A rare evening of two world premieres commenced at this Saturday, July 15, performance at the Granada Theatre of the Music Academy of the West’s Festival Orchestra, both out of existing compositions reworked to evince the remarkable talent of the conservatory’s 2017 fellows. William Neil’s Concerto for Piccolo Clarinet, originally composed in 1978 as a small chamber piece, made its way into the program at the hands of clarinet fellow Fàtima Boix Cantó, who reached out to Neil, asking for an arrangement for orchestra. Boix Canto brought the underdog piccolo into the spotlight in a snake-charmer-esque performance full of ornamented technical intricacies and elements of jazz, performing with the stage presence of a professional soloist.
Pulled together from his darkly toned 2015 opera about American poet Walt Whitman’s experience as a Civil War nurse, composer Matthew Aucoin’s Suite from Crossing featured baritone fellow Ian Walker in a performance blending intelligent lyrics complemented by beautifully complex orchestral mastery. The use of a chorus as a section of the orchestra added a hypnotic texture to the melodic despondence, at times evocative of American folk music. The Suite is deeply moving and explores the close relationship between words and music, satisfying lovers of the written word and music alike.