ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — Clarinetist James Shields and violinist David Felberg are always on the lookout to pair stylistically different music of composers for Chatter concerts. Their search got them thinking about Igor Stravinsky and the celebrated young composer Nico Muhly.
“We’d been talking about performing some of Nico’s work for a long time,” Shields said in a phone interview. “This all came together when David and I were talking with (pianist) Judith Gordon. We felt the two composers’ styles commented on each other, meaning there are interesting similarities and differences between the two styles.”
There are two works by Stravinsky and two by Muhly on Chatter Cabaret’s Sunday program at the Hotel Andaluz.
The two Stravinsky pieces – Duo Concertante and “L’historie du Soldat” – are from the composer’s neoclassical period.
The two Muhly pieces are “So to Speak (After Thomas Tallis)” and “Drones and Violin.”
“Muhly is best described as post-minimalist. There are certain features of harmonic and rhythmic development that post-minimalists like to build their pieces on and have their roots in the mid-20th century,” Shields said.
“The younger generation of post-minimalists are interested in angular rhythmic permutation and harmonic spacing that we felt harken back to the way Stravinsky was putting together some of his neoclassical works.”
He said this Stravinsky period is his favorite. He described it as being harmonically evocative and often simple “but with a little tweak to it. Add a note in a chord to make it shimmer in a certain way. … He’s almost like a cubist Mozart.”
Post-minimalist composers starting with John Adams and continuing through contemporary composers like Muhly took those shifts in rhythms and harmonic spacing and made that central to the music, Shields explained.
Besides chamber music, Muhly has written orchestral music, sacred music and an opera. In 2013, the Metropolitan Opera presented his opera “Two Boys.”
Shields discussed Chatter’s approach to programming.
“Some say, ‘Let’s do Beethoven,'” he said. “We’re after something more mercurial. We do 60 concerts a year so there has to be some variety. We’re always looking for a blend of music to create a unique experience.”