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Verge Ensemble at the Corcoran Gallery

By Stephen Brookes • The Washington Post • February 13, 2008

Alvin Singleton                                             Photo: Martin Popeláø
It's not often that you get to hear the work of contemporary African American composers, so Sunday afternoon's concert by the Verge Ensemble at the Corcoran Gallery, devoted exclusively to such works, had the feeling of a real event, with an eclectic and well-chosen program.

Alvin Singleton's poignant "Fifty Times Around the Sun" contrasted blunt gestures in the piano with sustained, radiant tones on the clarinet, gradually bringing them together in a serene celestial dance before distancing them again. The young jazz musician Courtney Bryan offered up her feisty "Piano Etude No. 1," a quick-witted mash-up of Jamaican dance hall rhythms and mid-period Ligeti, while George Lewis's improvisatory piece "Artificial Life 2007" received a colorful and sensitive, if slightly tentative, interpretation from the Verge players.

Cellist Tobias Werner turned in a sweeping, full-blooded reading of Hale Smith's neo-romantic Sonata for Cello and Piano from 1955, and "Dance Africaine" by Ysaye Barnwell was a charmer; you could hear people humming its melody in the lobby after the concert.

But it may have been Michael Henderson's lively and relentlessly inventive "Emerald Run" that stole the show, in a bravura performance by violinist Lina Bahn.

Posted on Thursday, February 14, 2008 at 11:46AM by Registered CommenterStephen Brookes | CommentsPost a Comment

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