BRAVE SOULS: A good-sized crowd showed up at Zipper last Friday and were well rewarded; this was the preview concert of the Carlsbad Festival, which actually ends up in Carlsbad this weekend (Friday and Saturday nights, Sunday afternoon). I like the Festival; the music is interesting and the planning is actually about something: young composers, or once-young composers, raising a bit of hell with standard definitions. It’s also a study in chutzpah: Matt McBane, USC grad, decently talented violinist and composer, heads off to New York, organizes a group to play his own music, pushes his way into clubs and arts venues, lands a recording with an upcoming label (New Amsterdam) produces a disc with an irresistibly pretty cover that surely helps get playings (the music is nice, too), comes back to his home town (Carlsbad-by-the-Sea) where his family and all their friends help start a Festival, with his sister handling the p-r even. I went down to the Festival last year, and it was great to see all the Carlsbad townfolks sitting still and admiringly while native-son Matt plied them with some fairly hard-core new music. Maybe that’s what it takes.
His group is called BUILD, and their disc is on New Amsterdam, a new label. The group has Matt, two other string players, a piano and drums, and I do like their music even if I’m not sure what it is. It’s a kind of indie-rock chamber music, nice open textures, nothing too long, everything nicely shaped, or BUILT if you prefer. The rest of Carlsbad includes the UC-San Diego percussion group, and their program on Saturday night includes John Cage’s madcap “Third Construction” which is one of modern music’s ancestral pieces (and a hoot, besides). Sunday afternoon’s program has John Schneider with the Harry Partch instruments, playing Partch and Lou Harrison. Anybody driving?
Saturday night here there’s the Rumi concert here to close down the Bowl, with Yo-Yo and the Silk Road people. Next week, all of a sudden, there’s a full plate: Gloria Cheng at Piano Spheres on Tuesday; “Madama Butterfly” (in the Robert Wilson staging, and I understand he’ll actually be here, which makes a difference) on Wednesday; the Philharmonic, with Dawn and Audra (yummm!) on Thursday; LACO on Saturday and Sunday.
Bob Attiyeh’s Yarlung Records — which I chastised once after the first release seemed so much a vanity operation, less a valuable addition to the repertory — continues to build an uneven but interesting repertory, recorded and produced with exceptional care to matters of sound and intelligent packaging. Their catalog includes recitals by a number of Philharmonic members: violinist Martin Chalifour, pianist Joanne Pearce Martin (both of them involved with mostly familiar repertory) and clarinetist David Howard (whose program ventures further afield).
Howard’s disc includes the Brahms Clarinet Quintet, from the performance a couple of seasons ago with the Philharmonic’s Lyndon Taylor and Kristine Hedwall, John Hayhurst and Gloria Lum, and it is as moving – chilling, even – as I remembered it at the concert. Galina Ustvolskaya’s Trio for Clarinet, Violin and Piano – with Johnny Lee and Vicki Ray — is the disk’s other major work: strange, grating, intense music, certainly a major personal document by this reclusive pupil of Shostakovich pupil who died, alone, in 2006.2 Short works, agreeable and inconsequential, by Steven Stucky and Esa-Pekka fill out the disc, both with Vicki Ray.