Editor’s note: This article was initially published in The Daily Gazette, Swarthmore’s online, daily newspaper founded in Fall 1996. As of Fall 2018, the DG has merged with The Phoenix. See the about page to read more about the DG.
Swarthmore classical music fans stayed on campus this weekend for two outstanding concerts. Though both Orchestra 2001 and the Bang on a Can All-Stars played concert music written within the last 40 years, they gave a perfect example of the diversity of modern music.
The Bang on Can All-Stars, who performed in LPAC on Friday night, are a New York-based sextet of musicians founded out of the Bang on a Can Festival. As a group, they describe themselves as searching for a new, more accessible type of music influenced by many recent trends in music, including rock and other popular music genres. The music they presented on Friday night seemed to be primarily influenced by minimalism, albeit a very loud kind of minimalism. The ensemble consisted of bass, percussion, piano, electric guitar, cello and clarinet, all of which were amplified. The music ranged from Piano Studies, an arrangement by clarinetist Evan Ziporyn from a player piano piece by Conlon Nancarrow (originally written for player piano because it contains “irrational” rhythms that are extremely difficult to play) to the more conventional, austere Music in Fifths, an early work of minimalist Philip Glass. Worker’s Union, a rhythmically propulsive piece with no specific pitch notation by Louis Andriessen, closed the concert.
Orchestra 2001’s Sunday concert in Lang, well attended by many community members, represented the more traditional and “uptown” music scene. Entitled “Piano Summit!!!” three pianists presented three area premieres (perhaps the reason for the three exclamation points) with the orchestra, directed by James Freeman. Charles Abramovic played his own Piano Concerto, a stylistically eclectic work referencing Baroque styles and other modern works. Soloist (and popular Swarthmore piano teacher) Marcantonio Barone played the concerto of David Finko, a formerly Soviet composer, which showed influences of other Russian composers and drew excellent playing from the brass section. Finally, jazz pianist Uri Caine preformed his Arrangements and Improvisations After Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations, a long sometimes updating, sometimes parody of Beethoven’s monumental work. Occasionally joking, occasionally serious and always exciting, it suggested that maybe these disparate styles really can get along.