Twenty remarkable years ago, Britain’s BBC commissioned a string of half-hour films commemorating the 200th anniversary of Mozart’s death. With one commission they got a lot more than they bargained for: Peter Greenaway’s "M is for Man, Music, Mozart" is still going strong, in large measure because of the score accompanying it: a characteristically romping, stomping sound-dazzle by Louis Andriessen, at 72 still Europe’s liveliest angry-young-man of music.
That Seattle is getting a chance to hear a rare live performance of Andriessen’s amplified dance-band score (complete with vocals for hot chanteuse) is the most rewarding evidence yet that Cornish College of the Arts (and its music program director Kent Devereaux) are determined to drag us, if not up to date, at least closer to au courant with the state of serious music since the death of Stravinsky.
Andriessen cheerfully admits that his music couldn’t exist without Stravinsky’s; but it’s mostly the never-failing rhythmic impulse that the Russian master kept throbbing away no matter how many waves of beatless atonality washed over it. Andriessen’s drive, more reminiscent of Stan Kenton than Sacre du printemps, makes most of the “minimalists” he’s frequently compared to — the Philip Glasses and Michael Nymans, whose tonal wallpaper has forgettably accompanied so many forgettable films — seem less composers than interior decorators. Wild as the operating-theater hi-jinks of Greenaway’s “anatomization” of the Mozart myth, your mind will never lose notice of the parallel commentary going on in Andriessen’s score.
I’ve written mostly about "M is for Man" because I’ve already seen, heard, and love it. But it’s only the 500-pound gorilla of the Cornish show, which also offers shorter works from 1972 to 2005 featuring the blazing violin-vocal virtuosa Monica Germino. If there’s such a thing as a must-hear concert, this one has to qualify.
If you go: PONCHO Concert Hall, 710 East Roy Street?, Seattle, March 9, 8 pm. Tickets: $18 in advance; $20 at the door; $10 for students, seniors, and Cornish alumni; tickets and directions on the website.