired by the sharp contrasts in architecture he witnessed in the city of Berlin, Daniel Schlosberg injected his Grosse Concerto with jolting shifts that sounded more like non sequiturs than transitions. The opening, a kind of ode to Leonard Bernstein with its rhythmic reminisces of Symphony No. 1, “Jeremiah” and jazzy melodic gestures akin to West Side Story quickly gave way to an all-consuming Baroque atmosphere of harpsichords and violins. Throughout the piece, Schlosberg demonstrated a keen sense of balance between the varied voices of the orchestra.

Elizabeth Lim’s Disharmony of the Spheres featured a slurred leap beginning in the French horn set in motion numerous, more abstract imitations of the melodic fragment in other instruments. The alluring dystopian waltz that ensued gave the composition a satirical posture straight from Shostakovich.

For composer Stephen Gorbos’s perspective on the Earshot experience in Buffalo, visit his blog at the online magazine NewMusicBox.