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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Present Music’s ‘Multitude’ of Great Performances

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Present Music closed its season with a program of thrilling compositions and sensational performances. “Multitude” was a good concert title since even Derek Johnson, alone with his electric guitar on the Turner Hall Ballroom stage, conjured something all embracing. Johnson opened the show with three virtuosic solos: the rapid "Shard" (1997) by Elliott Carter; "Wed" (1992), David Lang's dense piano piece arranged for guitar by Johnson; and a dazzling movement from Steve Reich's Electric Counterpoint (1987).

The all-star ensemble assembled by Artistic Director Kevin Stalheim also included Alejandro Acierto (clarinet) Leah Coloff (cello/vocals), Scott Kreger (bass), Sharon Leventhal (violin), Yegor Shevtsov (piano), Margot Schwartz (viola), Eric Segnitz (violin), Don Sipe (trumpet), Carl Storniolo (percussion) and Stas Venglevski (accordion).

Ted Hearne, the brilliant young featured composer, sang and conducted his work beautifully. Sean Friar, brilliant and even younger, took well-earned bows for his symphonic Breaking Point, commissioned by Reed and Nancy Groethe and the Present Music Commission Club and given a noisy, luscious, funny, triumphant premiere by this great ensemble under Stalheim's conducting.

Hearne's "Forcefield" (2004), a sweet piece for viola, voice, vibraphone and piano, provided accompaniment for dancer/choreographer Mauriah Kraker. Both music and dance seemed at once contemporary and eternal. Kraker was riveting—so focused, so at ease with her body—as she melted from shape to shape as if considering all possibilities and meanings.

In another virtuosic highlight, Shevtsov's body was inseparable from the piano he ravished with requisite physical abandon in Scott Wollschleger's "Chaos Analog" (2007). Hearne's "Warning Song" (2006), "Snowball" (2008) and three postmodern cabaret/art songs from his Delusion Story (2011) completed the program. All are mind-bending, transcendent mash-ups of genres. The greatest, most unforgettable performances of the night were by Leah Coloff, who sang Hearne's most searing songs while ferociously playing the cello part.