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Artists-entrepreneurs: The Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw Young Artists Concert

May 12th, 2009 · 2 Comments · Entrepreneurs, Talents, Innovators

Guest Author: Sophie Delphis

The May 9th Osvaldo Golijov and Dawn Upshaw Young Artists Concert, the first of two showcasing eight young composers and their original commissions (unfortunately, I was unable to attend the second concert), was an experience that is seldom afforded to audiences. The atmosphere in Carnegie’s Zankel Hall was familiar and excited – here were rows of seats filled with the devotees of the composers and performers of the evening. We were all partners in crime.

Attending a concert of new music is a tricky affair and represents polar opposite possibilities: will the program be the discovery of an exciting new voice? Or… not. As I am used to new music evenings that are, at best, uneven in their ability to hold my interest, I was happily surprised to find that I was never bored by what I saw and heard before me — far from it, in fact. I was consistently curious to see what would unfold in each of the four pieces. Even in those instances when I did not like a compositional or interpretational decision, I remained connected. This is the testimony to the four works on the docket; if there was a theme in style for the evening, it was each composer’s compulsion to grab the audience. We were not alienated by artists too caught up in their ideology to care whether we were along for the ride or left on the doorsteps following the program notes to pass the time. Kudos to Lev “Ljova” Zhurbin for his Niña Dances, Paola Prestini for her Oceanic Verses, Matti Kovler for Here Comes Messiah!, and David T. Little for his Scenes from Dog Days. All four premières were supported all the more by strong performances from the vocalists as well as the workshop ensembles, and remarkably conducted by Alan Pierson.

Matti Kovler’s Here Comes Messiah! 
It is not surprising that I felt a particularly strong connection to Matti’s piece: I was there namely as part of his retinue. I am also familiar with his compositional idiom, and Here Comes Messiah! was clearly marked with the Kovler stamp. Matti’s instruments are not merely textural tools, but characters themselves. As the piece began, the breaths and physical movements of his solo singer, Tehila Goldstein (see picture with Matti), were echoed and magnified by the ensemble. From this point, there was no question that we were not watching a poem with orchestral accompaniment, but instead the group effort of a large cast of players – in which extraordinary poet-translator, Janice Silverman Rebibo unambiguously belongs. It was particularly in the second part of the piece that this group dynamic gained a strong hold over the audience’s attention. In the climax before the third and final part, the performers’ grip on the room was visceral, tangible, in a series of fortissimo pulses (labor pangs) from the instrumentalists, and exclamations from Tehila Goldstein. Here the expressivity she had already demonstrated earlier intensified exponentially, in her face, her stance, the timbre of her voice. Matti was at the piano, and he brilliantly made use of it in this passage, as both a harmonic and percussive instrument, driving the sound of the others around him. 

Although his part in Here Comes Messiah! is less central than in his Cokboy (performed earlier this year in Boston), and the work revolves around a woman’s experience in child birth, it is, nonetheless, entirely an extension of Matti himself. He is wholly present in his music, and not simply because of his compositional language or aesthetic. The audience does not need to be introduced to the composer, or his thought process, to become privy to his internal world – he wills us to come in. 

Additional information

Lev Zhurbin:

Paola Prestini:

Matti Kovler: My mother and I also wrote a post about Cokboy last January:

David T. Little:

Janice Silverman Rebibo:

Tehila Nini Goldstein:

Alan Pierson:



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2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 chen // May 13, 2009 at 10:54 am

    very absorbing writing!! I am totally taken…. can the actual music be better than this?

  • 2 Sophie // May 13, 2009 at 3:31 pm

    Thank you! I’m looking forward to hearing a recording of the concert – I hope Matti will have one on his site for us.

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