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The NEC Composers' Series, directed by Malcolm Peyton, brings together many generations of NEC's contribution to new American music. Tonight's concert is NEC's annual Arthur Berger Memorial Concert, and includes works by Arthur Berger, who taught at NEC through the end of the 20th century, along with current NEC composers.
The Arthur Berger Memorial Concert Fund was established in July 2007 through the generosity of Mr. Berger’s widow, the late Ellen Berger.
Arthur Berger Quartet in C Major for Winds
Alicia Mielke, flute
Michelle Zwi, oboe
David Dziardziel, clarinet
Allison Eaton, bassoon
Five Settings of European Poets
Ode (Horace) - Sonnet (Rilke) - Le bois amical (Valéry) - Piazza Navona (Belli) - When I Am Dead… (C. Rossetti)
Charles Blandy, tenor
Rodney Lister, piano
Composition for Piano Four Hands
David Kopp, Rodney Lister, piano
Rodney Lister A Black Matter
Julia Glenn, piano
Matti Kovler The Unbearable Lightness, for seven double basses
Matti Kovler, conductor
Oliver Simpson, multimedia
I have always felt that the increasing virtuosity of modern day solo bass players has left room for further musical exploration. The surprising commission from Tanglewood to write for an ensemble of seven double basses provided me with an opportunity to address this challenge.
As inspiring as the commission was, composing for seven double basses proved to be rather difficult. Quite early in the process, I decided to split the players into two separate groups of three, with a soloist in between. However, I spent several months trying to think of a musical reason substantial enough to justify scoring for such a peculiar, though exciting, combination.
The trigger for the Gestalt of this piece eventually came from an extramusical source—a film by the Iranian director Asghar Farhadi, A Separation.
The film focuses on a girl, desperately moving between her two parents in the process of a divorce, against the difficult reality of life in Iran. The deliberate choice of the director to eliminate music throughout accentuated the prevailing sense of anxiety. And yet, amidst waves of tension, there were sudden moments of subdued lyricism which I felt had an almost illusory quality. Although it was quite clear that there could be no real solution, in these brief instants we managed to move beyond the hardship and imagine a beautiful, though impossible, alternative.
The title of the work, alluding to Milan Kundera’s The Unbearable Lightness of Being, refers to a similar sense of illusion—wanting to obtain something which is beyond reach. The piece is dedicated to the memory of my uncle, Michael (Misha) Rivlin, who passed away prematurely while I was in the process of composition. The ending Coda, and the transformation of the soloist that occurs towards the end, have been influenced by this loss.
still from Asghar Farhadi, A Separation