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26.10.09

21st Century Consort's Maw Retrospective

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Read my review today on the Washington Post Web site:

Charles T. Downey, More Maw, in memoriam
Washington Post, October 26, 2009

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Nicholas Maw, La Vita Nuova / Ghost Dances / Roman Canticle, 20th Century Consort
The 21st Century Consort opened its season of concerts at the Smithsonian American Art Museum on Saturday with a tribute to the British-born composer Nicholas Maw, who died last May. The group celebrated its long relationship with Maw, who lived in Takoma Park for more than two decades (and whose "Sophie's Choice" was staged by the Washington National Opera in 2006), by performing some of his most accomplished music for chamber ensemble.

A rainbow of iridescent instrumental colors was featured in "La Vita Nuova," including a bucolic opening horn solo, trilling avian woodwinds and amorous violin sighs. Soprano Lucy Shelton sang the Italian poetry with a mostly crystalline tone, but the down side of a veteran's experience was the raggedness of her top notes. That deficiency was less exposed in the local premiere of "The Head of Orpheus," in which twin clarinet parts in yearning, fluttering accompaniment revealed Maw's mastery of the instrument that he studied as a performer. No one begrudged Shelton a spontaneous encore, happy to hear this enigmatic work, with its harmonic references to Berg's "Wozzeck," a second time. [Continue reading]
21st Century Consort
Music of Nicholas Maw
Smithsonian American Art Museum

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