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'Larger Forces' proves to be strong season closer for ensemblenewSRQ

The ensemblenewSRQ's second season ended with a phenomenal concert featuring an 18-person chamber orchestra.

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  • | 3:44 p.m. April 30, 2018
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Sarasota’s newest and arguably best new music group, ensemblenewSRQ, recently ended its second subscription season with an impressive concert. The evening featured a chamber orchestra of 18 players conducted by George Nickson.

Nickson and Samantha Bennett, co-artistic directors, aptly titled the concert “Larger Forces.” Included was the group's first commissioned work, an oboe concerto written by David Dies, dedicated to — and expertly played by — Adam DeSorgo, principal oboist of the Sarasota Orchestra.

The concerto is in three movements, “alchemy, transmutation:Variations on 'The Wasp and the Fig' with interlude, and translation:ghazal.” In this concerto Dies was viewing the relationship between soloist and orchestra in three different contexts. The first movement essentially is an exercise in differing sounds and techniques, alternating between soloist and orchestra, and the second uses a theme and increasingly complex variations separated by interludes, while the third movement is essentially a variation of  classical rondo form.

It is thickly scored for all the instruments, including tenor saxophone and extensive percussion with “loads of notes,” as I overheard from one audience member. As with all the works presented in this concert, it certainly deserves — and requires — more than one hearing to appreciate it to its fullest.

Opening the concert was “5-6-7-8” by composer Michael Schachter, who wrote it for and dedicated it to the chamber group Alarm Will Sound. This is an intriguing work in four short movements, written, I believe, in musical meters of 5, 6, 7, and 8 as perhaps an inside joke of “count-in” for dancers and ensembles. It is again an exposition of orchestral textures and colors within the musical idea of each short movement.

Ending the concert was “Son of Chamber Symphony” by John Adams. Only a week or so earlier his “Short Ride in a Fast Machine” was performed by the Sarasota Orchestra, and this piece continues in Adams’ style of hyperactive writing for orchestra. In this symphony, Adams expands the sonic world of traditional scoring by not only expanding the percussion section, but adding electronically altered piano pitches and — of all things — a garbage can lid.

Rather than the use of constant repetition of short motives, as in Reich and Glass, Adams tends to use more riff-like passages that are passed around through the various sections of the orchestra, as ostinato rhythms keep up the beat. These rhythms are reminiscent of those in his 1987 opera “Nixon in China,” and are just slightly varied as they are circulated throughout the orchestra framework. And Adams piles layer upon layer of rhythms and riffs throughout the three movements of the symphony.

The entire evening was well conducted by George Nickson, who is more often seen throughout the percussion section of the Sarasota Orchestra, where he is principal percussionist. His conducting was at all times clear and much more than merely time beating through the jungle of constantly changing meters and rhythms. He obviously knew all the scores well, and gave excellent cues, especially for entrances. Who knows but that there could be a second career hovering in the background.

In its two seasons of existence, ensemblenewSRQ has certainly raised the bar for contemporary or “current” music in Sarasota with both choice of repertoire and excellence of performance.


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