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June in Buffalo: a recap

The continuing legacy of the June in Buffalo Festival can be judged by the impressive number of former participants who have spent a week exploring musical possibilities and then gone on to perpetuate the ideas discovered and/or honed here.

That said, the players and composers filing into the classrooms and auditoriums at University at Buffalo’s Baird and Slee Halls this past week, practice a rarefied art, one where advancing musical techniques create and experiment with something different (sometimes bracingly so) from what has gone before.

Norway was a big contributor to JIB this year.

The Cikada Trio, a subset of the Cikada ensemble from Norway, performed June 5 playing music written by a quartet of composers based at the Norwegian Academy of Music. Two of the composers (Henrik Hellstenius and Elvid Buene) were pare of the JIB staff and another pair of professors from the school (Maja Ratkie and Asbjorn Schaathun) had works performed in the concert.

On June 6, a performance by Bifrost Ensemble , a sextet of graduate students from the Academy, also included a world premiere by Jonas Skaarud (another graduate student at the Academy) in the same company as Morton Felder’s “King of Denmark” and three works by students in the UB Composition Program.

 This year the Stanford-based composer Brian Fernyhough had to drop out of the proceedings and Josh Levine, one of his former students and an educator in his own right, stepped in to fill the gap.

Fernyhough’s music was still performed as scheduled, but two of Levine’s short pieces for piano and cello were tacked on to the Mivos Quartet concert June 7 and performed by two members of the Slee Sinfonietta, Jade Conlee and Tyler J. Borden.

Two multi-faceted groups, Ensemble Dal Niente and Ensemble Signal, provided enough skilled players to fulfill the requirements of various chamber music pieces, the perfect foil for a wide-ranging sonic schedule. In addition to aiding the composers already mentioned, these groups enabled the “Senior Composers” on the JIB faculty (David Dzubay, Jeffrey Mumford and the festival’s director, David Felder) to present some of the most interesting music of the week.

Violinist Irvine Arditti was, for all intents and purposes, the featured musician for this year’s JIB. He took part in some of the most widely anticipated concerts of the festival – an appearance June 10 as the soloist in Ferneyhough’s “Terrain,” a four-movement preview of Felder’s new Violin Concerto, and an amazing solo performance June 8  that featured Arditti, his violin, and a lineup of nine music stands holding the scores he was playing. He was literally shuffling from left to right as he was reading the music and digging deep into the technical aspect of performing the task at hand.

 The Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra featured in the closing concert on June 11 with a pair of works from Felder (including the world premiere of “Canzona” for brass ensemble) and large-scale pieces by Dzubay and Mumford.

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