Because we had a commitment to attend
the Jason Dungee senior recital (reviewed in our last issue), we
asked Andrey Kasparov, conductor of Creo to attend a rehearsal.
He graciously agreed and we were able to see another composer working
directly with performers including the mezzo-soprano Lisa Relaford
Creo is the contemporary music
ensemble in residence at ODU and gives two concerts each year in Chandler
Hall. The guest conductor and composer for this program was Alicia
Terzian from Argentina. Dr. Terzian studied composition with Alberto
Ginastera at the Buenos Aires National Conservatory, from which she
graduated in 1958. In 1962 she went to a monastery in Italy to study
Armenian sacred music and later studied conducting.
In 1978 Terzian founded Encuentros,
a contemporary music group which plays Argentine avant-garde and other
contemporary Latin-American music to audiences around the world. She
has won many awards for her compositions and has been a professor
at her alma mater the University of Buenos Aires.
The first piece on the program was Yágua
ya yúca (Tiger that kills) for percussion with recitations
by the percussionist David Walker. This work is inspired by a closing
ritual for carnival performed by two tribes of native peoples using
masks of a bull, tiger and fox. "The work is dedicated to the Chiriguanos
and the Chanes whose lives, among other native people, were sacrificed
to building the Americas."(Information from program notes).
This auditory canvas on which the listener
can paint his own emotional reactions was very moving. The audience
at the performance gave Mr. Walker a very enthusiastic response. Though
at the rehearsal the composer seemed very displeased with the percussionist's
work, this listener found it the most comprehensible and successful
of her three pieces.
Dr. Terzian conducted the ensemble in
her composition Les yeux fertiles (The fertile eyes), commissioned
by Radio France. This work is based on atonalism with "very personal
microtonal melodic elements" and uses electronic procedures to project
and generate sound transformations. Fragments of five poems by French
surrealist poet Paul Eluard make up the text of this complex piece
in which the vocalist is treated as another instrument.
It opens with an a capella phrase "I cannot
be known better than you know me..." The phrase is divided by instrumental
music so that you get no sense of what is being said, even though
the composer carefully taught Lisa Coston the nuances of delivering
the vocal line. Once the music was added, syntax was obscured and
it was apparent that this piece was not about setting words to enhance
From the program booklet we learn that
the second movemant starts with the melodic lines in the instrumental
parts doubled by the humming of the instrumentalist. This section
is then followed by a strident and violent development where the carefully
nuanced text "Only one gust...to sweep the dust... to devastate the
cultures...to down the birds...to destroy the fumes...to destruct
the balance..." is literally yelled by the singer as the instrumentalists
play fortissimo. The composer decided that the singer should be heard
and a microphone was given to Ms. Coston so that the yelling was even
As the amplification was worked out group
cohesion disintegrated and the singer used laughter as a foil for
the absurdity of what they were about. At the end of this section
the cacophony ends and you can once again relax into the text because
the instrumentalists are quiet now. You hear "I have created you to
the measure of my solitude. Our infinite solitude it has been long
without a song...There is no longer any exit..." All of this in French.
At the actual performance the audience found parts of the piece laughable.
The musicians of Creo are versatile,
flexible and can produce on demand the desired result for the composer.
What they cannot be responsible for is how the music will be received
by the listener. Perhaps the composer wished to give an experience
of the pain and utter devastation spoken of in the poetry. A sort
of late 20th century verisomo, perhaps?
The instrumentalists for both pieces were
F. Gerard Errante, clarinet; Leslie Fritelli, cello; Natalia Kouznetsova,
violin; Oksana Lutsyshyn, piano; and Melissa Sinda, flute.
The third piece was much more listenable.
Voces is a collage of a few lines of poetry from Lorca, Neruda,
Whitman and several others pieced together by the composer. The work
includes an electronic tape, first appearing as background but growing
to become very independent, obscuring the live music and destroying
Andrey Kasparov who conducted the piece
is a genial person who shepherded the proceedings along. Dr. Terzian
ran the tape recorder adding the pre-recorded material to the music
created on stage. Two brief conversations will give the flavor of
working with a composer versus the score alone. "Just take your time"
as the composer waves her hand counting the beat. "But that's 45 mm"
responds the conductor. "No, it's 50mm, just take your time."
"Take off your ring and strike the strings
with your hand flat" instructs the composer. "What about using a block
instead?" The composer says no and goes on to instruct the pianist
on the use of the pedal in great detail. Moments later, the full ensemble
plays and the piano sound and all its detail is lost because of the
electronic sounds on the tape.
The piece began with a capella mezzo voice.
Lisa Coston floats out a tone and as she finishes the clarinet repeats
the phrase. This is followed by a touching lament. When she sings
"What are the voices" the tape introduces the electronic voice sounds.
This was very effective. Later in the piece the electronic tape sounds
became very independent, obscured the live music and destroyed the
A fragment of the Thin Man theme
shows up in the Our Father lines followed by a jazzy "I can sing the
saddest verses tonight..." The lines, from Beckett are recited while
a brush creates the sound of mice in the piano. Then follows a decisive
crescendo. Lovely melodic lines from Federico Garcia Lorca soothe
the listener with piano and cello accompaniment to end the piece.
There were bonuses for being at a rehearsal.
Hearing the music more than once was helpful, seeing the room being
tuned as drapes are opened to create the optimal sound-space, and
of course seeing the intimacy of people working together to create
In closing I want to acknowledge the two
other very successful pieces on the program. Michal (2000)
written by Andrey Kasparov (b. 1966) for solo clarinet and played
by F. Gerard Errante. A modern piece using a wide range of sounds
to create a vocalise for clarinet. In the quiet passages I am sure
I heard two voices created by one player. We are hoping to hear this
The other piece Miroir de Célestine
(1990) a six-movement piece for percussion (David Walker) and harpsichord
(Oksana Lutsyshyn), written by Maurice Ohana (1914-1992). The harpsichord
often takes the role of a continuo that the percussion weaves around.
These are delightful and for the most part light-hearted pieces. Watching
the way the performers interacted was instructive and a pleasure.
We are very fortunate to have a modern
music group in our area, especially one of this level of accomplishment
and we look forward to next season.Back to Top
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Lisa Relaford Coston and Creo
At Prince of Peace
Creo, the Contempoary Music Ensemble at Old Dominion
University, gave a concert at Prince of Peace Lutheran Church in Virginia Beach
on October 20, 2002. This was the second in a series of six free concerts sponsored
by the church.
Lisa Coston reprised a song cycle, Girl-Butterfly-Girl, that she sang
last December at Creo's concert at ODU's Chandler Hall. This lovely
cycle of four songs is by Tsippi Fleischer (b.1946), a very courageous and creative
Israeli woman composer who has chosen to set poetry by Lebanese and Syrian poets in
Arabic/Hebrew/English. Courageous, because even to acknowledge the humanity of
"the enemy" is a political statement in the Mid-East today. Lisa Coston chose to sing the
piece in Arabic with its hard guttural "h" and throat clearing rolled "r's."
This is "Fleischer's most performed work" for which she won the Prime Minister's
Award. "The work is based on Arabic scales (magamat) which are selected by a principal
of common intervalic structure. These scales strongly influence both melodic
and harmonic language of the piece." (Quote from program notes).
In the first three songs the singer is accompanied
by alto flute (Melissa Sinda) and piano (Oksana Lutsyshyn). In the fourth song,
the a capella Girl-Butterfly-Girl, it is a challenge to locate notes,
"A girl who dreamed she was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming that it was a girl..."
Three other pieces on the program were for percussion.
David Walker played multiple percussion instruments in William Kraft's (b.1923)
French Suite: II Courrante and IV Gigue. This is every exciting
music, unique in that it is a melodic composition done with unpitched percussion
instruments. David Walker brought the piece to life through his excellent playing.
Mr. Walker was joined by Bryan Maurer and Joey Drummond in
John Cage's (1912-1992) Trio for Three Percussion Players: Allegro, March,
Waltz, conducted by Andrey Kasparov. John Cage grew up in Los Angeles and studied with Henry Cowell and
Arnold Schoenberg, who told Cage that he had "no gift for harmony." To make up
for this deficiency Cage created music of great originality, including inventing
the prepared piano, formal structures based entirely on rhythm, and using ambient
noise and silence as sound sources in his compositions. The March is a
sophisticated piece using tone color very sparingly, the opposite of the usual
all-stops-out march music. Waltz is a very quiet piece that fades away rather than ends.
The third percussion piece Variations on a Ghanian Theme
by Dan Levitan (b.1953) is a complex piece for all three fine young percussionists.
An African cowbell was added to the drums to explore many of the rhythms one might hear in Ghana.
Andrey Kasparov (b.1966) composed the solo piano piece
on this program
Sonata No.1 "in tre canti ostinati". An ostinato is a
persistently repeated figure, motive or phrase. The composer uses the principle of
ostinato in the soprano voice in the first movement, tenor ostinato in the second
and bass ostinato in the third. This fiendishly difficult music was exceptionally well
played by Oksana Lutsyshyn who is married to the composer.
In the third movement the ostinato is a deep rumble which
goes on at a dizzying pace. Its seriousness sets it apart from the showy display of a
Chopin or Liszt. There is so much sorrow in this music. The mood brightens
as the pace slows in the right hand but the bass ostinato returns to bring the piece
to a somber close.
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Creo's Winning Contemporary Music Recital
Picture a stage, bare except for a lithe female
seated on a chair playing a cello and you will have an image of
the experience of Tanya Anisimova playing Bach's
Sonata No.1 in G Minor for solo violin, BWV 1001. Imagining the
sound of the music is more difficult to conjure. Ms. Anisimova arranged
this violin piece for cello. Creatively she has re-imagined this
familiar piece as Bach might have written it had he all the resources
of the contemporary cello. The concert at Chandler Hall, December
2, 2002 also featured Song on Mt. San Angelo, a solo piece
written by Ms. Anisimova (b.1966) as part of a project while a resident
at the Virginia Center for Creative Arts housed at Mt. San Angelo,
an estate in Northern Virginia. Most impressive in this two-part
composition, which makes extensive use of double stops, is the second
section's somber, deeply moving beauty and richness with a second
and third voice created on a solo instrument.
Andrey Kasparov, director of Creo and Tanya Anisimova attended
high school together in Moscow. For many years they had lost contact but with Anisimova now living
near Charlottesville with her husband, the Russian painter Alexander Anufriev, they have
renewed their friendship. Kasparov founded the ensemble Creo in 1998 ("creo" is the Latin
root for "create," "creative," etc.) to present innovative, creative music composed
mainly after 1945, as well as other 20th century works. Recent performances
have included four concerts at the Society of Composers Inc. Conference and
the American premières of numerous works at the Music From Serbia project. Last fall
Creo performed several concerts at the University of Iowa, Iowa City.
The program opened with two selections from
Elliott Carter's (b.1908) Eight Pieces for Four Timpani.
The elegant, even quiet piece VIII. March used silences very
effectively and the fine percussionist David Walker very effectively
created different timbres playing on different places on the drums.
In VII. Canaries, the sound spectrum was very different,
louder and more intense. Sounding a single stroke and letting wonderful
overtones interact with the continuing musical line was very moving.
This piece expressed sadness and later anger.
The first vocal piece, Elegy "an den Knaben
Ellis" (1990) written by Ashot Zograbyan (b.
1945) was performed by F. Gerard Errante, clarinet; Sungzhin Peter
Lee, cello; Lisa Relaford Coston, mezzo-soprano; Oksana Lutsysyhn,
piano; Andrey Kasparov conducting. The song To the Boy Ellis
was composed on a text by the German poet-symbolist Georg Trakel
(1887-1914). Ellis, long dead, has been carried beyond the realm
of time into the psychic energy of the poet who uses images from
nature (blackbirds, dark forest, blue coolness of a mountain stream,
rich purple grapes and the gold of a dying star) to bring a vivid
sense of the dead boy to the listener. It is a strange soundscape.
Detached, cool, disembodied vocal and instrumental sounds float
through and disappear. The clarinet pursues its own path, almost
a contra voice to the others. The song ends with a fine, thin cello
sound that fades way.
After intermission percussionist David Walker
played for us a marimba solo Prism (1986) by
Keiko Abe (b.1937), a Japanese percussionist and composer and one
of the world's best known marimba players and teachers. From the
program notes, Abe is quoted: "I wanted to write a study for concerts
which gave life to the instrument, using a two-mallet technique
only. The process of creating my own two-mallet piece ... was an
enjoyable one, and I jotted down as many characteristic marimba
melodies as came to mind." With a very precise technique, the music
gave a sense of a juggler dancing through many fragments of tunes.
Ms. Anisimova returned to play a piece written
for her by Ezra Laderman (b.1924) at Yale, Single
Voice (1993). It is a highly structured improvisation and was
performed by her with great freedom. As with much modern music,
it is an assemblage of musical statements. With Ms. Anisimova playing
it became a virtuosic showpiece.
Lisa Relaford Coston sang Sappho Fragments
, set by composer Steven Stucky (b.1949) and first
performed in 1982. This song cycle is set to text found on strips
of papyrus as single words, short phrases and isolated syllables,
later pieced together. These brief words create in the listener
independent images. The writer invites the muses to herself as a
sensual exploration, only to be overwhelmed by the experience of
love, once she has opened herself. The last fragment reads "Now
in my heart I see clearly a beautiful face, shining, etched by love."
It was a woman's face. There is wonderful word-painting in the music.
Especially impressive was the musical line shattering as the singer
sang "love shattered my heart." This cycle, performed without pause,
contains exciting, intimate and intense whisper-like singing, fast
passages, and remote passages, all of which contributed to music
that left this listener filled with joy. The ensemble included Tanya
Anisimova, cello; F.Gerard Errante, clarinet; Natalia Kouznetsova,
violin; Oksana Lutsyshyn, piano; Melissa Sinda, flute. High praise
for grand music-making is deserved by all these wonderful performers.
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