After much hand wringing and more than a little nervous energy expended, we finally got a chance to hear our pieces last night. Highly impressive from all fronts! The musicians played exceedingly well. They navigated easily through some fairly tricky passages and were able to give each piece more than a fair rendering. The conductor, Matthew Kraemer, clearly had studied the pieces extensively, and ran the rehearsal with considerable expertise. The work of the composers was impressive. Although the influences found in the pieces came from across the aesthetic spectrum, each one had a clear artistic presence. We began with Michael Foumai’s piece, “The Light-Bringer” which began with bold unisons alternating with expressive dyads. As the piece traversed its duration, we saw a number of textures, from exciting contrapuntal exchanges to dramatic tutti downbeats. The piece held together well, and ended with a beautiful orchestral diminuendo. Carl Schimmel’s composition, “Rite. Apotheosis.” included both subtle, evanescent textures as well bold, dramatic gestures. It was quite compelling. Nathan Kelly’s “The Legend of Pecos Bill” had a charming western character to it. It had a great sense of musical direction and clarity. Hats off to my fellow composers! My own composition, “Blaze of Autumn,” a rhythmically active and texturally dense composition came across with surprising accuracy for an initial reading.
After the readings we had a rare opportunity to sit down with representatives from every section of the orchestra. Because of the natural distance, both figuratively and literally, between performers and composers in the usual orchestral performance situation, it was fascinating and enlightening to see how the music came across to the performers, and what their experience of the piece was. Some of the topics that arose included how much information to include in the parts – especially with percussion, balancing visual clarity with rhythmic nuance, and appropriate uses of virtuosity in the orchestral setting.
In addition to discussing the pieces with the players, we also had a chance to hear some feedback from the mentor composers. The comments were limited to “nuts and bolts” considerations, which helped us as made minor revisions to the piece that night that will be included in tonight’s performance.