There’s too much death in the news--which is hardly news. Word about Prince came the morning after I attended a memorial concert at Disney Hall for the late Steven Stucky. He had been L.A. Phil’s composer-in-residence for years, but obviously his role was more various and extensive. He seemed to be a discerning, genial, encouraging presence that helped make the orchestra what it is.
The first half of the program was devoted to his own work. I discovered what everybody else there knew—that Stucky composed compelling music. It’s not programmatic, didactic or confrontational. He was neither an abstractionist or revivalist. There was no label to attach to him, other than humane modernist. Which is probably the reason he found a receptive audience in the town where many forms of modernism (fine arts, architecture, design) found domestic and genial modes.
The Four Album Leaves (2002) for solo piano were delicious, as was The Music of Light (2016) for unaccompanied choir. But the revelation was Nell’ombra, nella luce (2000), a compact—17 minute—string quartet that is rich and dense as a symphony, and lyrically direct as a pop standard. It was radiant and light, but intermittently troubled. The different moods are given equal weight.
Then there was a series of homages and works by colleagues. This was movingly staged. The six brief solo piano works (by James Matheson, Anders Hillborg, Mandy Fang, Joseph Phibbs, Magnus Lindberg, Esa-Pekka Salonen) were performed by six local heroes of progressive pianism (Nic Gerpe, Susan Svrcek, Mark Robson, Vicki Ray, Steven Vanhauwaert, Gloria Cheng).
The emotionally-charged event ended gracefully, with Hila Plitmann’s wonderfully vivid and funny performance of Lutoslawski’s Chantefleurs et chantefables.
[Image: Open window with hills (Juan Gris, 1923)]