Review: Decades Later, a Classic Concert Gets a Redo

New York Times

Sunday’s program, “New Music Then & Now,” included recent works by Caroline Shaw and Matthew Ricketts and a premiere by Hannah Lash. But even in the company of new scores by three young composers, Berio’s ingenious “Circles,” composed in 1960, sounded arrestingly fresh.

Ms. Shaw is the only candidate for a doctoral degree in the history of Princeton University whose résumé already includes a Pulitzer Prize for music (awarded in 2013 to her “Partita for 8 Voices”). A beguiling and quirky sensibility runs through her best pieces, as in the 2016 work presented here, “First Essay: Nimrod,” performed by the excellent Calidore String Quartet. At the start, the music (inspired by the writings of Marilynne Robinson) is genial with bits of breezy tunes and lilting riffs. Soon, chords slip out of focus, phrases turn fidgety, lines become curiously repetitive. And so it continues as the piece unfolds, at one point breaking into a babble of busyness.

Ms. Lash, in “How to Remember Seeds” for string quartet, attempts to fracture, tweak and develop little motifs and figures. You hear the intricate tinkering right through. The music was curiously dominated by its surface qualities, which, to me, evoked the plush sonorities and soaring lines of Ravel. The Calidore players brought rich sound and articulate grace to the piece, which ended the final concert of the 60th season of this important series.
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