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the New York Philharmonic Contact! series – first show pics, video, & broadcasts online tonight & Sunday

DOWNLOAD: New York Philharmonic – Lei Liang’s Verge (MP3)

words by Andrew Frisicano, photos by Chris Lee

composer Lei Liang speaks with conductor Magnus Lindberg…
New York Philharmonic

The New York Philharmic’s Contact! new music series kicked off its first installment on Thursday, December 17th at Symphony Space with four pieces written for the occasion by four very different composers (and repeated two days later at the Metropolitan Museum of Art). Conductor and NYP composer-in-residence Magnus Lindberg guided the audience in with a brief onstage conversation with each piece’s composer. The personal and distinct voices that came out helped immensely in absorbing their sometimes abstract work. Arlene Sierra noted the Darwinian inspiration for her Game of Attrition, which politely pits similarly voiced instrument against one another (imagine a busy garden full of competing life). Lei Liang labeled the sources for his piece – his new son (literally, picking notes from his name, Albert) and the sounds of his Chinese roots – but those gave little warning for what came next. The piece’s otherworldly, almost-electronic introduction expanded into an awesome burst of melody and abrasion. A clip of the piece, Verge, is above. NYTimes described is as such…

The opening, an atmospheric haze of sounds laced with soft bow scrapes and cosmic high harmonics, seems not very pitch-oriented. Soon, however, melodic fragments and thick, piercing chords emerge, along with a plaintive theme meant to evoke Mongolian chant.

At one point the music breaks into a grimly urgent episode, as the instruments dispatch perpetual-motion riffs. “Verge” ends in spiritual calm, though the sustained chords are still pierced with ethereal scratching sounds.

French composer Marc-André Dalbavie struck up a friendly chat with Lindberg as they reminisced about old times. And last up, Arthur Kampela absolutely bound off the stage with excitement and ideas about his piece, based on the fantastical Brazilian novel Macunaíma (from his summary, well worth checking out). It was more physically experimental than the others, with orchestra members entering and exiting through the aisles and hiding offstage for a portion of performance (to hold what sounded like a party behind a black curtain). The music resembled his verbal retelling – intriguing and quixotic – leaving a strong impression.

Hear it for yourself: The performance is bring broadcast on WQXR’s Q2, the classical station’s classical online stream, Tuesday, December 22 at 7pm (now) and Sunday, December 27 at 2pm. You’ll have to wait until April for the next event of the series, which focuses on three composers – Nico Muhly, Matthias Pintscher and Sean Sheperd.

More pictures and a video clip from the show are below…

Magnus Lindberg conducting…
New York Philharmonic

a bow after Arlene Sierra’s Game of Attrition…
New York Philharmonic

post-show Q&A…
New York Philharmonic

Magnus Lindberg introduces CONTACT!

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