Published: Saturday, May 5, 2007
Dana festival offers wealth of new music
Many music lovers missed a great show, one review says.
By JERRY STEPHENS
YOUNGSTOWN There is more classical music to be found in Youngstown than just the Youngstown Symphony. This was evident this week in the Dana New Music Festival at Youngstown State University, a series of lectures and concerts featuring modern composers.
The highlight of the series was Concert 4 at the Bliss Recital Hall on Thursday evening. The audience filled only about one quarter of the available seats, so there were many Youngstown music lovers that missed a very good concert.
What did the nonattendees miss? They missed meeting Hollywood film composer Johnterryl Plumeri. They also missed meeting Cleveland-born composer Eric Ewazen, whose list of compositions and commissions could fill an entire page. There were world premieres of compositions by both of these composers, and by excellent local faculty and student composers.
While Plumeri is best known as a Hollywood film composer, he is also the conductor of the Moscow Philharmonic. He recently recorded the 4th, 5th and 6th symphonies of Tchaikovsky with that orchestra. Also, he has done critically acclaimed recordings of his original compositions with the same orchestra. Not being content with that, Plumeri, a jazz bassist, has done jazz solos using an innovative bowing style on the acoustical bass, as opposed to the more common practice of "slapping the doghouse."
At Thursday's concert, Maestro Plumeri conducted the world premiere of his short composition for flute, English horn, and strings, titled "Sand Without Water." In this, flutist Kathleen Umble played a brilliant obbligato while Tedrow Perkins supplied a melodic ground on the English horn. Throughout this, the strings of the Festival Chamber Orchestra provided a calm background that tied it all together. It was an excellent addition to Plumeri's list of compositions.
Ewazen's "Sinfonia for String Orchestra" was another one of the major works presented Thursday. Ewazen is a graduate of the Eastman School of Music, and also attended The Juilliard School, where he earned master's and doctoral degrees. He is a recipient of many awards and prizes in composition.
The "Sinfonia" is a demanding three-movement composition, and is a lovely work, especially the third movement. It is an allegro giocoso (fast and jolly) that seemed to me to be in the best tradition of Toscanini's repeated admonitions to the orchestra sing, always sing. Robert Rollin of the Dana School of Music conducted.
There were four other world premieres Thursday, all by local composers. Two are students at the Dana School, and the third is a member of the faculty. The first student composition was a pleasantly humorous piece titled "Trek of the Corporations" for flute, oboe and bassoon by Clinton Davies. It was done in a modern style with a classical feel to it, somewhat like Haydn might have done, especially with the bassoon.
The other two student compositions were by Nevin Brian Rosen. One was a "Fanfare and Allegro" for three trumpets that was the first of a series of similar pieces for brass. The series was never completed because the group for which they were intended disbanded. The second was a demanding seven-movement work for string orchestra titled "The Seven Days of Creation." This was an excellent example of program music that also displayed the individual and ensemble talents of the Festival Chamber Orchestra.
The faculty composition premiered Thursday was by Robert Rollin, and was a new arrangement of "Rondo Capriccioso" for trumpet and piano composed several years ago. The new arrangement is scored for string orchestra, and alternates the trumpet with the more mellow sounding flugelhorn. It was an interesting contrast. Rollin also conducted the performance.
I am sorry that space considerations do not allow me to do full justice to all the interesting music played at the all-too-short concert. This is a series that Youngstowners should come out to hear. It needs and deserves the full support of the community.