This week, Monday Evening Concerts presents four unusual works that combine into one big sonic boon. Ralph Shapey's Evocation No. 2 (1979) for cello, piano and percussion is a deftly textured adventure in “statement and restatement,” repetition that goes through a myriad of layers to evolve into a work of dynamic vibrancy. Gerard Pesson's piano quartet Mes Beatitudes (1994) is described in Paul Griffiths' program notes as “powerful as it is fragile, as solid as it is unstable, as captivating as it is perplexing.” A sort of continuous loop, the work refers back to old forms — barcarolle, chant, a sound bite from a Bruckner symphony — while creating a modern polyphony all its own. When it comes to Sir Harrison Birtwistle, well, anything goes, probably because the enigmatic old Brit insists that he is unencumbered by annoyances like narrative and vision, preferring to surprise not only the listener but himself with his works. Lied, commissioned for the great pianist Alfred Brendel's 75th birthday, is a duet for cello and piano that's really an unearthly conversation, inspired by the Rilke lines “What is the instrument on which we're strung? And who's the fiddler has us in his hand?” The Axe Manual for piano and percussion was commissioned by pianist Emanuel Ax, who premiered it in 2001 with Evelyn Glennie. Birtwistle describes it as “a compendium of rhythmic techniques,” but it's lots more: a complex, rigorous contest pulsing with energy and intricacy, designed for only the most athletic musical daredevils.
Mon., March 10, 8 p.m., 2008
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