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WAC: Conners, Durkee, Tzoumerka-Knoedler, Drexler, Miller, Rhoads

Ryan Conners: Sonata for Violin and Piano
Arthur Durkee: Eight-Directions Kata
Vicky Tzoumerka-Knoedler: Three Pieces
David Drexler: Snowflakes
David Drexler: Perspectives
Kirk Miller: Dialects
William Rhoads: Isolated Incidents

Stephen Kadlecek, violin
Matt Rhody, violin
Bob Burkhardt, cello
Jennifer Nitchman, flute
Noelle Eisfeldt, clarinet
Ryan Conners, piano
Jennifer Rush, piano
Karlos Moser, piano
Andrew George, conductor


Appearing for the first time Friday evening in a new performance space, the House of Soundz at 951 Williamson St., members of the Madison chapter of the Wisconsin Alliance for Composers presented new works in performances that were of uniformly high quality, some of them better than the works themselves, I thought. Judging from this concert and the preceding ones I've heard, this group is as enthusiastic about fresh music from inexperienced but energetic newcomers as it is about highly developed scores by the chapter's most experienced practitioners. I see this as a very good thing, but it does mean that any given concert -- this one was certainly representative -- will offer fare of highly variable quality. For example, a full-blown Sonata for Violin and Piano by Ryan Conners featured impressively demanding parts for both instruments, very ably played by violinist Steve Kadlecek and the composer, but the work was not very original, rather too obviously influenced by Prokofiev.

Arthur Durkee's Eight-Directions Kata exhibited another problem faced by many intelligent, sensitive creators: even the most highly evolved, spiritually deep and sincerely felt works -- this 37-minute suite of eight pieces was all of those -- fails in an important regard if it remains too inward in its gaze. Extended symbolic sighs, no matter how moving, remain a largely private matter, leaving an audience outside, rather than inside the musical experience.

Three pieces by dancer Vicky Tzoumerka-Knoedler were pleasing works, something of a cross between folk music and pop song writing, but certainly possessed of gentle lyrical charm.

Offering much more to come to grips with were two pieces by David Drexler, Snowflakes and Perspectives. Both showed strong lyric and rhythmic development. These elements, as well as a certain puckish good humor -- in tango style -- were also present in Kirk Miller's Dialects for violin and marimba, very well played by Jose Bastardes and Steve Ostwald, respectively.

The most interesting work, I thought, was Isolated Incidents by William Rhoads. Here the element of humor, plus strong melodic and rhythmic sense, joined with good orchestration to explore the materials in an arresting and ultimately satisfying way.

Violinists Kadlecek and Matt Rhody, cellist Bob Burkhardt, flutist Jennifer Nitchman, clarinetist Noelle Eisfeldt, pianists Jennifer Rush and Karlos Moser and conductor Andrew George performed in one or more works. The new space is small, with room for about 20 listeners, but it compensates by bringing the audience into very close proximity to the music. The small size was offset in part by presenting the program for four nights running, Thursday-Sunday.

Isthmus, February, 1996
Copyright 1996 Jess Anderson

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