It was unusually quiet on this chilly election night, but there was a noticeable temperature rise as students, faculty members, family and friends filled Person Recital Hall on the campus of UNC-CH. Professor Allen Anderson straightened the last chair, smiled and announced the evening’s program. Student composers whose works were performed were: Trey Jackson, Meredith Richard, Henry Stewart Engart III, Sam Brown, Thomas Woodward Davis, Peter Daaleman, Winnie Cheung, Richard Walter, and Carter Rezac.

All of the pieces were short and according to Prof. Anderson, part of an on-going university-wide “response to” Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring. Taking imaginative flight with elements of the twentieth century masterpiece, each of the young composers created a new work of art. One of Stravinsky’s lasting contributions, the assertive polychords at the beginning of “The Dance of the Adolescents,” paved the way to the focus on timbre or tone color. Winnie Cheung’s artistic piece, “Illusion” is an alluring study featuring prepared piano, flute, cello and double bass. And Peter Daaleman’s percussion piece, “Together, Patience” for glass bowl, plastic tub, wood box and metal can (found objects–or in this case, easily found at Home Depot) stitches together judicious moments of silence with complex rhythms. “©opy ®ight,” by Thomas Woodward Davis, also wins a vote of confidence. His well articulated musical ideas gelled into a successful composition that was played with conviction and panache by Katherine Hagerty (clarinet), Ash Stemke (viola), Caroline Iantosca (cello), and Audrey Cook (cello).

The architecture of a larger composition requires more than interesting ideas, however. Carter Rezac’s “Windfall” has the generative power needed for expansion. Arching musical ideas, connected by beautiful transitions, give this piece a sense of forward motion. I wanted to hear more. But a good piece can fall flat without good players. Ably conducted by Vincent Povázsay, “Windfall” was splendidly performed by: Emily Pate (flute), Carter Rezac (clarinet), Erin Lunsford (bassoon), Taylor Cambell (trumpet), Alex Kopaskie (horn) and Kelly Brown (trombone). I look forward to hearing more from Mr. Rezac.

There were two pieces for string quartet: Trey Jackson’s “Accompaniment” and Meredith Richard’s “Behind the Clouds.” Both enchanted me with well-tuned, beautiful sonorities. Henry Stewart Engart III and Sam Brown wrote for brass ensembles and Richard Walter wrote an excellent piece for mixed ensemble, “Response to the Rite.” The audience offered genuine praise and Prof. Anderson looked pleased.  

Walking into the brisk, starlit night, I pictured Elliott Carter’s wonderful smile, and the world seemed right.

Name of professor corrected 11/9/2012.