Dogs of Desire (Report from Albany #2)

Final rehearsal for Luminism went well today, with yesterday’s adjustments falling into place very nicely. This was the first time I heard the piece all the way through, and therefore my first chance to really assess the formal shape. I think it is going to work, though there is a lot of slow music.

After a fine dinner at Muza, a Polish restaurant in Troy (a sampler with pierogis, stuffed cabbage and potato pancakes was excellent; the Polish beer, called Zywiec, well, nothing special), my colleagues John Harbison, Stacy Garrop, and I went to hear the Albany Symphony’s new music ensemble, called Dogs of Desire. The Dogs are a unique endeavor, in that they have a relatively set chamber orchestra instrumentation, and that they play only newly commissioned works written for the group. The aesthetic angle is downtown-ish, with pop elements, including arrangements of familiar tunes, yet the group is not easily pinned down. I see George Tsontakis and Paul Moravec on their list of commissioned composers, alongside Marc Mellitts, David Lang, and Caleb Burhans. My favorite pieces tonight were a new work by Todd Reynolds involving Eric Singer’s musical robots (midi-ed acoustic instruments – some of the same instruments that Pat Matheny has been touring with); Ted Hearne’s setting of a Frank O’Hara poem; and, as an encore, an arrangement of the Bruce Springsteen song Fire (you know it from the Pointer Sisters version) by Derek Bermel. David Alan Miller conducted very fine performances, though amplified chamber orchestra remains tricky with respect to balances: the strings were occasionally reduced to mimes.

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