Tuesday night’s concert was at Katz Performing Arts Center in Squirrel Hill. It promised something different: two pieces by composers with Pittsburgh links, Christopher Theofanidis, the current PSO composer of the year, and David Stock, Composer-in-Residence at Duquense University. And in anticipation, a full house, something I have not seen at Katz before.
The first piece was by Theofanidis (Visions and Miracles). It started brightly, with a pulsing rythmn that had me thinking of someone who had so much to say they could not get it out fast enough. The middle section was the same. A series of scales, continually ascending. But these patterns had the feel of movement, but not movement that was leading anywhere, motion without a goal. While different, I was not sure I enjoyed it.
David Stock’s piece (Concierto Cubano) started out similarly to Theofanidis’, a pulsing, racing motion. The cadenza then took this feel and led into the more melancholy and haunting second movement. The third movement almost felt like a different piece after these two. Risking charges of being unoriginal, it felt like a dance which, while welcome and enjoyable, did not seem to fit in with the first two movements.
The Schubert Quintet (2 violins, viola, 2 cello) followed the intermission. And it was well played. But thinking back to other quartets I’ve seen at here, it seemed to be missing the interactions that I treasure when listening to a live chamber ensemble. Yes, they all know their parts, and their cues. But it did not have the feel of people playing with each other.
Criticisms aside, I was glad to be here this evening. One of the difficulties with adding something new to an art form that has lasted centuries is that what is created now is being compared to music that has survived the vetting of hundreds of years, and we don’t know the music that has fallen aside as uninteresting. And to provide the opportunities for new composition to be performed, heard, and responded to gives the art of classical music life that would not be there in a portfolio of only tried and true forms. Seeing creativity in the types of works performed, as well as the performances themselves, makes even the listening and engaging of classical music a deeper experience.