At U. of C., Messiaen in a Bottle
October 5, 2008
By Andrew Patner, critic
[…] The university’s Contempo new music collective, which draws on Chicago’s eighth blackbird and Pacifica Quartet, stepped up Saturday night at Mandel Hall with a rarely played late and brief work by Messiaen — the 1991 piano quintet — and works by five of his prominent students, including a world premiere by U. of C. prof Marta Ptaszynska. As prepared or led by Cliff Colnot, all were given exceptional performances with Toro Takemitsu’s haunting 1982 Ame no jumon (“Rain Spell”), the seminal 1984 Pierre Boulez Derive I, and the 1997 virtuosic George Benjamin duo Viola/Viola standing out.
Ptaszynska’s just-completed Trois visions de l’arc-en-ciel (“Three Visions on a Rainbow”) for five players was gripping, moving, and a rare accomplishment — an homage to a teacher who presented originality to and demanded individuality from his best students. The Polish composer and percussionist (left), now 65, took ideas and colors from her teacher and ran them through rhythmic and aural fantasy worlds all her own. Surely the master would have been pleased. […]