Orchestra of the League of Composers


Given the near impossibility of getting a second performance of an orchestral work, the League of Composers/ISCM is doing noble work to put on an annual concert of music for small-ish orchestral forces each spring. In last month’s latest iteration, with composer Louis Karchin conducting, an excellent array of New York free-lancers performed a program of pieces nicely varied in style. These weren’t premieres (though the Adler was new to NYC), but why should they have to be? Conventional orchestras are too fixated on the éclat that accrues from a first performance. Would that this ensemble could perform as frequently as the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (as well as issue CDs the way BMOP does) – it would be a welcome complement to the American Composers Orchestra.

The soloists Chloë Schaaf and Michael Brown were both superb. Schaaf was new to me, but I had previously heard Brown’s fine album of George Perle’s piano music which I wrote about here.

Here are a few pictures from that evening (I wish I could include a picture of Du Yun, but none of the ones I took of her came out well.) Sam Adler (on left) and Mario Davidovsky:

Hayes Biggs with Mario:

and Lou Karchin (on left) with John Harbison:

Network at The Barnes

There always has to be an angle. That’s what foundations and funding sources insist on from presenters and performers these days, and the angle at last night’s concert by Network for New Music at The Barnes Foundation was the notion of having a group of composers write pieces in some way inspired by the museum’s collection. (The Barnes’s title for the event, “American Composers Respond”, sounded too much like a title card from a newsreel dating from shortly after Pearl Harbor.) There were new pieces by Kristin Kuster, Jeremy Gill, Stephen Hartke and Louis Karchin, all of relatively modest dimensions, and all meriting the listener’s attention.  Stephen Hartke offered The Blue Studio, a set of perfectly timed and characterful miniatures for piano trio, while Louis Karchin’s Luminous Fields, inspired by Rousseau, set in motion fleet gestures in harmonically bright colors, using harp, flute, cello, and pitched percussion. The concert took place in the reverberant space of the Light Court at the Barnes, and that resonance enhanced the moments of three-dimensional depth in the minimalist strata of Kristin Kuster’s folding planes: frosted panes, inspired by the Barnes building itself. Jeremy Gill captured something of the intense colors and fluid approach to form in the cutouts of Matisse in his Sons Découpés. Network’s performances were typically fine throughout the evening.

Here’s (left to right) Jeremy Gill, Stephen Hartke, and Kristin Kuster after the show:



Gerald Levinson, Jay Reise and Stephen Hartke:


and Jerry again with myself and Lou Karchin:


Excellent music excellently played isn’t good enough for grant givers these days, but for listeners, it will do just fine, and that was the gift granted us by Network last night.