Saturday, June 21, 2014

Music 'Collides' in This Year's Chamber Music Festival

Composer & Cellist, Clancy Newman
By Guest Blogger, Chuck Holdeman

Chuck is a regional composer of lyrical, contemporary classical music, including opera, orchestral music, songs, chamber music, and music for film.

Friday evening (June 20, 2014) witnessed the American Premiere of Clancy Newman's Collision Course as part of the third program of the annual Delaware Chamber Music Festival, held at The Music School of Delaware in Wilmington. Collision is in one movement, scored for clarinet, piano, and with Newman playing the 'cello. It is a very listenable work with considerable expressive range, and the audience loved it — their applause accented by enthusiastic bravos. The intense young virtuoso clarinetist was Columbian Benito Meza, and the perpetually masterful Philadelphia pianist was Marcantonio Barone, who also read Newman's poem about the piece, a dramatic and appealing scenario about three musicians on separate ships approaching and then separating.

Newman sometimes performs in Australia, where he received the commission to write his new trio. On the long flight home over the ocean, he had the vision which provided the form for his trio. It reminded me of Charles Ives, the American original and composer of enduring music, who loved it when his bandmaster father arranged for three marching bands playing different music to converge. Some call it cacophony, but Ives made it work and composed much music with several seemingly disparate things happening at once. Newman's approach was a bit different, in that when the three musics do finally converge, the three voices gradually start playing together in a boisterous and celebratory unity. One of my favorite sections was just before the total convergence when the three kinds of music are still distinct and clashing with each other a bit as they grope toward consensus.

I know it is true that part of the fun for the audience was knowing the story in advance and then being able to follow the scenario as it played out in sound. I also felt, with the wisdom of hindsight, that I would have enjoyed hearing the piece knowing nothing about it, and then trying to figure out what was going on. In that case, when the three instrumental styles/ships separate after the collision, it would not be predictable and therefore more mysterious. I also felt that the clarinet "personality" was less defined and arresting as compared with Spain-inspired ardor of the 'cello music and the cocktail charm and finesse of the piano music.

Newman is a great performer, and as a composer he has terrific stage instincts — how to grasp and hold an audience. As we leave the era of modern classical music which seemed not to care much about the listener, I applaud this composer/performer, who so warmly embraces his audience.

There is one more remaining concert in this series: Sunday, June 22, at 3:00pm, and Newman will be there with the Festival Quartet regulars, performing music by Haydn, Dvorak, and Schubert.


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