I went last night to the opening of Trinity Wall Street's festival of the sacred Stravinsky — an imposing program that included Threni, Abraham and Isaac (with the great Sanford Sylvan), and The Flood. In the crowd were more than a few veteran concertgoers and musicians who were hearing Threni for the first time live; the work has been absent from New York for many years. It's immensely difficult music, and Julian Wachner's performance wasn't always immaculate, but the eerie intensity of Stravinsky's engagement with Lamentations came through. The power and warmth of Trinity Choir banished any sense that this is cold and inexpressive music. The festival continues tonight and tomorrow afternoon, with renditions of Canticum Sacrum, Requiem Canticles, Cantata, Mass, and Symphony of Psalms. The orchestra, NOVUS NY, is well stocked with excellent young free-lancers; Owen Dalby is the concertmaster, and Alex Sopp, James Austin Smith, and Alicia Lee lead the winds. The lavish program booklet contains three characteristically learned and lively essays by Matthew Guerrieri, featuring epigraphs from, respectively, Ralph Ellison, David Bowie, and Pope Pius X.
My Threni score once belonged to the conductor Charles Groves. I picked it up at Travis & Emery, the wonderful music-book store on Cecil Court in London. I go there every time I'm in the city, invariably leaving with a stack of finds that causes headaches when it comes time to pack my suitcase. Much of Travis & Emery's stock comes from musicians' estates purchased at one time or another over the years; I have scores that were formerly the property of the composers Anthony Milner and Howard Ferguson, and my bound copy of the Beethoven piano concertos belonged to the legendary horn player Alan Civil. I'm listening now to Milner's First Symphony, a toughly argued one-movement score that's worthy of occasional revival.
Previously: Marked up.