Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Tornado!

The Omaha Chamber Music Society presented one of its "Eko Nova Sound Unbound" concerts at Kaneko, the studio and gallery of ceramic artist Jun Kaneko.  Kaneko is a refurbished warehouse in Omaha's Old Market District; the concert was held in a large rectangular room with cement floors and red-brick walls.  The hard surfaces lent a certain cathedral ambiance to the concert.

Featured were cellist and composer Joshua Roman and the JACK Quartet, which has dedicated itself to the performance of new music.  The Boston Globe referred to the quartet as "the superheroes of new music."  For certain pieces, Roman helps the quartet grow to quintet size.

The first work was "Quintet" composed by Jefferson Friedman in 2013.  It was inspired by the passing of his father and it has the qualities of an elegy. This was followed by the frenetic 2017 "Ouroboros" by John Zorn.  The first part of the program ended with Amy Williams 2011 "Richter Textures."  It is a seven-part work, with each section being inspired by a painting by Gerhard Richter.  The sections are only numbered and the program provided no information of the correspondence between the section and the painting that inspired it.  All three of these works were complex and, is often the case, are difficult to describe based on only one hearing.

After the intermission, the Quartet played a Streisfeld 2011 arrangement of Carlo Gesualdo da Venosa' 1611 "Three Madrigals for Five Voices from Madrigali libra sexto.  This music is gorgeous, full and rich.  It was magnificently played and the cathedral-like acoustics were a perfect match for the music.

The final work, by Joshua Roman, was titled "Tornado."  Written in 2017, it is a tour de force, even a masterpiece, that sonically describes the effects of a tornado on a town,  The composer was born in Tornado Alley (Oklahoma actually), so he knows first-hand the sounds of these most violent of storms.  Employing every string-playing technique possible he managed to convey wind, rain, sirens, fear, and recovery. Also, the introduction of the work includes some lovely themes like that are not often heard in 21st-century music. At times the texture of "Tornado" was so thick, it was as if an entire string orchestra was playing.  AMC hopes that this piece is heard far and wide- its that good.

There were about 300 people in the audience.  It was a nice turn-out for this sometimes challenging music. 


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