Technical Mastery, Skill, and Artistic Zeal
Chamber Orchestra Stuns in Season Opener By Amy Meadows
From sadness to joy, from traditional to modern, the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra’s music and style spans many extremes. Whatever your preconceived notions are of chamber orchestras, Metamorphosen is sure to break it. In its first concert of the season, the chamber orchestra proved that a combination of innovation, style, and talent is thrilling.
The evening began with a short but poignant nod to the events of September 11. The group’s composer-in-residence, Jeffery Cotton, was in his New York office across from the south tower of the World Trade Center on the day of the tragedy. He was evacuated from the building, only to learn later that it was destroyed when the towers collapsed. After spending several days aiding rescue workers, he retreated to his Jersey City home to reflect. What came out during this time was the first piece, “Elegy.” Explaining his conception of the composition, Cotton remarked, “It’s about the emotion and loss -- not about the violence.”
The highest power of art is to evoke a unity with other humans; “Elegy” connected all those in the audience each other. Sad and slow, the piece brought another dimension to the tragic event. In lieu of applause, the audience and orchestra observed a moment of silence at the end of the piece.
The next selection, John Adams’ “Shaker Loops,” is in many ways an experimental minimalist piece, consisting of many repetitious elements and small variations over time. Adams is one of the most renowned modern American composers, widely known for his opera, Nixon in China. “Shaker Loops” provided a stark contrast to “Elegy.” While “Elegy” was slow and deliberate, “Shaker Loops” was wrought with tension, speed, and crisis.
Melodic and sweeping, the third piece of the evening, “Missouri Dreamscape,” again marked a change from the previous two. While the title itself provides sentiment behind the work, the melody suggested a vision of a faraway and unfamiliar land. “Missouri Dreamscape” was intriguing and searching. The composer, Andrew List, explained that his home state is Missouri and stated, “It’s a spiritual and subconscious interpretation of how I feel when I’m there.”
Jeffery Cotton referred to the next piece as “150 stupid violin tricks” and that “each variation is more outrageous than the last.” Indeed, Henryk Wieniawski’s “Original Variations” was intended to be played by an extraordinarily gifted violinist. Tricia Park played a skilled but passionate solo, and the audience found her performance one of the most riveting of the night. Although she was initially jarring in blue sequined dress (against the stark black of the rest of the orchestra), her outfit soon faded into the background as her performance became more and more complex and challenging.
The concluding piece of the evening was Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade in C minor,” which was composed during the same period as his more famous “1812 Overture.” “Serenade,” an intimate and charming piece, was Tchaikovsky’s clear favorite of the two. The second movement transformed itself from a whirling dance to a slow promenade, incorporating all the essential elements of a melodic waltz. The finale proved that the orchestra was in full blossom and that the orchestra has a clear grasp of more traditional chamber music. It united technical mastery, skill, and artistic zeal -- elements the audience could only hear fragments of in other pieces. In short, the Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra is nothing less than stunning.