The NOVA Chamber Music Series ends its season on Sunday, April 21, with familiar pieces by Maurice Ravel alongside unusual works by contemporary composer Curtis Curtis-Smith.
The Curtis-Smith works, "5 Sonorous Inventions for Violin and Piano" and "Unisonics for Alto Saxophone and Piano," require Jason Hardink to play on the piano's strings, rather than the keys, using bows the pianist constructed out of fishing line and duct tape.
"The logistics are nightmarish," Hardink, who is also NOVA's artistic director, acknowledged. The payoff is music he described as "very, very atmospheric and colorful. It's all about sound and timbre. … It's some of the greatest music I know by an American composer. The sound world [Curtis-Smith] is able to create, I can't even describe people are going to be kind of speechless."
Not that the bowed-piano technique is a mere gimmick, Hardink said. "The techniques are just a surface element. It really is powerful, substantial, beautiful, intense music."
Hardink's collaborators on the Curtis-Smith pieces are Utah Symphony violinist Stephanie Cathcart, playing her last NOVA concert before leaving for a job in the Kansas City Symphony, and saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, whom Hardink billed as "the bad boy of new music and saxophone."
NOVA is recording Curtis-Smith's complete works for bowed piano; Hardink hopes to release the recording this fall.
Also on Sunday's concert, the Logan-based Fry Street Quartet makes its annual NOVA appearance, performing Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello and the great String Quartet. "They're two of the greatest chamber-music pieces of all time, played by the greatest chamber-music group in the state," Hardink said. "[Curtis-Smith] creates atmosphere so well, I thought it would go really well with the Ravel."
Catherine Reese Newton
The NOVA Chamber Music Series season ends with music of Maurice Ravel and Curtis Curtis-Smith.
With • Fry Street Quartet, alto saxophonist Taimur Sullivan, violinist Stephanie Cathcart and pianist Jason Hardink.
Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City.
When • Sunday, April 21, 3 p.m.
Tickets • $18; $15 seniors; $5 students; free for University of Utah students; at the door or novaslc.org.