Good music at Weill Hall

Last Tuesday 11/24 I went with a friend to Weill Hall to see the annual Classical Recording Foundation awards ceremony.  The CRF was founded to stimulate classical music recording by funding recoding projects by labels and artists. “Unlike major labels, which are profit driven and therefore can commit only to a limited number of artists and repertoire, CRF encourages artists to release performances of their choosing, of music about which they are passionate.”

This is a worthy cause and, although not all the performances were top of the line, a few pieces in particular stood out.  These were the pieces by the CRF Composer of the Year and Fritz Reiner Professor of Musical Composition at Columbia University, Fred Lerdahl.  Lerdahl’s contemporary compositions were brilliantly innovative without sacrificing tonality and appeal.  They were played to perfection by the extremely talented Argento Chamber Ensemble, which focuses exclusively on contemporary Western classical music.

During the group piece (I wasn’t given a program, so don’t know which piece it was), Argento’s conductor Michel Galante led pianist Joanna Chao and percussionist Matt Ward on  in perfect unison during a particularly challenging section.  Violinist Miranda Cuckson played vividly and so sweetly in tune (flat notes are a bete noire of mine, especially in contemporary music where it is so important to have exact tuning).  Joanna Chao’s solo performance of Lerdahl’s “Three Diatonic Studies” included “Chasing Goldberg”, a variation of a Goldberg variation commissioned by the Irving S. Gilmore International Keyboard Festival.  The brief piece was exceedingly pleasant and I’m looking forward to hearing it again when it is released in 2010 as part of Lerdahl’s Volume 3 (Peters).