On Sunday, February 15, at Peace United Church in Santa Cruz, Phil Collins, Music Director of the Santa Cruz New Music Works presented a program of “contemporary” works for solo piano featuring the eminent pianist Sarah Cahill. Ms. Cahill offered her program with understanding, technical command and control of the modern music she presented. The full program consisted of 12 compositions from about 1918 to 2009, quite a time span that worked well in the programming.
Sarah Cahill performed the following works: Valentine Waltzes (appropriate) 1 and 4 by George Antheil (1900-1959); Yearning (from Fourth Pentagram 1925) by Dane Rudhyar (1895-1985); Preludes 7 and 9 (1928) by Ruth Crawford (1901-1953); The Trumpet of Angus Og (1918-1924) by Henry Cowell (1897-1924); Selections of B’midbar (2009) by UCSC faculty member Larry Polansky (1954-present); St. Petersburg Waltz (1994) by Meredith Monk (1942-present); RCSC (2001) by Annea Lockwood (1939-present); Shade Studies (1985-present) by Samuel Carl Adams (1985- present); Pleasant Dreaming (2006/2014) by Philip Collins (1951-present); Selections from Patterns of Plants (1996-2012) by Mamoru Fujieda (1955-present); Dance for Lisa Caron (1938) and Largo Ostinato (1937) by Aptos icon Lou Harrison (1917-2003) and an encore: Keyboard Studies by Terry Riley performed for his up-coming 80th birthday.
Well, quite a program! Reverie: “A state of being pleasantly lost in one’s thoughts; a daydream.” Almost caught on camera with this one! Limited by time and of course space, I too must limit this wonderful program by reflecting on highlights. Antheil’s work opened with reflections of Erik Satie, balanced, imaginative and both well realized by Ms. Cahill. Larry Polansky’s B’midbar selections were brief, lasting between 1 and 2 minutes, and musically inventive and interesting with an added vocal accompaniment by Ms. Cahill in the last performed work. Meredith Monk’s work was well realized employing a repetitive figure in the left hand and then the right. Moments offered this idea in loop fashion. Not only this work, but most of the selected works, were somewhat limited in both the range and dynamics in comparison to contemporaries such as Anton Webern’s Variations for piano Op. 27 and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Klavierstücke in which dynamics and articulations are employed to the incredible maximum and control overall musical structures.
Pleasant dreaming by Phil Collins employed only the white keys and in fact rendered a tranquil “dream-like atmosphere. The subtle glissandi were brief, but effective counterpoint relief within the texture. Shade Studies introduced electronically generated sound(s) to coordinate with the piano sounds creating interesting textures. Lou Harrison’s two works showed two of his compositional styles. He was more than familiar with the two competitive styles of the day: atonal and serial composition, but opted to take his own path in these works. The hand written manuscript of the second work was found in a piano bench and sent to Sarah Cahill. What a treasure! This work was more robust and dynamically astute compared to the first. Ms. Cahill performed Terry Riley’s Keyboard Studies in honor of his up-coming 80th birthday. This work displayed Riley’s claim to fame generating high repetitive energy that we understand as minimalism.
All in all a most interesting concert especially in its historical context. Sarah Cahill received a well-deserved round of applause along with a standing ovation from the delighted audience!