Isn’t it great to hang out with a bunch of your closest friends? To act crazy, tease each other, and laugh for hours? Tonight, conductor Eric Dudley will hang out with 30 of his closest friends from the School of Music to the tunes of Prokofiev, Bolcom and Beethoven.
Synchrony, a new chamber orchestra, will have its first concert tonight at 8 p.m. at the First Methodist Church on the corner of Elm and College. The group was first conceived about six months ago by Dudley and his friends. The idea was simple: gather an ensemble of musicians who listen well and interpret jointly. Most of the members are currently enrolled in the School of Music, though some are alumni and some are local freelance players. There is a visible and audible camaraderie that creates enjoyable rehearsals and considerate solos. While it is important for members of every ensemble to be attentive and responsive at all times, this task is all the easier for the bassoonists and cellists of Synchrony who drank together at the Graduate and Professional Student Center at Yale a few nights ago.
Dudley, along with violist Kim Foster, percussionist Adam Slywinski and flutist Jeff Mitchell (as well as a good chunk of the orchestra roster) envisioned a group that would find unconventional ways of performing “classical” music. Their emphasis is on new and recently composed works, but their programming for this weekend seems to demonstrate a greater leaning toward audience accessibility. Dudley describes their target repertoire as “new music people can put in to some kind of context.” Upcoming programs will include the Schoenberg “Op. 9 Chamber Symphony” and Witold Lutoslaski’s “Chain 1.” This Friday, the pieces will be Prokofiev’s “Classical Symphony,” Bolcom’s “Commedia,” and Beethoven’s “4th Symphony.” Though the Bolcom was written a scant few decades ago, the Prokofiev and the Beethoven are firmly placed pillars in the western canon.
The cohesive quality among the three pieces appears in their various ways of dealing with the classical tradition. The Beethoven, of course, is an original work of the classical style. When analyzed within the context of the composers’ contemporary works, however, a sense of irony is noticeable in Beethoven’s dogged use of the techniques of the established style. The composer of the Eroica Symphony and the all too popular “5th symphony” was already breaking into the newer, Romantic style of composition when he penned the 4th in 1807. Only with a bit of irreverence could he have shifted back to the rhetoric of Mozart and Haydn.
The Prokofiev Classical Symphony contrives a comparable ironic tone. At a time in Russian history when the ideals of the revolution were translated into violence and dogma, this nod to the light and elegant orchestral writing of the 18th century in 1918 leaves many questions about the sincerity of the composer. There are multiple readings of this discrepancy, but, without question, the relationship of classical music to 20th-century music is being addressed in some fashion.
The Bolcom chimes in with the questions of the two previous works, but with an over-the-top sense of the ridiculous. Lilting, classical string minuets overlap with atonal orchestral washes and jarring piano jabs. The relationship of old to new is not only being considered, it is being held on an absurd pedestal for listeners to point at and giggle. As the score indicates, the piece is written for ‘almost’ 18th-century orchestra.
Synchrony will soon be applying for non-profit status in the city of New Haven. They hope to become a fixture in the Yale and greater New Haven music community, though their conductor and many principal players will be leaving in the spring. They bring a refreshing sense of energy and fun to the occasionally daunting academic tone of many Yale ensembles.