Composer Donald Martino is a staunch advocate of the 12-tone system, and his music mirrors his philosophy with rare panache. Last night at the Terrace Theater, Speculum Musicae, a contemporary music ensemble, played exquisitely Martino's 1974 Pulitzer Prize winning Notturno for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, percussion and piano for the second half of the program called "A Musical Portrait of Donald Martino."
The recital opened with Benjamin Hudson playing the Fantasy-Variations for solo violin, after which Aleck Karis performed Fantasies and Impromptus for solo piano. Both musicians gave superb readings of these difficult works, which would befuddle less technically talented performers. Martino notates every aspect of the performance in his scores, and both soloists seemed to thrive on the always-present danger of making mistakes. The tension, however, was desirable, helping to rivet the audience's attention to the extreme physical and emotional demands of these colorful, diverse pieces.
Martino conducted a question-and-answer session with members of the small but enthusiastic audience after the Notturno, a fascinating work that explores motion, space, noise and textures. He mentioned that this was only the second program ever consisting entirely of his compositions. It's a pity. His works deserve respect, and should reverberate in more concert halls.