More than two dozen musicians from the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra will descend upon Eddie’s Attic in Decatur this Sunday evening, April 28, for a reprise of “United by Music,” last September‘s highly successful chamber music marathon organized by the ASO Players Association as one response to the month-long lockout of the orchestra’s musicians that had ended just days before. As with that concert, the proceeds will benefit the musicians through the Players Association.
ASO Associate Principal Violist Paul Murphy, the current president of the players’ association, and ASO percussionist Charles Settle, who headed up coordination of this year’s program, say that Sunday’s concert at the Attic promises variety, from classics by J.S. Bach and Mozart to the contemporary sounds of John Coltrane, Luciano Berio and Steve Reich. Concertmaster David Coucheron, who was not able to participate last year, will be among those performing, as will other ASO principals and rank-and-file musicians representing every section of the orchestra: strings, woodwinds, brass and percussion.
“ ‘United by Music’ speaks to the connection and collegiality we all feel for each other, whether with all 88 of us onstage playing Beethoven, Brahms or Mahler, or in small groups,” Murphy says. “This is a great opportunity for the public to see the depth of the Atlanta Symphony musicians in an intimate, up-close setting.”
ArtsATL was present at last year’s “United by Music,” where even standing room was scarce during much of the performance. If that’s any indication, fans can be expected to show up in large numbers again this time.
Only two days later, on Tuesday, April 30, another group drawn from the ranks of ASO musicians, the Riverside Chamber Players, will perform at Eddie’s Attic to celebrate the release of their new CD, “The Music of Michael Kurth.” Last July, Riverside became the first classical chamber group to perform in what has become the Attic’s impressive series of casual classical chamber concerts under the venue’s current ownership. (Full disclosure: earlier this year, the Riverside players debuted a work called “Piano Trio” by this author.)
Riverside’s cellist and artistic director, Joel Dallow, says the new Kurth CD is available at the ASO store, although he is quick to add that a special discount will be offered to those who buy it at Tuesday’s official CD release concert.
In addition to being a contrabassist in the ASO, Michael Kurth is Riverside’s composer-in-residence. His music will make up all of the concert except for the opening suite, “I’ve Been to the Ocean,” by Dallow’s father, composer Brian Dallow. Three of the pieces by Kurth — “Mean Old Pony Tango,” “Tanglish” and “Torcedura Azul” (“Blue Twist”) — also appear on the CD. Five other works on the program include contrabass and percussion, works that involve more instruments than the basic string quartet on the CD.
Interestingly, two of the CD’s tracks are live performances recorded at Eddie’s Attic: ‘“Torcedura Azul” and “Variations on Be Thou My Vision.” The rest were recorded without an audience at the Murray Arts Center in Kennesaw.
For those who have heard only Kurth’s orchestral set “Everything Lasts Forever,” which was premiered at the beginning of this month by Robert Spano and the ASO, his chamber music reveals the kind of upfront compositions for which Kurth is best known. His music is simple without being simplistic, yet sophisticated without being gratuitously complex. The music is exceptionally approachable, but there is also much musical and compositional depth.
Kurth has a penchant for tango that’s expressed in several works on the CD, and his arrangements of traditional tunes, “Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child” and “Be Thou My Vision,” take them musically far beyond what typical “church” arrangers do. Only one track asks for more than string quartet by including classical guitar, Kurth’s sole arrangement on the CD of music by another living composer: Richard Clegg’s “Bells of the Solstice.”
Although it hardly includes everything he’s written, this new Riverside CD is an easy one-hour exploration of Kurth’s self-acknowledged populist approach to composing chamber music. It won’t leave either the traditional classical sophisticate nor the average classical music fan disappointed.