Cabrillo Music Festival Ends Season at San Juan Bautista

Marin Alsop

On Sunday, August 16, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music closed its 53rd season with two duplicate concerts at the Mission San Juan. Under the baton of the highly energetic Director Marin Alsop, the all-star international orchestra performed Impact (2013, West Coast Premiere) by Charles Halka; Angeles de llama y hielo (Angels of Flame and Ice) (1994, rev. 2015) by Ana Lara; Supplica (2014) by Christopher Rouse and Epiclesis (1993, rev. 1998) by James MacMillan with trumpet soloist Tine Thing Helseth.

Halka’s “Impact” centered much of its well-designed textural energy around orchestrated glissandi ending with calculated bursts of sound emphasizing acceleration and dynamics. Impact utilized sounds in the lower register such as the trombone, bass drum and double bass and by reversing dynamics from “piano” to “forte” and vice-versa. The work ended with a similar glissando gesture that opened the work. Impact was well received by the audience!

Ana Lara’s “Angels of Flame and Ice” is a continuous work of four sections influenced by four poems by Mexican poet Francisco Serrano, whose works also include opera librettos and literary collaborations with painters. Interestingly enough, the work distinguished the difference between static and kinetic sound. In Lara’s work the sound masses were static in that the sound gave the allusion of movement as one sees in a top, spinning but in rotation without advancing as in a melodic line. “Angels of Flame and Ice” was first composed in 1994 and then revised in 2015, always a challenge in that one’s ideas change rather dramatically simply based on time. The dark, somber moments produced by the brass and double basses were effective. In the third section of “Angels of Light,” the fluttering effect of the flute and bassoon entry gave the linear movement necessary to give flight to the work. A well performed work by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra.

Christopher Rouse is one of the very finest contemporary composer’s working today. His work Supplica from the Latin, a petitioning, in the words of Rouse, “possesses a personal meaning.” The work began quietly with a subtle string texture that for this writer caused a brief flashback to Samuel Barber’s monumental “Adagio for Strings” before it orbited around Rouse’s world of creative imagination. Effective pizzicati by the double bass and harp punctuated the solemn sound fabric. The beautiful, contemplative, soul searching affect seemed most fitting and appropriate only to be interrupted effectively by the intense brass entry, always well-conceived under the pen of Rouse and baton of Alsop. The work settled into a peaceful atmosphere in which rich, thick chordal dissonance suddenly dissolved into transparent consonance accompanied by a delicate harp moment that rode on the crest of the orchestral sound. Well done and well appreciated by the audience!

Epiclesis was the third work on the program with religious overtones, “Angels of Flame and Ice” and “Supplica” being the first AND SECOND. Fitting indeed, the venue was the Mission at San Juan. Epiclesis is a single movement concerto for trumpet and sizable orchestra. As stated, Epiclesis translates into invocation during the Eucharistic section of the Mass. The flutter tongue solo trumpet opening against an airy, serene backdrop that suddenly exploded into a huge sound mass gave notice to the massive sound that would soon develop. Moments of brash, chaotic textures emphasized by a metal thunder sheet, brass at its highest register filled the Mission and most likely the lovely rolling hills outside. Two additional trumpets were positioned to the sides and half way into the Mission creating a triangular antiphonal trumpet go around that ended with soloist Helseth slowly walking down the center aisle and out of the main doors of the Mission and as she reached her exit the door slammed shut that caused the audience and Director Alsop to turn and smile. This was indeed a superb concert that ended the 2015 season. A special, well deserved round of applause was given to the all-star orchestra for a wonderful, artistic experience!


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