Last season, the Utah Symphony's management and artistic staff acknowledged the existence of contemporary music and launched the New Music@the Rose series. But while the two-concert series last year fell far short of presenting cutting-edge works, the idea was a good one in fact, it was an idea long overdue.
This season, the series continues with two programs, which, unlike last year's, present a greater variety of works, including a few from this century.
The first concert in the New Music@the Rose series this season was held Thursday and included a world premiere by Augusta Read Thomas.
Thomas' "Terpsichore's Dream" was written specifically for this concert and for the evening's guest conductor, Cliff Colnot, who led the Utah Symphony Chamber Orchestra in an exuberant and radiant reading of the score.
The work is vividly orchestrated, and Thomas skillfully moves around the orchestra, creating bursts of color that move quickly and smoothly from one section to another.
Terpsichore being the muse of dance in ancient Greek mythology, one would expect a score invoking her name to be rhythmic and vibrant, and Thomas certainly doesn't disappoint in that regard. The piece is captivatingly dancelike and fluid, with a driving energy that is barely contained.
The orchestra under Colnot's expert direction played effortlessly, wonderfully capturing the intensity of the score, as well as its vitality and luminosity. One can say without hesitation that "Terpsichore's Dream" is one of Thomas' best works to date.
The concert opened with Luis Tinoco's "Short Cuts (C)," scored for three clarinets, saxophone, two vibraphones, marimba and piano. The work is ingeniously crafted. Tinoco uses one tone out of which the entire work is constructed. In effect, the piece explores the coloristic possibilities of this note, and how one note can generate the thematic material for a piece of considerable substance.
The members of the Utah Symphony woodwind and percussion sections played compellingly, in particular principal clarinet Tad Calcara.
Also on the program were Leon Kirchner's "Music for 12" and Arvo Part's "Fratres."
The venerable Kirchner, who is now 88 and still composing, wrote "Music for 12" in 1985. Like most of his works, this piece is wholly indebted to the Second Viennese School, and to Alban Berg in particular, for its dense orchestral colors and rich expressiveness, which Colnot brought out with his perceptive direction.Part's "Fratres," for strings, is a completely different work than the preceding pieces. Medieval in concept, the work is hypnotic yet wondrously alive and compelling. The strings gave a radiant reading that was nuanced and captured all the subtleties of the score.