The Akropolis Reed Quintet‘s recent performance of Refraction at the Flagler Museum Music Series in Palm Beach, Florida garnered two fantastic reviews.
Palm Beach Daily News
The highlight of the program was another recent selection…David Biedenbender’s “Refraction.”…Biedenbender impressed thanks to his mastery of the compositional art in many levels. In the short, three-movement work, he was able to combine ancient chant and counterpoint procedures with heavy metal rhythms and gestures, while maintaining a sense of cohesiveness and stylistic unity. In “Refraction,” each of the Akropolis musicians displayed technical mastery — the higher reeds playing Flatterzunge passages with incredible precision, while the clarinets, playing off stage, brought an eerie sound to the performance. Read more.
Palm Beach ArtsPaper
More interesting was Refraction, a three-part work by David Biedenbender, a professor at Michigan State who wrote the work in 2015, the same year Muhly wrote his. It begins with a short movement called “Death Metal Chicken,” in which the bass clarinet (Andrew Koeppe) and bassoon (Ryan Reynolds) play a repeated chugging modal chord figure much like the E minor guitar warriors of metal might, underneath a quirky series of high-pitched random chords in the other instruments.
The finale, “Goat Rodeo,” which the composer describes as a “strange mashup of dubstep, funk and musical pointillism,” doesn’t suggest any of those things particularly. But it is an effective depiction of something chaotic going on, and the Akropolis made that clear while also maintaining strict control of the proceedings.
But it was the second movement, “Kyrie for Machaut and Pärt,” that made the strongest impression. Koeppe and clarinetist Kari Landry walked behind the curtain at the back of the performance space to play notes like muezzin calls in counterpoint with Gocklin’s oboe. Toward the end of the movement, the music took on the feel of the Flemish and Estonian masters to whom it is dedicated; the frequent appoggiaturas in the movement also evoked the Carnatic music of India that Biedenbender admires and studies. All of this was played with great skill and a wide-open kind of beauty. Read more.
The words ‘introspection’ and ‘trombone concerto’ are seldom heard together. Let’s work on that. Symphonic fireworks and cataclysms are great, but Thursday’s Lansing Symphony concert featured something very different — a profound meditation on life’s mysteries, issuing in low tones from a long metal tube…This was deeply personal music, very different from the flashy back-and-forth volleys that fill most violin or piano concertos. The pure, coppery tones curling out of Ordman’s instrument went up your back, into your neck and straight up the base of your brain...The music was constantly on the verge of resolving into a juicy melody or sweet series of chords — i.e., an easy answer — but it never did…It’s no wonder the seemingly archaic concerto form has lasted so long. It has evolved from a way to show off one musician’s virtuosity against a fancy backdrop to something much deeper – a perfect platform for playing out the relationship between a soul and the universe around it…The concerto itself is a fabulous mystery that deserves to be heard again.
Read Lawrence Cosentino’s entire review of Their Eyes Are Fireflies, David’s new concerto for trombone and orchestra, in the Lansing City Pulse.
David will serve as a mentor composer along with Bright Sheng, Derek Bermel, and Margaret Brouwer for the American Composers Orchestra EarShot Readings with the Grand Rapids Symphony, September 25-30.
David is the recipient of the 38th annual ASCAP Foundation Rudolf Nissim Prize. Selected from 140 entries judged anonymously by a panel of conductors, the Prize was awarded for Cyclotron, a 10-minute work for winds and percussion.
The Prize is presented annually to an ASCAP concert composer for a work requiring a conductor that has not been performed professionally. A jury of conductors selects the winning score.
The first piece, Mr. Biedenbender’s “Red Vesper,” stole the show. Spacious and ceremonious, the work is inspired by national parks in the American West, where the Wisconsin-born composer would often go for reflection and meditation.
His experimentation with sound was like a true nocturnal Western adventure. The piece started with flute mimicking the whistle of the wind or an animal, accompanied by electronic nature sounds, violin, cello, clarinet and piano. The work’s polyphonic writing brought out the timbre and melody of each instrument. Slow but methodical at first, it crescendoed into a vesperal epiphany and steadily drew to a close as the creatures and instruments each fell asleep. The end result was a nature’s hymn to the wild.
Philip Campbell of the Bay Area Reporter reviewed Tim Higgins performance of Radiant Spheres at the San Francisco Symphony Soundbox series: “…the contemporary pieces that came later proved to be both explosively dramatic and intriguingly experimental. Radiant Spheres (2014) by David Biedenbender, which Higgins commissioned, managed to say an awful lot in just six minutes. From bluesy and introspective to anguished and finally pacified, the beautiful work for trombone and piano alerted us to a real emerging talent.”