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A concert best approached with an open mind and a sense of humour, as the program jumps between the extremes of Classical and modern styles, serious and comical music, the ridiculous and the sublime.The program opens with Charles Ives' The Unanswered Question. This work has three musical layers: a bed of gentle, quiet, tonal strings with no sharp corners or unexpected moments; a single trumpet repeatedly asking an angular, chromatic question; and an atonal, quarrelsome quartet of woodwinds getting more and more agitated and frenzied as they competitively try to respond to the trumpet. This is a perfect opener for Jazz in Contrast. You start comparing styles off the bat; you start asking yourself: "What am I listening to? What's going on? Does it mean anything? What's the question? What's the answer?" And that state of keenly listening with mild bewilderment is the perfect mood for this concert.

The program then continues in apparent ascending order of chaos-we hear the eponymous jazz trio Torrio! pair their improvisational skills with the orchestral musicians in the premiere of Paul Grabowsky's genre-blending and mind-bending Fascinatin' Algorhythm; Ives returns with all of the myriad of characters and sounds you can here in New York's Central Park with Central Park in the Dark, sometimes all at once; then John Adams mixes the seriousness and refinement of a traditional, classical chamber symphony with the acrobatics and unpredictability of the music of the cartoons his son was watching adjacent to his study while he worked.

Chris Moore Stock For Blog
Chris Moore, director and conductor

You're then pulled out of your mental daze, perhaps at first unexpectedly, with Haydn's Symphony 83 La Poule (the Hen). But this sudden jump back to the Classical era is a perfect ending to the concert. Haydn had an amazing sense of humour that stretched through so much of his oeuvre. All these 20th and 21st Century compositions we've just heard owe their existence to the legacy put down by the grandfather of musical wackiness, Symphony 83 is in the Sturm und Drang (Storm and stress) style of Haydn's day.

This style is dark, fast, rhythmic, agitated and in a minor key; meaning you don't get to relax after the Adams just yet. However, only the first theme of the symphony is like this. The second theme is how the work got its name-an absolute tongue-in-cheek, light-hearted melody that is reminiscent of hens clucking. This is literally and intentionally going from the sublime to the ridiculous and will have you leaving the hall with a smile, and perhaps even more questions.

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See Torrio! Jazz in Contrast with the MSO.

7:30pm Thursday 18 May, Melbourne Recital Centre, and 7:30pm Friday 19 May, Robert Blackwood Hall.

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