The Intermezzo series at Spoleto Festival USA provides an air-conditioned break in the late afternoon and an exciting way to hear some old and some new music of uncommon interest.
Monday afternoon at St. Matthew's Lutheran Church the choice for Intermezzo III was all new music. Conductor John Kennedy led members of the Spoleto Festival Orchestra.
Estonian composer Arvo Part writes in a style dubbed holy minimalism, but which he calls tintinnabuli (ringing of bells). His composition "Fratres" started out as a string quintet and has been recomposed for various instrumental combinations, the latest for small chamber orchestra. Kennedy presented Part's simple harmonies with a moody melancholy.
American composer Lou Harrison wrote his "Seven Pastorales" in 1952, with each section a dedication to or for various people including his mother and brother and composer John Cage. Generally happy, there was an underlaying tinge of sadness and resignation. Kennedy and the ensemble successfully relayed Harrison's feelings.
Russian composer Alfred Schnittke who suffered numerous heart attacks usually composed very serious, dour music. His Moz-Art for two violins is different. It is humorous and fun, with distorted musical quotes. Violinists Delcho Tenev and Yordan Tenev had all the skill and talent to bring this off.
American Michael Daugherty (b. 1954) is influenced by pop culture, Romanticism and postmodernism. His "Dead Elvis" for bassoon and chamber ensemble is also laugh-out-loud funny, with somewhat distorted quotes from the classical and popular music sectors, all to an engaging swing beat.
Bassoonist Ben Moermond was soloist as Kennedy directed the orchestra members in a clever, fully realized performance.