Sunday, September 20, 2009

Juventas Review - Murmors From Limbo





Murmors From Limbo:
2009-2010 Murmurs from Limbo - TT image-1

Juventas New Music Ensemble, a resident of the Boston Conservatory, offered quite the “mind trip” with it’s fall selection, Murmurs From Limbo: A Musical Exploration Into the Human Mind. The ensemble features young artists in the Boston area and strives to produce and promote composers under the age of 35, but this is not an easy task. Filling an audience for classical works can be hard enough, but add to that a bevy of unheard of composers and the risk of green performers, and you have the potential for a disaster- thank goodness Juventas pulled it off with class and style.

Murmurs From Limbo featured six pieces that could not be any more unique from one another- from classic compositions, to dramatic percussive performance piece, Juventas pushed the envelope, and pushed the boundaries of the audience’s expectations.

Tim Stullman’s Deaf Ears Hear No Crying is a tribute to those who seek justice but go unheard. From the first moment of odd scratching and the plucking of piano strings, it is clear that this is not your average composition, in fact, the piece defines the genre of “new classical music” in its ability to combine the a classic and beautiful orchestration with elements of jarring and otherworldly reality.

Bit of Nostolgia by Matt Boyd and performed by Brian Calhoon was a surprising foray into the inner working of a percussionist’s mind. Seeing each object on the stage as a potential vessel for music, Calhoon moved about the stage playing everything from a paper bag to a handful of plastic chains. In glorious contrast to Stullman’s piece, it worked as a perfect bridge to what I consider to be the most beautiful piece of the night.

Erich Stem’s Revisited filled the auditorium with the rich and beautiful sounds of the East. Inspired by Japanese Shakuhachi music, the three movements of this piece are unique and beautiful. The third movement, inspired by an 18th century poem by Minezaki Koto, echoed the feeling of poetry with fluid lines and sophisticated nuances.

The second part of the evening started off with the fun, playful The Mind is a Monkey, Swinging From Branch to branch Through the Forest by Ethan Greene. The mouthful of the title is an homage to the text of the Sutra, and the music does it justice- full of movement and a witty repartee between the instruments.

Part didgeridoo, part tuba beat-boxing is the best way to describe the piece that stole the show. Fnugg by Norwegian composer Oystein Baadsvick was an all around crowd-pleaser as performed by tuba genius, John Eliot. The audience could not help to gasp in audible delight as Eliot morphed the homely tuba into an unexpected boom-box of fun. Whoops and hollers followed him off the stage until he had to take a second bow.

The evening of music closed with the title piece of the production, Murmurs from Limbo by Steven Rice. Unfortunately this piece fell a little flat for me (no pun intended). As the title engagement of the night, I was expecting to be blown away, especially with the caliber of music and fun we’d previously experienced, but unfortunately Murmors from Limbo was not my cup of tea. A mish-mashed conglomeration of weird shouting and singing in middle English, odd and ugly dissonant music, and an irritating lack of balance between voices and instruments left me feeling pretty disappointed- the text translations provided did no assist in my understanding help because it was extremely difficult to hear the vocalists sing (or moan/shout/growl). It almost felt like a parody of what someone might do if they were trying to make fun of “modern classical music”. That being said, I did appreciate the fine performance of the orchestra, and what I could hear of singers Thea Lobo and Owen Mcintosh.

It was wonderful to see Juventas staples Michael Sakir and Julia Carey giving their skill to the production, and special congratulations to new associate conductor, Lidiya Yankovskaya for an excellent debut!

The Juventas New Musical Ensemble has a lot of exciting productions coming up throughout the year, and will continue with their spring Opera project. I’m looking forward to seeing what’s in store.


Music Director, Michael Sakir in action
Photo credit: Cayuga Strategies, LLC. 

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