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Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble strides into 3rd week

| Wednesday, July 24, 2013, 8:03 p.m.
Joey Kennedy
Clarinetist Kevin Schempf of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble

While the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble usually presents concerts unified by a theme or vision, a simpler principle will be at play for its third week of summer concerts.

The group gathered in February for rare non-summer performances at the new music festival at Denison University in Granville, Ohio. One of the pieces they played, “Catch in the Turn” by Randall Bauer, will open the ensemble's third week of concerts.

“We all agreed,” says artistic director Kevin Noe, “we really like this piece and want to do it again soon.”

Noe will conduct the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble at concerts July 26 and 27 at City Theatre, South Side.

Bauer is one of six composers on the program. He wrote “Catch in the Turn” in 1999, inspired by Max Parrish's painting “Dinkey Bird.” A pianist, he's won awards for classical and jazz composition, and his music is performed by major ensembles such as the Brentano String Quartet and eighth blackbird.

Some pieces on the program were selected to feature individual members of the ensemble. Noe says, for example, that Pierre Jalbert's “Wild Ambrosia” will show off violinist Nathalie Shaw's chops. “It's her own smokin,' ... violinist piece.”

Two short works will feature clarinetist Kevin Schempf and flutist Lindsey Goodman because they're friends and he's leaving the ensemble at the end of the season to spend more time with his family.

One of their pieces is “'Round 7:30” by Kieren MacMillan, originally written for four flutes and four clarinetists. Schempf and Goodman will each pre-record three of the parts and perform the other one live.

These concerts also will allow Noe to indulge his enthusiasm for composer Martin Bresnick, who has not written much for the new music ensemble's instrumentation — flute clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion.

“Song of the Mouse People,” for cello and percussion, was inspired by Franz Kafka's last short work, “Josephine the Singer, or the Mouse People.”

The concert will conclude with “Lonesome Roads” by Dan Visconti, winner of the Harvey Gaul Composition Competition, which is administered by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble.

“It is magnificent music in four movements, polished and very, very specific in ways that many new music composers aren't,” Noe says. “Every note matters. There's no waste, no filler, no complexity for the sake of complexity. Every note in the piece can be heard if we play it well. It's like Debussy in that way.”

Mark Kanny is classical music critic for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 412-320-7877 or mkanny@tribweb.com.

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