Brad Lubman conducted Musica Nova this week in a thrilling concert of student compositions in Kilbourn Hall on Feb. 28.
Featured on the program were works by senior Zach Wadsworth, graduate student Marco Alunno, senior Daniel Pesca and graduate student Vera Ivanova.
Wadsworth composed “Venus and Adonis” on William Shakespeare’s text, as adapted by Gretchen Snedeker. The work is an evocative mixture of old and new.
Elements of the ensemble and chorus were inspired by tradition.
Wadsworth set his work with a Greek chorus singing the stage directions and narrative in order to include text that would otherwise be acted out.
Wadsworth imitates Renaissance and Baroque styles but uses modern instruments that are reminiscent of their older counterparts.
“By conjuring the sounds of early dance music, choral music, and opera, the ensemble places ancient textures in a modern context,” Wadsworth said.
Wadsworth has a beautiful appreciation for the dramatic flow of the text over the whole scope of the work, but also in his setting of individual words and phrases. He is at home writing vocal music and has worked with the soloists before. He had a wonderful grasp of the vocalists’ strengths as performers.
Both senior Annamarie Zmolek and junior Zach Wilder sang remarkably and had an elegant stage presence.
Marco Alunno’s work, titled “Four Japanese Songs,” featured soloist Lindsey Grant.
The ensemble had a unique set-up – the strings were lined up in the back row where one would expect the percussion.
The percussion was off to one side, and the vocalist was on the other side, with the winds and harp front and center.
Alunno’s four songs felt fresh and inspired. It was sometimes humorous – memorable moments included unexpected instruments from panpipes to a jaw harp.
The composer’s voice was unique and the four songs complemented each other in their variety of characters.
Soprano Grant captured the essence of the vocal line very well.
The nonsensical text lies somewhere between meaning and non-meaning. “If you don’t speak Japanese,w you will not understand a word – if you speak Japanese, you will not understand a word either,” said Alunno.
The music itself seems to follow this idea – sometimes funny, sometimes meaningful and sometimes without apparent meaning.
Pesca wrote “Septet” for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion and violin, viola and cello. The composition alternated between vigorously driving music and more lyrical soloistic passages. The construction of the piece was inherently logical yet imaginative.
The concert began with “Refrains and Ritornellos” by Vera Ivanova. This work was inspired by Eastern European folk music. The ensemble for this piece was unique, and centered around the number “3.”
The music seemed reserved, and though it never reached its full dynamic capacity, it saved more dramatic moments for special occasions.
The Musica Nova concert drew a large and enthusiastic crowd and gave student composers – and their audience – an exciting opportunity to hear dynamic performances of their creative new works.
Aresty can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.