On a recent Thursday, I hopped on the 2 train to the Wall Street stop for a midday concert at Trinity Church that turned out to be a stunner—in a setting that is also stunning. I had come primarily for the new music (the concert featured a world premiere and two New York premieres), but it was nice to be in this beautiful, historic space, which is home to the church’s long-running free Concerts at One series that presents everything from classical music to opera and jazz. The New York-based Metropolis Ensemble, led by music director Andrew Cyr, played one hour of music, and amazingly (at least to me) two of the three composers whose works were performed were present—Anna Clyne and Timothy Andres.
The orchestra members all stood (except cellos) for the concert. Opening the concert was Andres’s Paraphrase on Themes of Brian Eno for chamber orchestra with piano, a world premiere commissioned by the Metropolis Ensemble. Andres, who is a pianist as well as a composer, served as soloist. The meditative piece was well-suited to the church’s vaulted spaces; it featured a lot of slow-moving pedal points, contrasting, offbeat raindrop-style entrances by the piano, some jazzy chords, bent pitches by strings, and a cascading, echoey, pastoral rising figure. It ended with bassoons playing in perfect fifths. Andrew Norman’s dramatic, frenetic Gran Turismo followed, with strings sawing away wildly to start the piece, followed by a murky, Herrmann-like slower section, and finally a shrieky finale punctuated with four sets of sharply accented clusters, separated by silence. Anna Clyne’s Within Her Arms (a New York premiere) was next; this is a piece she wrote after her mother died, and she explained to the audience before the piece began that they would be hearing the orchestra audibly inhaling and exhaling as part of the score. This is a gentle, elegiac piece with lots of sustained notes and a melody that passes from one violinist to another; one neat effect was a pedal point held by barely audible brass (three words not often used in the same phrase). The final work, Andres’s Home Stretch (a New York premiere), featured the composer again on piano, providing in the early part of the work smudges of color not in the same key or tonic as strings, who held long pedal chords. In the second section of the work, the piano took a more prominent role, with a wild series of crashing chords. In the work’s final section, the piano set off a chain reaction in the orchestra of sixteenth-note patterns, repeated over and over.
Cyr, the conductor, looked wiped out after the concert. But that was the only point at which the thought occurred: these pieces are not easy. I would have liked to hear the concert again—and in fact the Trinity Wall Street concert was sort of a warm-up to that evening’s concert of a slightly expanded version of the same program at the Angel Orensanz Center. Both Trinity Wall Street and the Orensanz Center were not conceived originally as performance spaces; one is a church and the other was a synagogue, both great surroundings for experiencing new music.
By the way, you can listen to the concert reviewed here at Trinity’s website.
Image: Trinity Church.