Music on the Edge series presents "Powerhouse Pianists" mini-festival | Under The Wire | Pittsburgh | Pittsburgh City Paper

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Music on the Edge series presents "Powerhouse Pianists" mini-festival

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New Music is riding high -- at least, from the perspective of Matthew Rosenblum and Eric Moe. Professors at Pitt's music department, they're also co-directors of the contemporary-composers series, Music on the Edge.

"Of course, there are many others doing avant-garde jazz, improvised or performance-art type events, but we hold down the concert chamber-music end of it," explains Rosenblum. "We try to present a variety of both 'uptown' -- the more classical-style concerts -- [and] 'downtown' things that are slightly off the wall." Manhattan-style designations are familiar to Rosenblum, who landed here in 1991 from the Big Apple's New Music scene.

And so it follows that he and Moe have assembled a mini-festival called "Powerhouse Pianists," three 8 p.m. concerts at Oakland's Bellefield Auditorium consisting entirely of ivory-ticklers from New York.

Kicking off the three-concert gala on Thu., Sept. 20, are pianists Donald Berman, who conducts the New Music ensemble at Tufts, and Blair McMillen, who's a founder of counter induction and works with the Da Capo Chamber Players and the American Modern Ensemble. On Sat., Sept. 29, MOTE hosts Stephen Gosling, a regular member of the New York New Music Ensemble, and Margaret Kampmeier, who performed with the New Millennium Ensemble during the Pittsburgh Chamber Music Society's season a few years back.

Finally, on Fri., Oct. 5, Marilyn Nanken of Ensemble 21 stops by, along with Kathleen Supové, who has recorded for the Koch, Tzadik, XI and Cuneiform labels and is well known in Pittsburgh circles for previous appearances with the Duquesne Contemporary Ensemble and the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble. (Her husband is composer Randall Woolf.)

"These are the 'top-gun' New Music pianists," Rosenblum enthuses. "It showcases the full spectrum of New Music being written for piano. They're all extremely accomplished at what they do, but also very different in terms of the repertoire they've made their own." Composers range from Ruth Crawford Seeger and Charles Ives to works by Scelsi, Rzewski, and spectralist Tristan Murail -- even conductor Esa-Pekka Salonen from the L.A. Philharmonic. And it's really new. "Most of the work presented was written in the last 15 years."

Rosenblum hopes the MOTE concerts will cross-pollinate with the city's active but often unduly segmented avant-garde music community. "Pittsburgh is a New Music hotbed, with all the improvisational events in town, the PNME in the summer, Attack Theater commissioning new works by composers, and the U3 [composers from CMU, Pitt, and Duquesne] festival we do every other year. It'd be nice if we could generate some heat that others could feed off."

For more information, visit www.music.pitt.edu. For tickets call Pro Arts at 412-394-3353.

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