After having to miss out last year, this blogger is back on the shore of the slate grey Pacific for the Tenth Annual Carlsbad Music Festival. As I did in 2011, I will be attempting to post here over the arc of the weekend to report what I have seen and, particularly, heard.
Friday evening at CMF means it must be time for the Village Music Walk, five hours of free performances out of doors and in spaces large and (mostly) small throughout the Village of Carlsbad. (The Walk has proven sufficiently popular that it expanded to a second freestanding night this past June, and will do so again next year.)
The early going this year involved heaping helpings of early-period Philip Glass, to which I confess I am partial. First, beneath the gazebo/bandstand in Magee Park, What's Next? Ensemble from Los Angeles dove into a loping grooving reading of "Music in Similar Motion" (1969). I posted a quick video clip of that performance to Instagram. What's Next? also has a featured afternoon slot, indoors, on Saturday's Festival program.
A short stroll down the block led to the lovely wooden chapel at Saint Michael's by-the-Sea Episcopal Church—which has become a much-used venue for Festival performances—where Claire Chase began her set with Glass's "Piece in the Shape of a Square" (1967). I knew of that piece by name—it is in part a play on Satie's "Piece in the Shape of a Pear"—but had never heard it before, and I had long wondered what the title actually meant. Now I know: the piece is written for two flutes, and the score is to be stretched, like the Bayeux Tapestry, in a long sequence across music stands arranged in, yes, roughly a square. The players literally follow the score, moving around the square in opposite directions. Claire Chase may be a MacArthur "Genius," but she is still only one person, so she played one part moving around the tight square/pear-shaped score accompanied by a recording of herself. It was delicious. (The piece is included on Ms. Chase's forthcoming album, Density, as are the pieces she will perform on her Saturday night featured set.)
This blogger's itinerary took him next into the main sanctuary of Saint Michael's for Josephine McGrath, Saint Michael's parish organist, who performed a pair of sets, one at the organ and one at the piano. The organ pieces on offer were a ponderous Liszt "Introitus" (from the composer's no-fun-anymore period), an arrangement of the much-loved Barber Adagio for Strings, and Percy Fletcher's "Festival Tocatta," one of those very British late Imperial organ pieces that is so grand and sefl-satisfied that it threatens to run off and join the circus at any moment. Ms. McGrath's piano performance took place across the way at the Saint Michael's parish hall. In that inelegant venue, she offered an elegant and deftly played 20th Century program of John Adams ("China Gates", which I last heard live when Vicky Chow played it here in 2011), Bartok ("Night Music"), Ligeti (a movement from "Musica Ricercata" with an exhausting thrum in the left hand) and, for the homespun traditionalists, a Rachmaninoff etude.
The phenomenon of soloists playing live against recorded or on-the-fly digital samples of themselves: do they teach this in the graduate music programs now? Everyone, it seems, is doing it, and there is some fine music coming out in the process. That was the approach taken by Calder Quartet cellist, Eric Byers, back in the chapel, with two pieces of his own sandwiching a Tallis-inspired work by Caroline Shaw.
Time next for a breath of the evening air and a bolt across the Village for another solo cello set, this one unaccompanied by digitalia, by Jennifer Bewerse, in the cramped, ukulele bedecked confines of the Giacoletti Music shop. The church and the music shop were at opposite corners of the Music Walk zone, so I missed the first portion of Ms. Bewerse's performance in transit (something by Britten, I think?), but enjoyed the varied riparian textures of "Rio Del Tizon" by Yu-Hui Chang.
A blur sets in at this point, as a bit of a ramble over the course of 45 minutes led to an outdoor live-accompaniment silent film, the end of a psychebluesian Theremin-stoked outdoor performance by Nice World (I regret not catching that whole set, which appeared to have been properly outthere) and the post-post anarchic stylings of no know (sound band) [video clip here].
Finally, for what proved to be the final stop of my evening, it was back inside Giacoletti Music for Low Frequency Ensemble, consisting on this occasion of contrabass, trombone, saxophone and french horn. The program was bracketed by arrangements of sacred pieces by Palestrina and Josquin des Prez, with the filling to the sandwich being Michael Gordon's "The Low Quartet" (for any four low instruments), which the composer aptly describes as sounding "like fat cows grooving." With that, the hour growing late-ish, this blogger mooved and grooved off into the night.
Photos and rudimentary processing by the blogger.