Sunday, January 17, 2016


The Atlanta Chamber Players (ACP) had its National finals Concert for the Rapido competition today.  Rapido is an opportunity for emerging composers to win a $7000 prize, but even more important, a possible invitation to compose a longer piece for the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra (ASO) .  This concert also provided an opportunity to recognize the great contributions made to Atlanta and its chamber music scene by former Artistic Managing Director Paula Peace.  Composer Michael Gandolfi composed “Paula’s Peace” in honor of Ms. Peace.  It was a Latin-inspired piano piece played to perfection by Elizabeth Pridgen.   The actual program began with Robert Spano playing his own solo composition titled “earthsongs.”  This piece was pleasant and fits in with Spano’s support for “listenable classical music,” as represented by most of the works that come out of his “Atlanta School of Composers.”  “earthsongs” sounded like latter-day Debussy, but it lacked much in the way of dynamics.  It was forte almost from beginning to end.   This was followed by the five semi-finalists for the Rapido award.  All of the young composers were requested to write a six-minute piece based on a “theme and variations” structure to be played by a trio comprised of violin, clarinet and piano. The pieces were played by Ms. Pridgen, Helen Kim, violin, and Ted Gurch, clarinet.   The compositions ranged from one that required some serious editing, and others that were not very memorable.  The winner was “Regressive Variations” by Mark Buller.  This was a fairly mature work that was lyrical without losing an edge.  Mr.  Buller was smart in composing with a style that showed me (and possibly the judges) that he can compose in a style that could translate to full symphony orchestra.  The other composers created works that demonstrated their talent, but they missed the opportunity to show how their style might be easily applied to a piece for a full symphony. While it was not a requirement, to do so seems like a good strategy.  This performance was held at the Walter Hill auditorium at the Woodruff Arts Center.  The piano, a Steinway, clunked very time the pedal was used.  It added percussion to where there should be none.  Also the theater has a very tall ceiling and all the walls are white.  It’s odd that there should be such very large blank white walls in an Art Museum. Thanks to everyone involve in the ACP who made Rapido! a reality.  A special thanks to Ms. Peace who has made an invaluable contribution to Atlanta.  

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