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NEC Percussion Ensemble, Epstein
Boston, Massachusetts
Tuesday, 7 April 2015 - 8:00 PM
Conductor: Frank Epstein
The independent percussion ensemble is an early 20th century musical phenomenon that was stimulated by the exploratory compositions of Edgard Varèse, Henry Cowell, Lou Harrison, Harry Partch, and, John Cage.

Composers such as Toru Takemitsu, Steve Reich, Michael Colgrass and Charles Wuorinen latched on to the new sonic possibilities that the percussion ensemble suggested and wrote important pieces. There was also an explosion in the growth of percussion ensembles on both the college campus and in the professional music world.

The NEC Percussion Ensemble and director Frank Epstein have commissioned and given first performances of many new works, helping build a 21st century repertory for that instrumental grouping. Percussion Ensemble concerts, then, are a rich and varied mix of styles, colors, and textures.

Tonight's concert is a case in point and features the world premiere of a new commissioned work by Larry Wallach. There are also works by Reich and marimbist/composer Nebojsa Zivkovic.

Bernstein: Halil

NEC flutist Paula Robison joins the ensemble and pianist Deborah DeWolfe for a moving reprise of a Leonard Bernstein work commemorating an Israeli flutist killed in the 1973 Yom Kippur War.

Wallach: Winter Music

Larry Wallach’s "Winter Music" is a triptych, a three-panel portrait of the long hard winter of 2013-14.

Its three sections are "The Owl in the Woods," "The Snowman," and "Pine Needles, Ice Crystals, Thaw." The sections correspond roughly to a chronology of winter from December through early March.

Wallach has written: “My starting point was the sight of a barred owl sitting motionlessly on a tree and visible out of a back window of a friend’s house. It was photographed and this picture occupied my computer desktop for a year, the empty black circles of the its eyes staring at me. This prompted me to compose a waltz for solo cello using the words 'The Owl in the Woods' as an unheard lyric. For the percussion version, this tune was given to the musical saw, an instrument that reminds me of the other-worldly sound of the owl’s voice.

“'The Snowman' is the title of Wallace Steven’s poem which is recited in amplified whispers during the second section. Steven’s poem includes a vivid sound-scape as well as an indication of a Zen-like mental state needed to fully grasp a landscape in the depths of winter, one that is devoid of human presence. Stevens indicates the existence of a state beyond that of human life, and renders it beautiful.

“'Ice Crystals, Pine Needles, Thaw' is a scherzo, inspired by another photograph, one that I took while out for a walk in February, which shows a roadside on which the dirty surface snow has partially melted and refrozen into crystals. It is bespeckled with pine needles. The piece suggests of the beginnings of the thawing process that signals the approaching end of winter. Eventually individual drops coalesce into running streams that start to dance their way toward springtime.”
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