Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verve, Style Mark Synchronia's Concert

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Verve, Style Mark Synchronia's Concert

Article excerpt

Take away some of the more traditional elements of music like the predictable effects of familiar cadences in tonal, well-tempered scales, and you get a much more restricted musical palette from which to work. Of course, few artists have worked without such restrictions, whether they were demanded by the cultural power brokers of the time or self-imposed.

But Bach's avoiding parallel fifths was one thing, while Schonberg's democratizing the 12 tones of the scale seemed to jettison much of a composer's musical vocabulary. From one perspective, music after Schonberg was subtractive. As a result, for all of its mathematical elegance, atonal music sounded cold, impersonal and - most damning of all - similar. For instance, robbed of creative tension and release with melodic and harmonic sequencing or the alteration of consonance and dissonance, composers were left with rhythm and dynamics alone to create phrases.

All of this came to mind during Saturday night's concert at the Ethical Society by this area's premiere new music ensemble - Synchronia. In addition to director Timothy Vincent Clark, the performers included flutist Betsy Feldman, clarinetist Jeanine York Garesche, violinist/violist Beth Felice, cellist Tracy Andreotti, pianist Joanne Rust Stohs and percussionist Robin Hendry. As is typical of Synchronia, all of them played each composition to perfection. The four pieces on the program were rather conservative as new music goes, and all of them were being given their first St. Louis performance.

"Desert III: Landscape" (1982) for violin, cello and piano by John McCabe, was by far the most ambitious piece on the program. Over its 25 minutes, the range of effects and emotion is dazzling. And while there is no written program by the composer, it did seem to evoke the Great Australian Desert (dawn, intense sunlight and other things associated with such a landscape). …

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