Yuliya Gorenman Yuliya Gorenman, a Russian-born pianist on the American University faculty, gave a brilliant recital Saturday in the F. Scott Fitzgerald Theatre in Rockville. The program, played under the auspices of the National Chamber Orchestra, was focused mostly on miniatures, but it gave Gorenman well-used opportunities to display muscular power as well as delicacy.
The first half was devoted to Beethoven at a relatively early point in his career, searching out his mature identity and trying various compositional strategems. Gorenman played his 32 Variations in C Minor, a work of strong contrasts and wide-ranging fantasy, sometimes prefiguring Chopin, sometimes Rachmaninoff. The playing, in this as in the entire performance, was fluent, expertly controlled, acutely conscious of the music's structures and balances.
The Sonata in D, Op. 10, No. 3, was the longest work on the program. If it had a nickname, like the "Moonlight" or "Appassionata," it might be called the "Bipolar" Sonata in honor of its manic first movement and its depressed second, both of which Gorenman played with just the right expressive nuances. The Minuet and concluding Rondo were less extreme in their expression and played appropriately. The early and charming Rondo a Capriccio ("Rage Over a Lost Penny)," with the deceptively high opus number 129, wittily ended the Beethoven segment.
In Franz Liszt's transcription of Robert Schumann's song "Widmung" ("Dedication"), which served as an overture to the second half, Gorenman displayed unobtrusively excellent technique in the way she made the vocal melody stand out in relief against the "accompaniment."
-- Joseph McLellan
George Crumb Classics An extraordinary concert at the Levine School of Music Friday marked a high point in Washington's current season, an event featuring two works, now classics, by George Crumb: "Music for a Summer Evening: Makrokosmos III" (1974) and "Ancient Voices of Children" (1970).
The Pulitzer Prize-winning composer, who has made an indelible imprint on American music, was there to hear a battery of musicians -- including soprano Kathleen L. Wilson, the edgEnsemble and the Global Percussion Trio -- give exciting, involved accounts of both pieces. That's no mean accomplishment, for in pre-performance commentary, Crumb -- a pianist and an admitted "sometime clarinetist and violist" -- remarked: "Most of my music is too difficult for me to play."
Scored for two amplified pianos and percussion, "Summer Evening," Crumb says, is a "cosmic drama" of "tiny cells elaborated into a mosaic design." In five movements suspended between tonal and atonal washes of fleeting timbral reverberation, the players wove a luminous tapestry of ingeniously contrived sonorities from slide-whistles to paper-covered piano strings.
Joel Lazar, one of Washington's premier conductors of both old and new music, led a breathtaking "Ancient Voices," a complex, primal song cycle based on poems of Federico Garcia Lorca. Vocalise, shouts, toy piano, musical saw, oboe, mandolin and slippery Moorish melody cast a rapturous spell.
-- Cecelia Porter
Saxophonist Gary Bartz Saxophonist Gary Bartz loves to improvise his entire performance these days, moving through an uncharted series of tunes without interruption until he and his band mates have created a nearly 90-minute song cycle. The music "may lead us anywhere," he told the crowd at Blues Alley on Saturday night.
Currently recording a John Coltrane-inspired CD, Bartz opened with a Coltranesque interpretation of Cole Porter's "I Concentrate on You." The ballad was rearranged so that it sometimes juxtaposed modal tension with bursts of tumultuous swing. The familiar melody surfaced here and there, its haunting allure sustained both by Bartz, playing alto, and bassist James King. But the piece was boldly reharmonized and acquired compelling rhythmic momentum when Bartz and pianist George Colligan improvised.
The quartet saluted Jerome Kern with an alternately lyrical and blues-tinged reprise of "Nobody Else but Me," featuring Bartz on soprano sax. Coltrane's legacy was further explored with an untitled Bartz tune that alluded to Coltrane's "Transition" and featured Colligan at his muscular, driven best.
There was some comparatively uncomplicated groove music as well, thanks to a reprise of Stevie Wonder's "You Will Know," vigorously stamped by drummer Greg Bandy's emphatic backbeat. The concert lived up to Bartz's reputation for offering something accessible, inventive and unpredictable.
-- Mike Joyce