The Washington premiere Sunday of a bold new harp concerto capped an engaging and powerful performance of recent music by members of the Phillips Camerata, the resident ensemble of Washington’s Phillips Collection; the Quartet Senza Misura; and musicians from the New York-based Metropolis Ensemble.
Sunday’s combination of forces was a fortunate grouping of young musicians dedicated to contemporary music and sharing a truly visionary outlook. (We clearly need another way to distinguish between avant-garde compositions of the 1950s, still called “contemporary,” and today’s “contemporary” music hot off the press.)
Joined by a string quartet, [Bridget] Kibbey gave nuanced voice to the black atmosphere of Nathan Shields’ brooding “Tenebrae,” underlining its snatches of elusive luminance. In Vivian Fung’s Concerto for Harp, which was commissioned by the Phillips and other musical organizations, Kibbey’s bravura and sensitivity, especially in her cadenza, outlined the music’s intriguing mix of timbres, thorny sonorities, wailing glissandos and chirping pizzicatos echoed in the strings. In between, amusing parodies of a waltz and tango lightened up the texture. The drums and other percussion joined in, giving zest and a shade of violence to the composition.
Three of Sunday’s compositions were Washington premieres: Cerrone’s “High Windows,” Shields’ “Tenebrae” and Fung’s Concerto for Harp. Both Cerrone and Shields were on hand to explain their compositions. The concert’s end brought enthusiastic applause and cheering, concluding the Phillips’ Sunday musical 2013-2014 season.
– by Cecilia Porter
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