As a music student in New York, I joined many other youngsters in going to Town Hall concerts almost every night. There we could hear, for a buck or so, all kinds of concerts and a lot of them were people doing what was called “modern music,” a term that gave performers such as John Cage license to do anything outlandish, and call it “music.” Some of it was the loudest thing I had heard since we landed on Okinawa. The old saw “the king is wearing no clothes” is often employed when music critics tell the truth about music that is simply “noise.”
In Tiedtke Hall, on Jan. 29, the Bach Festival Society brought the Manhattan Brass quintet, whose excellent players offered a modicum of non-jarring melodic music perhaps to repay those who politely endured as much noise as five healthy brassists can manage.
Bernstein opened the show with arrangements from his immortal “West Side Story”. Touchdown! Awright areddy…
Don Carlo Gesualdo (1566-1613) gave us three modal madrigals sauced with plenty of dissonance that lent them a “mod” sound.
J.S. Bach's “Ricercare a Tre” was played straight, and still had an esoteric sound that made modern ears suspicious.
Seymour Barab described the “Seven Deadly Sins” in music and though some were catchy and innovative, I had a hard time keeping my sins straight. The last sin was Anger, where the instruments did just what angry people do — they all kept yakking at the same time.
Dissonant Persechetti, after the pause, held little to please. Then Bach again — welcome Johann!
Sophia, of Paquito d'Rivera, closed the program with jaunty, jazzy licks.