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Review: New Music Ensemble opens season on a strong note

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Monday, July 13, 2009

The 2009 season of the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble began strongly Friday night with two works of completely contrasting nature.

Robert Paterson's Sextet opened the concert with vibrant sonorities and rhythms, compelling music that showcased the musicians' expertise.

On the other hand, while "Table Setting" by David Bithel could be considered a percussion piece, music was secondary to theater. The two characters, played by conductor Kevin Noe and percussionist David Skidmore, engaged in a contest of will and one-upmanship using small pieces of wood. It reached a climax when Skidmore played on an elaborate construction that included tiny antique cymbals and metal rods. The players were serious; the audience laughed repeatedly.

"Critical Point" by Carnegie Mellon University professor Roger Dannenberg was the most versatile of his musical computer programs that I've heard, even generating genuine contrapuntal textures with cello soloist Norbert Lewandowski.

The best part of the Triple Concerto by Alejando Vinao was the recorded music, but, oddly, the parts for the three soloists were busy without being interesting.

"L'oeil ecoute" (The Eye Listens) by Pierre Jalbert was fitting as the conclusion because it gave the audience much to think about. Like every other piece of Jalbert I've heard, "L'oeil ecoute" is a pleasure to hear because the strong profile of its materials is handled with lucidity and rhythmic vitality.

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