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Review: Despite variety, PNME concert maintains consistency

| Saturday, July 27, 2013, 12:40 a.m.

For all the variety provided by the six composers performed by the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble on Friday night, the concert maintained a consistent level of interest.

The performance at City Theatre on the South Side was given one day after the ensemble announced that artistic director Kevin Noe will leave at the end of the season, which is next weekend.

The conductor spoke with characteristic enthusiasm before the concert and conducted only the first piece, a quintet for flute, clarinet, violin, cello and piano called “Catch in the Turn” by Randall Bauer. He writes with appealing coloristic imagination, and composed ingratiating transitions between the many styles he enjoys. The performance was assured and committed.

Flutist Lindsey Goodman and clarinetist Kevin Schempf were, unsurprisingly, finely attuned partners in David Liptak's Duo, two movements of which were performed before the next piece, after which Liptak's finale was performed.

The many satisfactions of Pierre Jalbert's “Wild Ambrosia” were a reminder that Noe has wisely championed his music. The initial impressiveness of violinist Nathalie Shaw's virtuosity never abated, and pianist Conor Hanick was fully her equal. But as the piece unfolded Jalbert's mastery as a composer commanded the greatest admiration. His ideas are fresh and compelling, but even more valuable is the way he wields them to create both excitement and a feeling of cohesion.

“Songs of the Mouse People” was the most individual sonic world on the program. Scored for just cello and xylophone, it opens with little fragments of sound. “The peace we yearn for,” the second song, is more expansively lyrical and was exquisitely played by cellist Norbert Lewandowski. Percussionist Ian David Rosenbaum was a master of precise dynamics and also muted notes superbly.

Goodman and Schempf played one more short piece before the finale, relishing the slow, sultry qualities of “Round 7:30” by Kieren MacMillan. The miniature plays off the jazz standard “'Round Midnight.”

Dan Visconti's beautifully constructed “Lonesome Roads,” for piano trio, brought the concert to a rousing conclusion. The road signs of movement indications were no guarantee of where Visconti's music would go. The “gently flowing” second movement, for example, became very energetic and angular. Visconti's music travels far during its seven movements, and felt more individual than the Bauer which opened the program. .

This concert will be repeated at 8 p.m. July 27 at City Theatre, 1300 Bingham St., South Side. Admission is $20 to $35. Details: 888-717-4253 or www.pnme.org.

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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