Arts & Culture

Review: Cliburn at the Modern

Pianist Shields-Collins Bray and flutist Shauna Thompson perform music by composers Till MacIvor Meyn and Martin Blessinger during Cliburn at the Modern in Fort Worth on Saturday.
Pianist Shields-Collins Bray and flutist Shauna Thompson perform music by composers Till MacIvor Meyn and Martin Blessinger during Cliburn at the Modern in Fort Worth on Saturday. Special to the Star-Telegram

“Made in Fort Worth” is not a phrase that immediately brings music to mind, but the latest Cliburn at the Modern program, which had that title, demonstrated the aptness of the slogan even as applied to classical music.

The concert Saturday afternoon at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, was devoted to two composers who live in Fort Worth. They are Martin Blessinger and Till MacIvor Meyn, both of the TCU faculty.

There were four pieces on the program — two each per composer — and they proved to be highly listenable music. Their cause was advanced by the skillful work of the afternoon’s performers: Shields-Collins Bray (piano), Joseph Eckert (saxophone), Shauna Thompson (flute), Ivan Petruzziello (clarinet) and Andrew Eldridge (marimba).

Bray is the series’ emcee, and his witty interviews with Meyn, Blessinger and Thompson as usual heightened the entertainment value of the afternoon’s activities.

The opener, by Meyn, was the oldest work on the program. Titled Brilliant Blue, it dates from 2012. It’s for saxophone and piano, and its overall bluesy cast was appealing. A witty touch came at the beginning and end of the second movement, in which Meyn made a brief compositional reference to the most famous four notes in music (by Beethoven, of course).

Meyn was also the composer of Force of Nature, a 2013 work for flute and piano. This was a very different kind of music from Brilliant Blue, requiring a lot of virtuosity on both instruments. It was melodically attractive, with a middle movement that was gentle, lyrical and a bit sad, in contrast to the busier first and third movements. Meyn got just about the finest response a composer can get around here: dead silence throughout much of the piece.

Thompson, who’s a whiz at the flute, also played Blessinger’s Diversions and Escapes, with Bray at the piano. There was much to like about Blessinger’s jaunty outer movements, which, like Meyn’s Force of Nature, surrounded a lovely middle movement.

Diversions and Escapes dates from 2013. The final work of the afternoon, Blessinger’s Legend Suite, was finished in 2014.

It is for a rare combination: clarinet and marimba. Aside from contemplative passages in the opening movement and the quiet slow movement, it’s perky and flowing. The work also demonstrates that its creator has a real flair for melodies. The combination of clarinet and marimba does take a little getting used to, though.

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