New Music Series Highlights Unheard Voices

Visiting Assistant Professor 
Matthew Evan Taylor, a performer and composer, organized the “New Centuries | New Voices” concert series.

Visiting Assistant Professor Matthew Evan Taylor, a performer and composer, organized the “New Centuries | New Voices” concert series.

By JOHN GOSSELIN

Visiting Assistant Professor
Matthew Evan Taylor, a performer and composer, organized the “New Centuries | New Voices” concert series.

Visiting Assistant Professor of Music Matthew Evan Taylor is curating a series of concerts from now until May that will celebrate women and people of color, who are typically underrepresented in the classical music tradition. Their first two concerts occurred on Jan. 6 and 11 in Waterbury, Vt. and Middlebury College, respectively. The other concerts will take place at  venues  around Vermont, including the FlynnSpace in Burlington and Axel’s Gallery in Waterbury, but all will have at least one performance at the college in the Mahaney Performing Arts Center. 

This series of concerts presents a unique opportunity to new and old listeners because it includes the work of composers who have not yet  been  heard in Vermont. I must admit that I had not seen the names of any of the composers or performers Professor Taylor is bringing to our campus. I hope to provide some background information on some of the artists included in this series both for the sake of general interest and to engage potential audiences. I highly recommend attending as many of these concerts as you can because they will provide a refreshing change of pace from the Performing Arts Series Society (PASS) events I usually cover and because it may be an interesting proposition to compare these concerts to the PASS concerts.

The next concert in the series will include a number of piano sonatas by the composer George Walker on Friday, Jan. 25 at 5 p.m. This composer is best known for an orchestral piece called “Lilacs,” which won him the Pulitzer Prize in 1996. The snippets of the piano sonatas I listened to are distinctly modern and sometimes sound harsh or dissonant, but the merit in them seems to lie in their adept handling of very different kinds of thematic material simultaneously. The pianist who will play the sonatas is Redi Llupa, an experienced pianist who graduated from the Boston Conservatory and has played at Carnegie Hall. After seeing a few videos of his playing that he has graciously posted on YouTube under his name, I have confidence that this concert will be well worth attending.

The next concert has not posted its exact program yet, but it will be curated by composer Carlos Simon, a native of Atlanta who has worked with the Sundance Institute. It will occur in the Mahaney Center for the Arts on Feb. 15 at 7:30 p.m. I look forward to this concert because this composer has extensive experience with film music composition; such a background lends itself well to finding many different kinds of music and putting them together into a compelling whole; or, in other words, curation.

The fourth concert of the series will include a performance by Gary Levinson and Asiya Korepanova on Feb. 18 at 7:30 p.m. This concert will include the premiere of Ms. Korepanova’s piece “Poem” for saxophone and piano, as well as Professor Taylor’s piece “Meet at the Horizon” for violin and double bass. Rounding out the program are Prokofiev’s first piano sonata and Strauss’ sonata for violin and piano in E-flat. The following day, Mr. Levinson will offer a masterclass at 3 p.m. in collaboration with the Middlebury Community Music Center and Vermont Youth Orchestra.

The next concert, Music Without Borders, curated by composer Marcos Balter, will take place on April 7 at 7:30 p.m. in Middlebury. According to Balter’s website, his works have received such praise as, “Balter has a wicked sense of humor and a fiercely imaginative palette of instrumental and vocal sounds that is rare in today’s dour post-classical new music.” This concert promises interesting works because many of his previous works have used unusual ensembles, such as alto flute and cello for “delete/control/option” or clarinet and violin for “A vis”.

The last concert of the series, American Mestiza, will play the music of Gabriela Lena Frank, a composer whose works reflect her deep knowledge and engagement with Latin American folklore and music. This concert will take place in Middlebury on May 12 at 7:30 p.m. in the arts center.

As you can see from the long list of concerts, this series represents the results of many artists in areas that badly need more representation, especially in classical music. I was happy to hear that this concert series was occurring, and I am even more happy to cover it. This series will hopefully set new expectations for classical music concerts in our region and promote the exploration of new music.

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