Earlier this month I ran a story on my national site about the first West Coast tour to be given by the City of Tomorrow, which describes itself as a “Retro-Futurist” wind quintet on its home page. The quintet’s five members (Elise Blatchford on flute, Andrew Nogal on oboe, Camila Barrientos on clarinet, Laura Miller on bassoon, and Leander Star on horn) are based is four different American cities: New York, Chicago, Portland (Oregon), and San Antonio. Yet they have managed quite well as a group, and in May of 2011 they won the gold medal at the Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition.
Their tour will include a performance in the Old First Concerts recital series at Old First Church. This will be a particularly important evening, since the program will feature the United States premiere of a wind quintet by the British composer Rob Keeley. This work was composed between 2003 and 2011, and City of Tomorrow performed the world premiere this past December. Structured in four movements, the piece is a retrospective reflection on major influences from the twentieth century, including the birdcalls of Olivier Messiaen, the imaginative dissonances of Igor Stravinsky, and Béla Bartók’s fascination with Eastern European folk sources.
The program will also feature an early work by the twenty-year-old Magnus Lindberg. When “Arabesques” was composed in 1978, Lindberg will still a student at the Sibelius Academy in Helsinki, where his principal teachers were Einojuhani Rautavaara and Paavo Heininen. The title refers to the visual symmetries in arabesque patterns, which are reflected by palindromic patterns in the melody lines.
At the time “Arabesques” was written, one of Lindberg’s major influences was Luciano Berio. Thus, the City of Tomorrow program will also include Berio’s “Ricorrenze” (occurrences). This would not have been a direct influence on “Arabesques,” since Berio completed it in 1987. However, it is representative of the high-energy style that can also be found in Lindberg, while also reflecting Berio’s long-time interest in psycholinguistics through the use of “stuttering” rhythms.
If City of Tomorrow is truly “Retro-Futurist,” then their “retro” side will be covered by a “retro” composition by Darius Milhaud. His “La cheminée du roi René” (King René’s hearth) is often described as the first modern classic for wind quintet. However, the music was inspired by medieval sources from the time of King René I. The piece is a seven-movement suite taken from the soundtrack Milhaud composed for Raymond Bernard’s Cavalcade D’Amour (love cavalcade), which was structured as three stories, all set in the Chateau de Champs but at different times, 1639, 1839, and 1939.
This concert will take place at Old First Church (1751 Sacramento Street on the southeast corner of Van Ness Avenue). It will begin at 8 p.m. on Friday, March 15. General admission is $17 with a special $14 rate for full-time students and seniors. Children under twelve are admitted without charge. Further information may be obtained by calling 415-474-1608; and tickets may be purchased on-line through the event page on the Old First Concerts Web site.
Earlier in the week City of Tomorrow will collectively give a Woodwind Master Class at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. This will take place on Tuesday, March 12, at 7:30 p.m. It will be held in the Osher Salon in the Conservatory building at 50 Oak Street. Like most master classes hosted by the Conservatory, it will be free and open to the general public.