Victoria Bond at the Cutting Edge
Barnes, Glass, and Enchants
By: Susan Hall - Feb 19, 2019
The program of Cutting Edge Concerts at Symphony Space on February 18, 2019, opened with a delightful bird romp by Maria Newman. Hal Ott on the flute, Scott Hosfeld on viola and the composer on the violin created pictures of four different birds. Olivier Messiaen famously recorded birds in their native habitats, focusing on their identifying songs. Newman widens the frame to include pictures of the birds' movements and suggests purpose, like the melancholy watchfulness of a snowy owl and the ravenous detection of prey for the falcon.
The hummingbird hums and hovers over flowers, its agile movements sometimes suggesting the "Flight of the Bumble Bee" by Nikolai Rimsky-Korsakov. The first bird up was the dipper drawn with dips and upward swoops, which start with a base theme from which movement ricochets as it is launched and returns. This is the theme of the evening.
A choir from the Greek Archdiocese chanted. They were the base from which composer Victoria Bond ricocheted into her piano composition "Simeron Kremate," a take on a chant. Into this Bond wove a Jewish Passover chant "Tal," whose melody reminded her of the Greek chant. Paul Barnes both chanted and played the piano. The first part was crowned with a superb performance of Philip Glass's Annunciation Quintet.
Has the response to Glass changed or has the composer? No matter. Barnes was joined by Laura Hamilton on violin, Hosfeld on Viola, Newman on violin and David Weber on cello to perform the Quintet, inspired by a picture of the Annunciation which Barnes gave to Glass. The texture of the piano, both bell like and lyric, and the multiple string textures, including plucking, stroking and attacking, mixed miraculously. Hints of the chant melody spiraled out in arpeggios and harmonies. This is a piece of indescribable beauty and spirituality.
In the second part of the program we were treated to Victoria Bond's interpretation of "Gulliver's Travel's." She both takes off from the iconic tale and follows Lemuel Gulliver. He is bored by the mannerliness of his wife and family and launches himself on a series of voyages. He visits Lilliput where he is a giant, and Brobdingnag as a miniature among giants. The humor of his condition is made much of musically and dramatically. On he goes to a floating island and the land of the Houyhnhnms.
Doug Fitch directed. His touch is seen in the addition of implements for dining and a tiny box in which the midget Gulliver resides. Fitch is a magician of the concert opera. Designed for adults of all ages, Gulliver ends up at home, because there is no place like home. Speech alternates with recitative and arias to charm. This work in progress delights.