Wednesday afternoon's "Music in Time" in Simons Recital Hall was a delightful, thought-provoking survey of the music of Neely Bruce, who launched into dazzling performances.
The opening works were ragtime. The first, "Louis Chauvin Surveys the Current State of Affairs," briefly quoted from Scott Joplin's "Heliotrope Bouquet."
"Furniture Music in the Form of Fifty Rag Licks" also was a rag, but in honor of Erik Satie, the composition was laid out on 50 cards, each with four measures of music.
Bruce shuffled the cards, got an audience member to cut the deck, and he was off and running. The short phrases of ragtime were great fun.
"Music for Dancing II" was quite different. It is a work for solo flute, heavily influenced by traditional Japanese music. Leah Arsenault played with firm mastery, particularly the passages in soft, high harmonics.
The program closed with the premiere performance of "Three Sonnets of Eileen Albrizio," scored for tenor, piano and chamber ensemble.
Zachary Stains was the elegant and crystal-clear tenor. Bruce used the ensemble of flute, oboe, cello, double bass, piano and percussion in constantly varying combinations.
The first sonnet, "Iris," was delicate and piquant, and never noisy, even with mallet instruments spread all across the back of the stage.
"Footprints in the Snow" evoked Schubert's "Die Winterreise," but this sonnet ended on notes of comfort and peace.
"The Fawn" had an unusual twist at the end, leaving the listener with much to ponder. Throughout Stains used just the right amount of gesture and facial expression to heighten the emotion, yet never obviously "acted." This was music one wished to hear again and again, immediately and in the future.