Rave Review for Maria Schleuning and Jolyon Pegis!!!

“A turbulent Russian concerto grosso spoke to conflicted feelings
in Friday’s DSO ReMix concert” (January 20, 2017)

One could argue that Alfred Schnittke’s Concerto Grosso No. 2 was just the piece for the profoundly unsettled, conflicted national mood Friday night. Again and again, the solo violin and cello attempt to represent order, to spin out baroque figurations and weave hints of a melody suggestive of “Silent night.” But after an initial parody of a Bach Brandenburg Concerto, the orchestra repeatedly stirs up noisy, turbulent dissonance. Proprieties and pleasantries must battle with onslaughts of vulgar marches and fanfares and sheer noise.

The Schnittke was the centerpiece of the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s more intimate and less formal ReMix concert at the Dallas City Performance Hall. At 35 minutes, in four nonstop movements, it was certainly one of the most challenging pieces of music heard around here anytime recently. The guest conductor was Courtney Lewis, a Northern Ireland native now music director of the Jacksonville (Florida) Symphony. His to-the-point introduction to the Schnittke, spoken in a crisp British accent, was exactly what such things should be but rarely are.

Schnittke (1934-1998), the most prominent Russian composer after Shostakovich, early on evolved a signature polystylism. The Concerto Grosso No. 2, from 1982, displays a characteristic mix of simple and complex, retro and avant-garde, high and low musical styles; it’s music Charles Ives might have composed if he’d been born 60 years later in Russia. The orchestra includes both harpsichord (synthesizer in this case) and electric bass guitar, as well as an array of tuned and untuned percussion; both strings and timpani execute woozy pitch slides.

Violinist Maria Schleuning and cellist Jolyon Pegis, two DSO musicians with considerable modern-music experience in the Voices of Change ensemble, played brilliantly–no small accomplishment–but also, when called for, subtly. The orchestra whipped up the requisite commotions. An audience conspicuously younger than at Meyerson Symphony Center concerts applauded enthusiastically.

The Schnittke had a logical companion in the Prokofiev Classical Symphony, an earlier 20th-century Russian piece also looking back at 18th-century music. Here, though, the allusions are affectionate rather than cynical, and more to Haydn than to Bach. It’s music tuneful and toe-tapping and utterly charming.

In a 750-seat hall, as opposed to the Meyerson’s 2,000, and with strings somewhat reduced from norms at the Meyerson, winds  were more prominent than usual. With energetic conducting from Lewis, they smartly dispatched their duties, as did the strings, although the latter scrambled to keep up with an unduly frantic tempo in the finale. And both the third and fourth movements wanted a lighter touch.  The program, performed without intermission, opened with a spirited account of Beethoven’s Creatures of Prometheus Overture.

Scott Cantrell, former classical music critic of The Dallas Morning News, has also written for The New York Times and numerous music magazines.

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Review: Free-range modernism from Voices of Change

Thanks to everyone that came out on Sunday and joined us at City Performance Hall. We had a great time welcoming Laurie Shulman back as well as performing Lane Harder’s piece “La Razon del Viaje.” Them audience thoroughly enjoyed themselves and everyone walked away with a smile on their face. Here are a few quotes from Scott Cantrell in the Dallas Morning News.

“Judging by a standing ovation and enthusiastic whoops, the audience enjoyed themselves”

“Laurie Shulman delivered the Ogden Nash poems with just the right bit of mischief.”

“An Allegro, Intermezzo and Scherzo for string quartet by the late Alan Shulman, a New York cellist and composer (also Laurie Shulman’s father), was deftly crafted in a musical language often suggesting Shostakovich’s transformations of Jewish folk music. It got a skilled performance by violinists Maria Schleuning and Shu Lee, violist Barbara Sudweeks and cellist Kari Kettering.”

“Clarinetist Paul Garner and pianist Gabriel Sanchez joined Schleuning in a charming early, also folk-influenced, Trio for clarinet, violin and piano by the Armenian composer Aram Khachaturian. Garner and flutist Helen Blackburn had fun with the perky, playful Chôros No. 2 by the Brazilian Heitor Villa-Lobos.”

Thanks to everyone who came out and saw us!

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“Voices of Change Lives Up to Its Name”

This wonderful write-up from Arts + Culture greeted us this morning! What a fantastic article and a sneak peak at March 20th’s concert.
Read the entire article here

“We do it for the love of music and the love of chamber music—and for the excitement of being able to present something new,” says violinist and artistic director Maria Schleuning, who also performs in the Dallas Symphony. “As wonderful as playing in an orchestra is, at the end of the day, it’s your job. We feel like this is icing on the cake. This is fun. This is creative. This is something where we can be more individual.”

[…]

Voices of Change offers its next collection of the fresh and the more-familiar March 20, when works by Heitor Villa-Lobos, Aram Khatchaturian and others will set the scene for a work premiered last year: La Razon del Viaje, or The Reason for the Voyage, a song cycle by Southern Methodist University composition teacher Lane Harder. Harder marshals a singer, pianist and four percussionists to explore the poetry of Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez Martinez, who takes “an unflinching look at the mysteries and puzzles of human existence.”

[…]

Collaborating with flesh-and-blood composers still attracts Schleuning and her colleagues, she says. Voices of Change shares the experience with audiences whenever possible by bringing in composers whose works it performs. Musicians, composers and listeners can draw even closer at the group’s Sound Bites concerts: Before each program, the group hosts a free showcase at Dallas’ times ten cellars annex, where a wine tasting loosens everyone up. “They tell about their wine, and we talk about the music,” Schleuning says. “If we have a composer in town, the composer will come. It’s a very informal setting. People feel like they can be up close and personal with the musicians and the composers.”

Voices of Change tries to carry that immediacy into its concerts. “It’s hard to (grasp) new music the first time,” Schleuning says. “Sometimes it takes a second listening or a third before you start to get a grip on it. So we try to have it so well prepared that we can present it in a convincing way. … I want the audience to feel like they’re part of it —that they’re living and breathing it along with me.”

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2015 in Review

Voices of Change did pretty well in 2015! We were recognized by the Dallas Morning News as one of the 10 best concerts in 2015. We also got a nod from Theater Jones for our performance of Xi Wang’s Tibet Fantasia in March.

Dallas Morning News: http://www.dallasnews.com/lifestyles/arts/columnists/scott-cantrell/20151224-the-year-in-review-classical-music-and-opera.ece
Theater Jones: http://www.theaterjones.com/ntx/2015yearinreview/20151228194346/2015-12-29/The-Year-in-Music-and-Opera

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