Hometown Favorites in the Old Capitol Senate Chamber

Center for New Music Concert

October 30, 2011

2 PM, Old Capitol Senate Chamber

Wolfgang David and David Gompper

Sunday afternoon’s concert featured a number of “hometown favorites,” as it were: Professor David Gompper as performer and composer (website here); alumnus Dr. Christopher Gainey as composer (website here); and former Visiting Professor Jeremy Dale Roberts as composer (info here). Their three pieces were framed by works by well-known composers Ernest Bloch (first on the program) and Sergei Prokofiev (the closing piece). Wolfgang David, too, is a familiar performer at the University of Iowa, including his premiere of Gompper’s Violin Concerto in October of 2009. For the sake of brevity, this entry will consist of commentary regarding the “books” of the program, rather than the “bookends,” especially as those by Gainey and Gompper were premieres.

David and Gompper have been working together for 11 years, and their previous work can be seen here (with some more canonized repertoire, Mozart!):

In every concert, be it tonal, post-tonal, or somewhere in between, I try to pay attention to the contrasts, moods, and characters presented in the music. Regardless of pitch content, the music expresses something, and it is the job of the performers to make that known. As an audience member, it’s my job to pay attention to the clues I hear and see in the performance. Important too, is the interaction between the instruments (in this case, piano and violin), and the performers (the people, specifically). How do they communicate? How do they make room for one another? Complement one another? Do they work in tandem? Call and response? The possibilities are endless, and I hope to tease out these two dimensions, among others, throughout this entry. For program notes and biographies, click here.

Second on the program was Salmagundi Farrago (2011), by Gainey. While this piece was certainly post-tonal, the movement names are more recognizable: I. Aria; II. Fugue; and III. Passacaglia. Many composers, Schoenberg and many others included, have utilized older genres and musical forms while still breaking from tonality. The first movement was true to its name, Aria, and began with a lovely, melodic violin line with sparse, high piano accompaniment. Throughout the piece, the piano reminded me of a music box, light and rhythmic. Consistent in each movement, too, was the interaction between violin and piano, in which the violin played broad, sweeping melodies while the piano supported it with faster, more rhythmic lines. The Fugue was true to its name, contrapuntal, with the violin introducing and the piano then following after. The music was pointillist and exact, as if it fit into a grid. David played harmonics (a common theme throughout the program) and pizzicato. The third movement, indeed, was a Passacaglia, and according to his notes, Gainey alluded to “famous passacaglias from Webern, Bach, Britten and Schoenberg” throughout.

Gompper’s Calling Cards (2011), “an imaginary narrative—the gentleman caller wooing the lady of the house and the unexpected series of responses,” in his words, was premiered next. Not surprisingly, there was, indeed, a great deal of interaction between the violin and piano: call and response, and little phrases that seemed almost speech-like. The duo communicated a full variety of expressions: some phrases trickled and died out at the end, while some rushed hurriedly, impatiently. The violin was sometimes playful, at others pastoral and sentimental, even joyful, at times flippant, and yet others, earnest.  These many moods went to the wayside for the thickly textured, rhythmic, exuberant end.

Roberts’ piece followed after the intermission. Entitled Tristia, 6 lyric pieces for violin and piano, the piece consisted of three movements: Appassionato; with élan first, followed by Presto; still and Semplice; feroce. David expressed a variety of moods in this piece as well, beginning the piece with a cadenza. I noticed that each movement (for the most part) swelled in the middle, agitated and heavy, and then dissolved, relaxing into contemplation, subtlety, and eventually silence.

David and Gompper provided the audience with a full variety of moods and musical interactions Sunday afternoon, and they certainly provided me with much to write about!

Kery Lawson

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