They gave a concert of contemporary music, and nobody came. Well, that's not quite true. Sunday's concert at Westminster College was well-attended - by the performers, their acquaintances, the recording team and this reviewer.
Just the music fans forgot to come.It's unfortunate, but Sunday concerts are still politically incorrect, as it were, in this community. But there are few things that are more stimulating and satisfying than attending a concert.
Sure, this concert didn't include Beethoven or Brahms, and the promoters forgot to book some big-time international artists. That might have boosted the attendance somewhat. But probably by not too much.
What this concert did have were some excellent local musicians giving one great performance. They played the music of Jean Francaix and Bohuslav Martinu and also the music of two contemporary Americans - Meyer Kupferman and Utah native Marie Barker Nelson. Except possibly for Nelson, these composers aren't exactly household names. But their music is well worth listening to. And when this music is played by the likes of Russell and Leslie Harlow, Laurel Ann Maurer, Nancy Toone and Jeffrey Price, well, then you've really got something to shout hallelujah about.
The concert began with Kupferman's "Dovely Duo," played by Maurer on flute and Russell Harlow on clarinet.
The piece starts out with long-sustained tones in the clarinet, to which the flute adds short, rapid-fire flourishes. As the piece progresses, the music gets more involved and animated, exploiting the extreme ranges of both instruments, before it once again returns to the opening gestures. The ending, though, has the flute holding the tones while the clarinet adds the remarks.
Nelson's Sonata for Clarinet and Piano (played by Russell Harlow, with Jeffrey Price on piano) is an intense piece throughout its four movements. The music is in the neo-classical style of French composers of the 1950s, dissonant yet strangely melodic.
The brief slow movement is a lovely piece of music, made more memorable by Harlow's sensitive playing. Harlow without doubt is one of the finest clarinetists around today.
Francaix's "Le Colloque des deux Perruches" ("The Conversation of Two Parakeets"), played by flutists Maurer and Toone, is a humorous, flighty (think parakeet) and also tenderly lyrical work. The six brief movements here are just plain delightful. Maurer and Toone sounded great in this piece.
Martinu's Trio for Flute, Viola and Piano ended this superb concert. Price and Maurer were here joined by violist Leslie Harlow. These three were wonderful in bringing out the colorful nature of this music, which at times was carefree, playful, moody but always melodic.