Correction: A concert review on Monday of the Great Noise Ensemble misttated the price of admission: a ticket cost $15, not $25. In addition, the review contained erroneous information about the piece "Hush," by Hannah Lash; it was not written explicitly as a 9/11 memorial.
Now in its seventh season, the Great Noise Ensemble is one of the most adventurous contemporary classical groups in the Washington region. The group presents wonderful, rarely heard music, but its quests to perform it can be arduous.
If you think a $15 ticket should entitle you to hear a polished concert, you’ll be disappointed. If you think it’s worth $15 to hear enthusiastic semi-professionals share great unfamiliar music, you’ll be delighted.
The ensemble’s “Lullaby, Eulogy and Homage” concert Friday at the Unitarian Universalist Church in Silver Spring began with a work that Stephen Hartke wrote in 9/11’s wake: “Beyond Words,” for piano, violin, viola and cello. Hartke is among America’s finest composers, but the strings were so out of tune that the audience could never know how beautiful his music is.
It seemed clear that most rehearsal went into the world premiere of “Hush” by Hannah Lash, scored for small chamber orchestra. Lash’s scoring displays great skill, but her individuality is sporadic. New ideas creep through, but much appears derivative of other composers. However, it seemed an extremely well-prepared performance, ably directed by assistant conductor David Vickerman.
The group concluded with a sometimes stunning, sometimes painful performance of Steve Reich’s hour-long “Music for 18 Musicians.” For a full half-hour, the musicians sounded out of sync. Yet the good moments were electrifying. This is the kind of uneven performance we’ve grown to expect from the Great Noise Ensemble. There’s no shame in that — except, possibly, with regard to the ticket price.
Tucker is a freelance writer.