This is a guest review by Giacomo Fiore.
On Friday, April 29th, I took a seat next to department chair David Tanenbaum and took a look at the program for Matthew Holmes-Linder’s second graduate recital. I was immediately struck by the fact that all pieces (with the exception of Brouwer’s Concierto Elegiaco) had been written within the past year. Even though I knew that Linder was an advocate of new music, it was surprising and refreshing to see such a novel program come to life.
Linder opened with Jasmine in Winter (2011), a piece for guitar and flue written by the Iranian born composer Sahba Aminikia, and dedicated to the victims of the recent anti-government demonstrations in Iran. Colors reminiscent of Takemitsu, fused with more overtly maqam-inspired melodic turns, were impeccably delivered by Linder and flutist Sasha Launer.
For the following three pieces, guitarists Robbie Nance and Mason Fish joined Linder as the Mobius Trio, an ensemble that has premiered half a dozen new works in just over a year; most recently, the Trio appeared as part of the Conservatory Project at the Kennedy Center in D.C.
Aminikia’s second piece of the night, Persian Dances (2010), confirmed the composer’s talents in writing for plucked strings, and the quality of writing remained high for Garrett Shatner’s The Transition and Anthony Porter’s needle-play. This last piece in particular explored a seemingly infinite array of texture, timbres, and tones, as a series of short movements evoked the composer’s first encounter with acupuncture. The Mobius Trio played with elegance, command, and inventiveness—the chemistry between the players is undeniable, making for an absolutely enjoyable performance experience.
For the second half, Linder returned to the stage to give the world premiere of Porter’s hair of the thing that bit you, a solo fantasy for classical guitar and loop pedal. The electronic effect is used to create short textural webs of increasing rhythmic complexity, but the loops are kept short and ever-changing. Some of the resulting polyphonic passages in harmonics quite literally took my breath away. Once more, the guitarist met all challenges with unfaltering technique, strong rhythmic security, and pristine tone.
Finally, Linder closed the night with Leo Brouwer’s Concierto Elegiaco (1986), the piece with which he won this year’s Guitar Concerto Competition at the Conservatory. Whether confronted with the piece’s expressive Interlude or the relentless final Toccata, Linder shone as a soloist, showing a deep connection to the musical material. I’ll be looking forward to hearing the same piece with the Conservatory Orchestra next year.