Concert Review: Alterity at The Abbey
Alterity Chamber Orchestra directed by Laszlo Marosi
Thursday, February 28 th at The Abbey event lounge in Orlando
In February 2018 the New York Times reviewed the Timucua Ars
Foundation’s chamber orchestra, Alterity, commending its “passion
without formality” in presenting contemporary classical music.
One year on, in an event lounge bursting at the seams, an enthusiastic
audience could attest to the validity of this observation. Casually attired
Alterity co-founder and director Chris Belt, holding his baby daughter,
called Maestro Laszlo Marosi to the podium, ushering in a 90 minute
program of virtuosic works all written within the last few years.
For the first piece, Equilibrium, by Canadian Jordan Nobles, the stage was
nearly empty, most of the 15 musicians (including baby’s mother, oboist
Beatriz Ramirez-Belt) distributed around the perimeter of the space. 15
minutes of extended lines and liquid flourishes bathed the listener in an
ambience of utter serenity.
The players regrouped on stage for Hwangmuji (The Waste Land) by
Korean, Chang Seok Choi; four movements where widely contrasting
gestures kept darting back and forth between the players and the
frequent breathy flute glissandi evoked, at least for this listener, the
bamboo flutes of the composer’s homeland.
Nightjar by Timo Andres closed out the first half. This intriguing and
inventive piece starts with sounds from the percussion that one imagines
could have been actual recordings of creatures of the night. These
seemed to morph organically into attractive minimalist gestures in the
woodwind, eventually giving rise to gentle, sustained diatonic chords.
What a welcome reminder that harmony as we know it still holds a place
in the tool kit of the 21 st century composer!
All the pieces belied their apparent ease of delivery, depending on split-
second timing and spot-on intonation, not to mention an intuitive sense
of pacing and phrasing. At the helm Maestro Marosi was an unobtrusive
yet indispensable presence. Central Florida audiences really need to see
more of this brilliant, internationally acclaimed conductor, not only for
his mastery with the baton but his persuasive advocacy of music in all its
forms. Somehow his delightfully whimsical commentary, including
references to his mother’s 108 year old Hungarian neighbor, came across
as entirely relevant and certainly deepened our sense of perspective and
enjoyment of all the music on offer.
Next, Mexican Juan Andres Vergara Avilez introduced his work Lines:
Desert Whispers. Perhaps cognizant of the residual noise – the bar had
been open during the interval – the young composer was at pains to
point out that we were about to experience a very, very quiet piece!
He need not have worried. His work was savored in focused and
attentive silence. It featured much use of arpeggiated string harmonics
and moved in an effective manner to human generated unvoiced
impressions of desert breezes. As with all the works that evening the
audience greeted it with enthusiastic applause.
Andrew Norman’s Try began with sustained outbursts of energy:
chattering woodwinds, crackling brass and hectically sliding strings all
vying for the limelight. It made for a fascinating and thoroughly engaging
several minutes. Bit by bit the energy dissipated, yet paradoxically, with
no let up in intensity, as pianist William Daniels with painstaking, almost
agonizing effort, reiterated nearly identical descending chords that faded
till we were left with nothing.
And yes, for those who share this listener’s severe ‘concert-baby-itis’,
Chris and Beatriz Belt’s adorable infant was neither to be seen nor heard
during this moment nor in any of the pieces.
One year on from that New York Times article, last Thursday’s
performance by the Alterity Chamber Orchestra exhibited the same
amalgam of professionalism and informality that so impressed its author.
Even without reference to such a distinguished endorsement, any
contemporary classical music group that on a weekday evening not only
attracts an audience upward of 250 but holds them in rapt attention for
the best part of two hours, is obviously doing something right!