Can “new” music and “old” music co-exist? Are the audiences the same, or do mixed programs aim for the intersection of our childhood Venn Diagrams, seeking the similarities? These were the questions considered as I listened to Kaleidoscope Chamber Orchestra, now in their fourth season, who performed a set of concerts on April 28 and 29. Featuring a trio of works by Balch, Hertzberg, and Shostakovich, the ensemble effectively showcased its range and blended the old with the new..
Responding to the Waves by Katherine Balch skittered with restless, high-pitched energy. The west coast premiere highlighted the prowess of solo violinist Nigel Armstrong as he skillfully moved through the program opener. The violin indeed shivered, hummed, and jittered its way through three musical movements as the composer envisioned. The output pleased audiences and garnered applause, with Balch arising for her bow from the seats.
The orchestral Spectre of the Spheres by David Hertzberg was wildly well received and propelled him onstage with a standing ovation. As Hertzberg explained from the stage, the breathy strings invoked the phenomenon of the Northern Lights as inspired by The Auroras of Autumn by Wallace Stevens, punctuated by increasing levels of percussive intensity.
The lion’s share of the program went to Symphony No. 5 by Dmitri Shostakovich. In keeping with Kaleidoscope’s mission, this 20th-century staple was played sans conductor. It was well and ably played, but I wished for the Venn Diagram identification: why was it in the program? Was there a commonality amongst the composers to listen for, perhaps in its aesthetics or the musical conception? Was it the contrasting styles that cleansed the sonic palette and created a balanced show? Is it to put contemporary music on equal footing with an established master? Or is it just a celebration of quality music, regardless of the era?
The whole program was favorably received by an enthusiastic and diverse audience, followed by an outdoor reception. I discovered by conversing with a few patrons that the Shostakovich was the sole reason for attending. Moreover, the earlier half of the program was eschewed in favor of hearing the concert-closer. I inquired as to why that was: familiarity. Here’s hoping that by consistently combining contemporary art with historical masterpieces, Kaleidoscope and its listeners find common ground.
Well that headline more or less says it all. Wild Up are releasing a record on vinyl and for download called The Salt of the Earth. It will have Shostakovich’s Chamber Symphony, Op. 110A, on it, as well as Rzewski’s Les Moutons de Panurge.
You should help, because these guys are incredible musicians who put on incredible shows, and are really working hard to build a community for this kind of music- our kind of music- outside of the confines of a traditional concert hall situation.