Momentum 21: New Music for a New Century

Kirk Trevor / Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra

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Momentum 21: New Music for a New Century Review

by James Manheim

This 2015 release by the Indianapolis Chamber Orchestra was issued to mark the retirement of the group's longtime music director, Kirk Trevor, but it turned out to look forward as well: the album contains the Grammy-nominated (Best Contemporary Classical Composition) Concerto for Bassoon and Chamber Orchestra by Christopher Theofanidis. As of early 2017, buyers had two fine versions of this work from which to choose: both feature Estonian-American bassoonist Martin Kuuskmann as the soloist, but on one it is joined to Classical-era repertory, while on the present album Theofanidis is selected along with three other composers to represent the music of the 21st century. The album may merit your time and investment for the Theofanidis concerto alone, and it's interesting that Kuuskmann's performance here is different from that on the all-bassoon recording, less sharp-edged and more integrated into the ensemble. The work hangs together in its traditional three-movement structure but reflects different moods. The opening "alone, inward" movement is not the reflective thing that might be imagined but rather an inward drama, given solace by a slow movement that evokes Greek Orthodox sacred music. The atmosphere of threat returns in the aptly titled finale. The Theofanidis work is balanced by other recent compositions that are tonal in orientation and original in conception. As compelling as the Theofanidis is Derek Bermel's Ritornello: Concerto Grosso for electric guitar and string orchestra. Rock guitarists often study Baroque-like figurations, but this work is one of the first to make new musical sense out of the connection. The other two works have extramusical associations that reveal themselves only with attached explanations, but the entire album will hearten anyone wondering where classical music is going next. Recommended, with a sharp performance by a heartland American ensemble that also brings hope for the future.

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