Two critics Verge
On Sunday, the Verge ensemble performed a concert called "When Kandinsky Met Schoenberg" at the National Gallery of Art. Due to a clerical error, two critics reviewed the concert for the Washington Post.
One of the premises of this blog is that there are a lot of different ways to look at a concert, and the more voices join in the discussion, the better. So I couldn't pass up the opportunity to post two contrasting reviews of the same event: Charles T. Downey's in the newspaper, and Cecelia Porter's on the blog, after the jump.
These two pieces present two different approaches, even two different ways of writing a view. You be the critic: what are the pros and cons of each? And would anybody like to add his or her own views of what sounds like an intriguing concert?
Verge Ensemble explores musical abstractions at National Gallery
by Cecelia Porter
The National Gallery of Art hosted an arresting concert by VERGE ensemble on Sunday celebrating the 100th anniversary of a remarkable convergence of art and music.
In January 1911 the Russian painter Wassily Kandinsky heard compositions by the pivotal expressionist composer Arnold Schoenberg (living in Freud’s Vienna, the hub of theories about the unconscious). On hearing Schoenberg’s works dispensing with a tonal center, Kandinsky abandoned his literal depiction of subjects in favor of abstract expression, as in the Gallery’s "Improvisation 31 (Sea Battle)" of 1913, in which the artist transformed a specific scene through heightened colors reflecting the violent fury provoked by battle.
The Verge Ensemble began with pianist Audrey Andrist’s persuasive version of Schoenberg’s rhapsodic post-Wagnerian Drei Klavierstücke (which Kandinsky had heard). It was followed by later works pushing the limits of musical sound. In "traces of spirit whispers - 1.circulation of the light" (2003) by Steve Antosca (artistic director of` VERGE), piano techniques were fused with computer-processed sonorities. For Györgi Ligeti’s Continuum (1968), harpsichordist Jenny Lin gave a riveting account of barely perceptible individual tones speeding through continually unfolding textures. Andrist returned for Elliott Carter’s "Caténaires" (2006), a work of uninterrupted notes coursing through a soundscape of ever-changing pitches.
"Amores" (1943) of John Cage (a onetime Schoenberg student) was the most exciting of the post-1911 pieces. Along with a “prepared piano” -- Cage’s invention involving altering the instrument’s innards -- three percussionists on hand drums, and later mallets, engaged in a complex dialogue of rhythms shaping a clearly ordered design. John Luther Adams’s closing "Red Arc/Blue Veil" (2002), for electronically manipulated piano and percussion, was too long for its static content.
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