CAMBRIDGE — Collage New Music presented a deliberately crafted collage program on Sunday at the Longy School of Music of Bard College. With music director David Hoose conducting, the ensemble brought to the stage various musical colors, textures, and forms from living composers familiar and new.
“Reminiscence,” by 2015-16 Collage Fellow composer Talia Amar, received its world premiere, exploding into existence with a burst of noise and a five-note theme hectically rattling around the instruments onstage; the effect was like that of walking into a movie after all the characters have been introduced. The piece penetrated most when it slowed. A quartet of flute, clarinet, violin, and cello saturated long notes with chromatic nostalgia.
David Rakowski’s “Stolen Moments” slotted jazz tropes into classical context. No one could have danced to the deconstructed and fragmented big-band swing of the first movement or the offbeat, swaying third movement tango, which was awkwardly designated “sultry” in the score. If it was sultry, it was an academic sultry. Bebop piano interludes were technically perfect but restrained, lacking in playfulness. However, the second movement, which was inspired by spirituals, touched the sublime. The jazzy idioms and classical instruments combined to create a unique flavor, dissonant and sweet.
The oldest selection was Yehudi Wyner’s song cycle “The Second Madrigal: Voices of Women” (1999). It was written for the nimble-voiced soprano Dominique Labelle, who was front and center for this performance. Soloist, instrumentalists, and conductor sailed through the score on a unified wavelength. Labelle paid especially exquisite attention to the texts, which Wyner selected from the international poetry anthology “A Book of Luminous Things.” Except for the final text, the shattering “Question” by May Swenson, all concerned feminine primping — younger women flirting with the mirror, older women cursing their wrinkles — or erotic experiences with a male lover. Both anthologist and composer are male, and considering that alongside the piece’s title raises a question: Who is really telling these women’s stories, and what kind of woman’s voice is amplified by men?
Chaya Czernowin’s “Lovesong,” performed right before Wyner’s piece, told a more complex story. Time seemed to simultaneously stretch and condense, and the bite of snap pizzicato cut into swooning long notes. Soft snare drumrolls and rustling garlands of foil evoked a heart beating like a hummingbird’s wings, love’s anxieties rattling around the head. While Wyner’s piece rhapsodized on the ecstasies of passion, Czernowin’s laid down its often terrifying reality, no words or melodies necessary.
Collage New Music
At Edward M. Pickman Concert Hall, Longy School of Music of Bard College, SundayZoë Madonna can be reached at email@example.com.