I like the quotes that Larry Dillon posted on his blog here regarding what it takes to build expertise. At first I was a little confused by what seemed to be contrary assertions – “automaticity is central to the development of expertise”, and “the key challenge for aspiring expert performers is to avoid the arrested development associated with automaticity” – but a moment’s reflection led me to realize the point: that we need to both cultivate and transcend the “automatic” – as performers, obviously, but as composers as well.

Wednesday Miscellany

– I should have looked on YouTube for music by Melinda Wagner when I wrote that post about her Trombone Concerto. Only now did I think of doing so: here and here are excerpts from Four Settings, the vocal piece on the same Bridge CD as the concerto. Soprano Ilana Davidson is featured.

– I’ve added Lawrence Dillon’s blog called An Infinite Number of Curves (I knew a girl like that once)  to the right hand column.

– Sorry I messed up the links in this post below – they are now fixed – you may want to visit it again.

Emersons in Philly

I went to hear the Emerson Quartet’s concert here in Philadelphia last night, presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society. They opened with Haydn’s last, incomplete quartet – just the inner movements from what would have been an exceptional four-movement work. (What am I saying? Are there any “unexceptional” Haydn quartets?) This was followed by the Philadelphia premiere of a recent quartet by Lawrence Dillon called Through the Night. This is a big statement – about 33 minutes worth. The piece is basically a huge variation set on the traditional tune “All Through the Night”, framed with atmospheric “Twilight” music. Some of the variations are more straightforward, with the tune readily apparent; others are more fantastical. Two dream-like movements serve as keystones for the set. There is a remarkable variety of affect and character here, with idiomatic quartet writing throughout. The trademark Emersonian intensity and razor-sharp ensemble served the piece beautifully. The same qualities were apparent in the big Schubert G major quartet that closed the program, the Emersons reveling the major/minor chiaroscuro of the piece, and never tiring in the fiercely driven – but always graceful – third and fourth movements.

Larry Dillon is on something of a roll with string quartets, with recent performances by the Borromeo, Daedalus and Cassatt quartets. Visit his website and read his blog for more info. David Finckel, cellist of the Emerson, blogs as well.

Upcoming in Philly

Plenty of new music in the next few days in Philadelphia:

-the Prism Sax Quartet celebrates its 25th anniversary with a concert at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on Friday, January 29. Note the early start time of 5:45. Billed as a CD release party, the program includes music by Steve Mackey, Jacob TV, Roshanne Etezady, Bill Albright, and Lei Liang. New Yorkers have to wait till Sunday night to hear this show at (le) Poisson Rouge. Go here to read a fine piece by David Patrick Stearns about Prism, and here for a clip of Prism playing my Short Stories.

Update: Very nice to see Prism written up in the NY Times Arts & Leisure section.

-the American Composers Orchestra does a run-out of their Friday night Zankel Hall program to the Annenberg Center in Philly on Saturday, January 30. Anne Manson conducts music by Sebastian Currier, Roger Zare, and Paquito D’Rivera.

-the Daedalus Quartet (with guest colleagues) plays Beethoven, Schoenberg (your chance to hear Verklärte Nacht live) and a new piece by Lawrence Dillon on Sunday, January 31, in Amado Recital Hall on the U Penn campus.

There may be other events I am missing, but these three concerts alone add up to something of a new music festival.