by Melanie Wong
Cutting Edge Concerts New Music Festival has brought the contemporary music of living composers together with New York audiences since its inception in 1998. Last week CECNMF presented this season’s final concert at Symphony Space: a six-piece program performed by members of the contemporary chamber ensemble Cygnus. Each of the featured composers spoke briefly about their pieces—a helpful gesture that gave the audience a better chance to understand their music.
The highlight of the evening was undoubtedly Laura Kaminsky’s Homage to Havel, a tribute to the Czech Republic’s first president, Václav Havel. Kaminsky, who is also Symphony Space’s Artistic Director, is a skilled composer who fully understands the capabilities and strengths of each instrument, combining sounds in a way that is both intriguing and unique. Her thought-provoking piece was electrifying throughout and Cygnus performed it with energetic confidence. In particular, oboist James Austin Smith’s lengthy solos accentuated his smooth, extended phrasing and deeply emotional musicality while violinist Calvin Wiersma’s extended solo in the third movement, "Velvet," was resolutely vigorous.