Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music – Ambition Abounds in an Exultation Over Contemporary Works

NYTimes.com reviews this recent festival.

A stray orchestral work, Helen Grime’s Clarinet Concerto (2009), opened the Sunday evening concert, which was otherwise devoted to chamber music. Ms. Grime, an English composer born in 1981, seems drawn to melody and textural luxuriance, but she also has an ear for counterpoint and rhythmic complexity that gives her music an appealing edge. The concerto’s most entrancing section is a clarinet cadenza in which a combination of trills and sustained tones creates the illusion of several clarinet lines intertwined. Brent Besner was the superb soloist.

Ms. Grime’s work was a world premiere, as was Elliott Carter’s “Poems of Louis Zukofsky” (2009), on the same program. Lucy Shelton, the soprano, and Thomas Martin, the Boston Symphony Orchestra’s associate principal clarinetist, are sufficiently expert in Mr. Carter’s music to round off its difficulties, but this one needed little help: its soprano line, though chromatic, is warm-hued and melodic, and the clarinet writing darts around it in a way that brings out the humor in some of Zukofsky’s quirky, aphoristic texts.

Also on Sunday evening the guitarist Oren Fader presided over a lively account of Mario Davidovsky’s invitingly pointillistic “Festino” (1991), and Ryan McAdams conducted a suitably brash, pulsing performance of Tansy Davies’s “neon” (2007), a septet rooted in a Zappaesque raucousness.

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