East meets West in ALIAS’ season-opening concert

aliasConnoisseurs of foreign cinema are probably familiar with the name Toru Takemitsu, the great post-war Japanese composer who wrote scores for famed filmmakers Akira Kurosawa and Hiroshi Teshigahara. What’s less well known is that Takemitsu was also the first important classical composer to emerge from Asia after World War II. One of his most ethereal gems, “and then I knew twas wind,” will get a hearing in Nashville on Wednesday, Nov. 12 courtesy of ALIAS Chamber Ensemble.

ALIAS is opening its 2014-15 season at the Blair School of Music’s Turner Hall in typically eclectic fashion, performing music from the 20th and 21st centuries, with a little 17th-century period-instrument music thrown in for good measure.

“A bit of Baroque period music just adds a degree of surprise to our performances,” says Zeneba Bowers, ALIAS’ artistic director. “It makes people go, ‘wait, what?’”

ALIAS likes surprises, but it isn’t taking any chances in its performance of Johannes Schmelzer’s Sonata for violin and continuo. One of the city’s premier early music virtuosos, lutenist and theorbo player Francis Perry, will join Bower in the performance.

Takemitsu’s aptly named piece derives its title from the second line of a poem by Emily Dickinson: “Like rain it sounded till it curved / And then I knew ‘twas wind.” If ever there was a piece that reminds one of a gentle wind and rain, it’s Takemitsu’s piece for flute, viola and harp. In his book The Rest is Noise, Alex Ross describes Takemitsu’s music as “precise in design, rich in timbre, tonal on the surface, mysterious at the core.” That’s an apt description of “and then I knew twas wind,” a work of such profound serenity that it seemingly makes time stand still.

Wednesday’s concert will also feature Kevin Volans’ String Quartet No. 2 “Hunting, Gathering,” a work that was originally written for the Kronos Quartet. Also on the bill is Ernest Bloch’s Nocturnes for piano trio and Steven Snowden’s Appalachian Polaroids for string quartet.

The concert starts at 8 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 12 at Turner Hall, 2400 Blakemore Ave. Tickets are $20 ($5 students) and are available at the door and here.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.