Music Review TURNmusic delivers an exciting musical adventure

 

WATERBURY CENTER — If Saturday’s concert by TURNmusic at the Green Mountain Club is any indication, new music does indeed draw new audiences. Audience members from teens to seniors who braved the snowy weather were rewarded by a couple of new, truly striking works by Vermont-based composers, as well as several more derivative but nonetheless enjoyable works. This was the third program in TURNmusic’s inaugural season. The ensemble of professional Vermont musicians, founded and directed by Anne Decker, is dedicated to new music and new audiences. (Saturday’s program was also presented Friday at ArtsRiot, a Burlington nightclub.) Most striking was Brandon composer Eve Beglarian’s “Waiting for Billy Floyd,” a “program” work based on the Eudora Welty short story “At the Landing.” Beglarian’s score follows the innocent Jenny Lockhart, who falls in love with the river man Billy Floyd. When he leaves, she follows him and, despite being gang-raped along the way, waits optimistically for him. Beglarian’s score follows this story from Jenny’s point of view, using decidedly contemporary harmonies that illustrate what the tragic girl is feeling. With background slides and ambient sound (crickets chirping and dogs barking), the tale begins with a spring-like pastoral flavor, moving into a raucous harshness, and then back to a more pastoral, but optimistic feel — all in about 12 minutes. This simplistic description belies Beglarian’s craftsmanship, which imbues her musical work with the complexities of Welty’s character, rather than being a simplistic musical description of the action or plotline. Knowing the story makes listening to it difficult, but rewarding. “Billy Floyd” was given a convincing and potent performance by TURNmusic’s core members: flutist Hilary Goldblatt, clarinetist Daniel Liptak, violinist Mary Rowell, cellist John Dunlop, and Mary Jane Austin on electronic keyboard, all conducted by Decker. Following, as an antidote to the aforementioned tragedy, was a cute confection by Ruby Felton, “The End.” Rowell, singing and playing ukulele with a spoon, and Decker on rhythmic spoons delivered this charming take on the Beatles song. It was dessert. Another composer represented who shared Beglarian’s craftsmanship was Matt Larocca, a Middlebury College graduate who recently returned to Vermont. Larocca’s “Desert Places,” a response to Robert Frost’s dark poem of the same name, made a bold statement, but one that was beautifully nuanced. Using the same instrumentation as the Beglarian, “Desert Places” opened with a splash of colorful toccatas overlapping throughout the ensemble, building to a biting brilliance. Retreating to a forlorn austerity, it was broken by a beautiful cello lament, joined by the others. The effect is harmonically and rhythmically complex, and truly striking. Evan Ziporyn’s “Be In” was a paean to ‘60s hippies with its hypnotic world music sound. David Lang’s “Sweet Air” was similarly minimalist, with lots of lyrical pizzicato and gentle dissonances. Caroline Shaw’s “Limestone and Felt” for amplified viola and cello was a haunting musical odyssey. These three works all owe plenty to minimalist superstar composer Philip Glass. TURNmusic’s program Saturday turned out to be a real musical adventure, beautifully and effectively performed – and the multigenerational audience responded enthusiastically. TURNmusic For information about upcoming TURNmusic concerts, go online to www.turnmusic.org.

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