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Mysterious Goings-On at N-1


Andy Vores (file photo)

Instead of the guitars and drums in fashionable garage bands, the budding musicians of Trio Notturno picked up quite different instruments and, in a room they rented at Longy, performed Debussy and Tōru Takemitsu. The Trio also commissioned a work by Boston composer Andy Vores, who was on hand to introduce it.

And like start-ups, Trio Notturno opted for N-1, a living room type space just down the street from Longy School of Music’s Pickman Hall. That choice of location should have been clearly posted in the publicity, as some of us were left hunting for it.

Few but focused folk might have felt Saturday’s evening sunlight ribboning through the many windows, light befitting Notturno’s program, which they named, “Echoes of Debussy.”

By opting for not only a small space but one plainly doubling as classroom and rehearsal room, Trio Notturno placed themselves in a student setting rather than a professional one. And by their smartly doing so, kept any pretentions out. Yet, the three proceeded as seriously as one would expect in concert situations. 

In Sonata for Flute, Viola, and Harp of Debussy, always a welcome choice, Trio Notturno sounded somewhere between a graduate student ensemble and a fledgling young professional one. Theirs is a work-in-progress, one certainly listenable and one that comes with a big bravo—they are out there, getting their feet wet. Underlying all their efforts was a good deal of honest music-making.

Tōru Takemitsu’s And then I knew ‘twas wind (1992) echoes Debussy not only in instrumentation but melodic and harmonic content, if not more. Yet, it is a far cry from the masterly formed oeuvre of the Frenchman. Notturno made what they could of it, bringing as much to the shadowy impressions as have other ensembles more accomplished, more mature, then they.

Flutist Deirdre Viau, violist Ken Allen, and harpist Maria Rindenello-Parker are a good fit together.  Though their intent with Debussy and the echoing Takemitsu was always well-directed, they need to find greater surety and cleanup details in intonation and phrasing.   

Andy Vores told us about his recurring dream about being in a new house with many rooms; it became a favorite, one he would look forward to having. Sleep.House.Field first describes his falling asleep with musical materials each time reappearing more and more slowly. The second part becomes “relentless” because he cannot quite find where he is. The third part is idyllic, a labyrinth requiring the harp to tune certain strings to quarter-tones, which, by way, disrupted the performance.

For the most part, Trio Notturno synced with what was neither old nor new sonically. Sometimes, it was a bit rough going for them over quasi arpeggios and intricacies in the writing.

Nothing really stood out in this world premiere. Connecting those dream images Vores described to his short composition was elusive. Putting a finger the calculus went beyond my listening know-how on this first encounter. Could that have been what the oft-played and well-experienced composer intended, I wondered.

Who are these three?  As no bios were provided on the single-sheet handout or elsewhere, the mystery continued .

David Patterson, Professor of Music and former Chairman of the Performing Arts Department at UMass Boston, was recipient of a Fulbright Scholar Award and the Chancellor’s Distinction in Teaching Award. He studied with Nadia Boulanger and Olivier Messiaen in Paris and holds a PhD from Harvard University.  He is the author of 20 Little Piano Pieces from Around the World (G. Schirmer).

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