Although one of the most significant composers in Utah, Marie Barker Nelson's music of late hasn't been performed locally with any frequency. So it was a stroke of good fortune that flutist Laurel Ann Maurer programmed one of the Salt Lake composer's works at Thursday's Contemporary Music Consortium concert.
Nelson's "Songs of the Moon," which was played at Thursday's concert in the First Unitarian Church, was commissioned by Maurer and premiered by her and pianist Joanne Pearce Martin in April 2000.
At Thursday's performance, however, Maurer was accompanied by pianist John Jensen, who is best known in Utah for his annual appearances at the Park City and Salt Lake City Music Festival.
The four-movement "Songs of the Moon" is based on a series of evocative poems by Nelson's sister Marilyn B. Johnson. Descriptive and eloquent, the music captures the radiance of Johnson's words as she describes the moon in its different cycles.
Maurer and Jensen gave a wonderfully lucid reading that brought out the nuances of the music with deceptive ease.
The first half of the concert, in which Nelson's work was played, was devoted to music by resident composers. Besides Nelson, the program also featured music by Stan Funicelli and Michael Carnes.
Funicelli's Sonata No. 3, for unaccompanied violin, opened the concert. It was given a commanding and wonderfully expressive performance by Jennifer Bogart. She brought feeling and emotional depth to the first two movements and robustness to the fugal finale.
Carnes' "Proper Motion," for flute clarinet and piano, closed out this portion of the evening. Constructed on ambiguous rhythms and meters and relying on a keen interplay among the three performers, "Proper Motion" is a cleverly thought-out work that demands precise execution and clockwork accuracy on the musicians' part to pull it off successfully.
Joining Maurer and Jensen for "Proper Motion" was Utah Symphony associate clarinetist Russell Harlow. They gave an energetic, vivid reading of the piece that was forceful in its impact.
There were two works on the second half of the concert George Rochberg's "Caprice Variations," for solo violin, and Libby Larson's "Barn Dances," for flute, clarinet and piano.
Rochberg's work is based on Paganini's famous A minor Caprice. He wrote 50 variations on this theme, but Bogart played less than half of them. They are a tour de force presentation for the violinist, and Bogart gave the most dynamic performance of the evening with them.Larson's "Barn Dances" is a gregarious, uninhibited piece that contains plenty of homespun humor. Maurer, Jensen and Harlow gave a stunning performance that captured the uniqueness of the four-movement work.
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