The following is a review of David Garner's Seven Noctunes, at the City Composers Concert, November 18th, 2002.
Blueprint for the City
San Francisco Classical Voice
Tuesday, November 26, 2002
"Nicole Paiement is accomplishing something remarkable on the fringes of the music scene here in the big bad city. Little noted by the print media, her ongoing music festival featuring the San Francisco Conservatory New Music Ensemble, Parallèle Ensemble, and other fine musicians under her direction presents a scope of intriguing works from Messiaen, Berio, and Bolcom to Chou Wen-chung and Chinary Ung. Along the way, the big names are intelligently referenced as those who carry on their tradition in contemporary music. Thus, in the often chaotic and obscured landscape of new music, Paiement’s programming reveals a sense of vision and foresight.
Monday night’s installment, “City Composers,” kept to that vision. The handful of honored contributors were largely recognizable as instructors with the San Francisco Conservatory — David Conte, Alden Jenks, David Garner, and Dan Becker, with Conrad Susa thrown in for very good measure. Still, it is a testament to the future of good taste how decidedly un-scholastic most of this music was, and how nicely it held and satisfied both interest and emotion.
Any of the works would be standouts in a typical chamber concert program. The leading light was Garner's Seven Nocturnes, for a full and richly utilized chamber ensemble supporting Marie Bafus in a setting of texts by Greek poet Odysseus Elytis. Bafus sang with poise and grace, her joy and excitement embracing ensemble and audience alike. Her voice is everything a mezzo’s should be: warm and clear in the center, directed and unambiguous on the lower notes, bright and spacious at the top of the staff. The music glittered and fluttered around the poetic texts, bringing to life with craft and honesty the accounting of dreams, emotional memory, and the unbearable beauty of nature..."