August 2017 Convention
Minneapolis, MN

Libby Larsen: A Minnesota Original

One of many concerts that focused on the convention’s home state was a program of works by Minnesotan Libby Larsen. Following an introduction by Program Chair Leonard Garrison, Larsen herself spoke briefly and was humble and gracious, appreciative of both the performers and the NFA for sharing these works, saying that there is always something new to learn. Larsen described being befriended at a young age by Eugenia Zuckerman, writing a piece for her, and subsequently “falling in love” with the flute.

This program featured the flute in various combinations with other instruments and voice. It began with “Aubade” for solo flute, played by Jonathan Borja, a nice opening to the program with its serene yet rising energy. Next was “Slow Structures,” a trio played by Lisa Bost-Sandberg, cellist Simona Barbu, and pianist Nariaki Sugiura, all faculty members at the University of North Dakota. The piece was inspired by various aspects of winter snow. My favorite movement was the second, which created a sense of icy timelessness and suspension.

Next were two songs that set poems by the flutist, Michele Antonello Frisch, about playing baseball as a young girl. Frisch was joined by soprano Maria Jetty and pianist Mary Jo Gothmann in a spirited performance that captured the exuberance of youthful athleticism and also some of the wistfulness of looking back as an adult.

“Trio in Four Movements” for flute, viola, and harp was played by the Deciduous Trio and explored lyrical expression using various textures. The program finished with the premiere of a new work, “Blinded by the Light,” which the composer described as “a piece about being stunned.” It was performed by Katherine Borst Jones, whom Larsen called a “muse,” and pianist Dianne Frazer and used an electric guitar on the piano soundboard for added resonance during a section of the piece.

—Wayla J. Chambo