Music Review - Gilbert Kalish - At Merkin Hall, a Tribute to Messiaen Showcases His Students -

Birds of a Feather: Messiaen and His Legacy The program at Merkin Concert Hall featured Gilbert Kalish in a tribute to the composer.


ArtsBeat The latest on the arts, coverage of live events, critical reviews, multimedia extravaganzas and much more. Join the discussion. More Arts News Yet that single delayed Messiaen work - “Oiseaux Exotiques” (1956), electrifyingly performed - rolled over the rest of the program like a tidal wave. Not that the other composers' works were less vivid, in their different ways, but each explored an element or two that linked its composer to Messiaen. “Oiseaux Exotiques” offers nearly the full slate of Messiaen's signature moves: themes drawn substantially from birdcalls, though filtered through Messiaen's pointed harmonic sensibilities, rhythms based on patterns found in Asian music and a pervasive sense of the mystical (if not quite the specific references to Roman Catholic theology that provide signposts in many of his other works). Gilbert Kalish painted Messiaen's bursts of solo piano writing in bright hues and with sharply defined edges, an approach matched by the woodwinds, brasses and percussion of the Stony Brook Contemporary Chamber Players, led by Eduardo Leandro. The concert began with Mr. Gaussin's “Satori,” which touched on Messiaen's spiritual side, although the influence here is Buddhist: the title refers to the moment of inner awakening and oneness with the universe. The music, for solo clarinet, evokes that moment in slow motion; a pianissimo line, slow moving and with bent pitches, gradually becomes louder, faster and more densely chromatic. Carol McGonnell, the clarinetist, made her way from the meditative patience of the opening to the ecstasy of the finale with inexorable momentum and carefully calibrated virtuosity. In Mr. Murail's “Courants de l'Espace,” performed by the Argento Chamber Ensemble and the Stony Brook group, the common ground was the ondes martenot, an electronic keyboard instrument that Messiaen used in several works. Mr. Murail, who played the ondes martenot line himself, used the instrument subtly, as part of the orchestral texture, often doubling string or vibraphone lines. Like Mr. Gaussin's work, “Courants” evolves from the simple (a sustained tone) to the complex (clusters that jangle like a machine gone haywire). Grisey's “Manifestations” evolves, at first, almost exactly like Mr. Murail's piece, but it also includes an amusing central movement that includes blowing up and bursting balloons, and a finale that sets a pair of gracefully melodic flute lines against the ensemble's sustained dissonances. Face the Music, a student ensemble (ages 11 to 16) gave a knockout performance, directed by Jennifer Undercofler. A