A capacity crowd, comprised in equal parts of Roman new music aficionados and members of the AAR community, filled the Sala Aurelia on Monday night as composer Ada Gentile's contemporary music festival Nuovi Spazi Musicali began its thirty-second season. The AAR concert was the first of a series that will move on to the Hungarian Academy and the Polish and Swiss Institutes during the month of October. The AAR concert featured members of an international collective of young musicians called ensemble interface, which in this case included pianist Anna D'Errico (Italy), violinist Maiko Matsuoka (Japan), and cellist Christophe Mathias (Germany).
Ms. Gentile assembled a program which substantially reimagined the performance possibilities available to the traditional piano trio. The program began with Michele Dall'Ongaro's Trio No. 2 (2008). The opening exchange between piano and strings, the latter alive with spiccato, tremolo and pizzicato, clearly announced a commitment on the part of the composer (who was present at the concert) to explore all the sonic resources of the instruments at his disposal. This commitment continued in Mr. Mathias' strong attack at the opening of Samuel Barber Rome Prize winner Sean Friar's Teaser (2008) for solo cello, an extraordinary exploration of that instrument's potential, one demanding, on the part of the performer, both virtuosity (left hand pizzicato alternating with strong bowing) and lyricism (harmonics and glissando, and the construction and disintegration of a simple melody). Ms. Matsuoka's performance of Steve Rouse's Diamonds, for Violin Solo (1989) was no less demanding, in its exploration and exploitation of the violin's resources, and Ms. Matsuoka was called back, to applause, after her performance.
The concert, which lasted almost two hours, was presented without intermission. The beauty of the program's architecture only became fully apparent with the opening chords of Richard Trythall's Fantasy for Piano Solo (1971) which, after the sonic rigors of Dell'Ongaro, Friar and Rouse, broke upon the ear like an astounding return to Schumann, Chopin or Liszt. Mr. Trythall, FAAR'67, RAAR'70 wrote this deeply Romantic work forty years ago when he was a "recovering twelve-tone composer." Ms. D'Errico did it full justice, on a Steinway concert grand. Ada Gentile's own Serene Ombre (Serene Shadows), for Violin, Cello and Piano (2011) followed, the "serenity" of its title (and the chord clusters with pedal point of the piano) belied by the restlessness of the cello. Lyricism, and a quality of song, returned to the program in Elliott Carter Rome Prize winner Lei Liang's Gobi Canticle, for Violin and Cello, inspired by Mongolian music. The program concluded with Enno Poppe's Trauben, for Violin, Cello and Piano (2005), which began with a distinctive glissando dialogue between violin and cello over a rhythmically-irresistible piano motif.
Mr. Trythall's Fantasy thus stood as a kind of Romantic summit between the contemporary concert music that both led up to it, and away from it, in an evening of wonderful symmetry and balance. The compositions by Friar, Gentile, Liang and Poppa were presented in their Roman premieres.
Elliott Carter Rome Prize winner in musical composition Lei Liang, violinist Maiko Matsuoka, pianist Anna D'Errico, cellist Christophe Mathias, and Samuel Barber Rome Prize winner in musical composition Sean Friar.
Cellist Christophe Mathias and pianist Maiko Matsuoka with Rome Prize winner in musical composition Lei Liang.
Composer Richard Trythall, FAAR'67, RAAR'70 and pianist Anna D'Errico.
Rome Prize winner in musical composition Sean Friar and cellist Christophe Mathias.
Cellist Christophe Mathias, composer Ada Gentile, pianist Anna D'Errico, violinist Maiko Matsuoka.
All images courtesy of Giulia Barra.