“The beauty of new music is that there is no tradition,” said violinist Kathleen Winkler upon performing the world premiere of Broad and Free by Pulitzer Prize–winning composer (and Winkler’s former student at Rice University) Caroline Shaw. Shaw certainly breaks tradition in her piece for violin and piano, commissioned by the Music Academy of the West, which begins with the pensive repetition of a single note on the piano and expressive, fractured cries from the violin. Both instrumentations grow in speed until an abrupt halt, followed by a united, free-flowing melody reminiscent of a bird taking its first flight. The piano component remains simple throughout, relying on variations in volume to color the composition executed by the masterful hands of Conor Hanick. As both instruments captivate with simplicity, the artists can exercise the personal freedoms that the piece’s title suggests.
The program also included Jean Francaix’s 1994 Trio for piano, bassoon, and oboe, a vibrant blend of three unique musical textures commencing in medias res and continuing with fervor through its duration. The brightness of the oboe and the mercurial capabilities of the bassoon are much like arguing siblings to the maternal, grounding presence of the piano. These quirky, relevant pieces revealed the inspiring possibilities intrinsic to new music.