July 11, 2008

‘Vanguards’ a Collaboration That Features Three Pieces

By Emily Van Cleve For the Journal

According to Santa Fe New Music director and conductor John Kennedy, instrumental music written during the past several decades reflects the diversity of styles employed by contemporary composers. But when it comes to music written for voices, "much of the choral music of the last decades has sometimes lived in its own parallel universe, focused more on expressing choral tradition than the musical vocabulary being developed in other genres," he said. "Nonetheless, a number of the most significant composers of our time have composed major works for chorus. The Vanguards of New Music program showcases works in which we hear the application of their vocabularies to the choral realm."

Presented at First Presbyterian Church for two performances on Sunday, Vanguards of New Mexico is a collaboration between the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe New Music featuring three pieces that Kennedy says "may be among the choral works which future generations take note of as representative of the musical language of this era." Kennedy will conducts the concert of 24 singers and 12 instrumentalists.

First up will be Krzysztof Penderecki's 1986 choral work "Song of Cherubim." Penderecki's music has gone through various stylistic periods since he began composing in the late 1950s. Kennedy says "Song of Cherubim" uses small cells of notes that are developed into vocal lines. "These chromatic cells get played out rhythmically as well as tonally," he added.

Sung in Russian even though Penderecki is Polish, "Song of Cherubim" is performed a cappella. "It's pretty difficult, which is why I think it's rarely sung in public," he said. "It's a spiritual piece that goes to a deep, emotional place."

While Kaija Saariaho's 2006 opera "Adriana Mater "is featured at the Santa Fe Opera this summer, the Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe New Music honor the Finnish composer by presenting her 2001 piece "Tag des Jahr." Written for Saariaho's mother, who was suffering from a form of dementia, the piece uses text by German poet Friedrich Hlderlin that describes the four seasons. An electronic soundscore comprised of what Kennedy calls "found sounds and voices" accompanies the singers. At times, prerecorded voices will read parts of the poems while the chorus is singing. "Even though the piece is secular, it has a spiritual feel to it," Kennedy said.

Arvo Prt's "Miserere" will close the program. Written for chorus and 12 instruments in 1989, it was composed in Prt's signature style called tintinnabuli. The main characteristic of this compositional technique involves playing notes of a chord separately rather than together.

"Notes of a triad are played one at a time," Kennedy explained. "Chords are deconstructed and reconstructed by the singers and the instrumentalists. There's also a considerable use of silence in the piece. Prt wrote a lot of religious choral music. I've chosen to present this one because it's so strong."

If you go

WHAT: Vanguards of New Music presented by Santa Fe Desert Chorale and Santa Fe New Music

WHEN: 3 p.m. and 7 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: First Presbyterian Church, 208 Grant St.

COST: $20-$50

CONTACT: (505) 988-1234

(c) 2008 Albuquerque Journal. Provided by ProQuest Information and Learning. All rights Reserved.