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In Performance: Local Reviews

In the paper: Well worth noting in today's paper is Jacqueline Trescott's piece on the coming season at the Clarice Smith Center, a season that will include no fewer than nine new commissioned works. Not only is this a feat in today's economic climate; it continues the Center's de facto mandate to offer some of the most interesting contemporary work of any DC-area institution in the fluid area one could call "alt-classical." A new dance piece by Emilio Greco and composer Michael Gordon; a new piece from the Kronos Quartet (regular Clarice Smith Center guests); a new opera for the Maryland Opera Studio; a new music-theater-performance work by the eclectic theater-maker Rinde Eckert and the composer-guitarist Steve Mackey: they've got my attention.

On the Web: Jenny Lin Explores Etudes at Strathmore, by Charles T. Downey:

Jenny Lin returned to the Washington area on Thursday night to perform on Strathmore's "Celebration of the Piano" series. She displayed dizzying virtuosity in a survey of the contemporary piano etude from Debussy to Dai Fujikura, limit-testing music meant to illuminate obscure corners of keyboard technique. The composers' approach to the piano was surprisingly conventional -- no bolts disrupting the strings or shouting into the sounding board -- although numerous forays into the Strathmore Mansion piano's upper range revealed an out-of-tune F and C in the highest octave.
(continue reading after the jump)

Lin gave tribute to the nineteenth century, when the etude was perfected as a concert genre, in a ferocious performance of the tremolos and chromatic runs of Liszt's "Etude transcendente No. 12." Two Debussy etudes also referred to the past, including the cheeky reference in no. 1 to Carl Czerny's five-finger exercises, which all piano students love to hate. Some of the choices were obvious, if encountered all too rarely, like the boundary-shattering etudes by György Ligeti and the "Ile de Feu" rhythmic studies of Messiaen.

Just as compelling were lesser-known works like the early Stravinsky etudes (op. 7) and, to complete the menagerie, strikingly different attempts at the genre by living composers Unsuk Chin, Gabriela Ortiz, Carlos Sánchez-Gutiérrez, and Jason Freeman. With hard-fingered, percussive technique Lin tamed them all, a series of stunningly difficult pieces of the sort one might sprinkle here and there in a normal concert. A few less demanding passages drew attention to deficiencies of expressive line and subtle coloring in Lin's playing, but a sultry, smoky rendition of Federico Mompou's "Secreto" was the perfect cool-down encore.

-- Charles T. Downey

By Anne Midgette  |  May 8, 2009; 4:25 PM ET
Categories:  local reviews  
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“Shadowboxer” [Joe Louis the Boxer: The Opera] was commissioned by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center [University of Maryland, College Park] from the award winning team of composer Frank Proto and librettist John Chenault.

I find it revealing how in her summary above, the Washington Post blogger (or her editor) highlights Michael Gordon, Steve Mackey, and Rinde Eckert; but not the highly prolific alt-classical composer Frank Proto, librettist John Chenault, or the American sports hero Joe Louis (the last two of whom are African-American).

Such racism in an “official blog” got my attention.

Posted by: snaketime | May 12, 2009 5:02 PM | Report abuse

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