SCHENECTADY — A special concert Monday night at Schenectady County Community College featured five of Brett Wery’s newest works. Wery is a professor of music at the college.
“This is a big deal for me,” he told an enthusiastic crowd.
For many, it was the first time they’d heard his smaller works, which ranged from a trio to a septet. Many of his larger works have been performed by local orchestras.
The performers, all of them active freelancers, were flutist Norman Thibodeau, English hornist Nathaniel Fossner, harpist Karlinda Caldicott, and members of the Hyperion String Quartet — Amanda Brin and Jamecyn Morey on violin, Andrew Snow on viola, and cellist Jonathan Brin.
Baritone Benjamin Bloomfield, who has sung in venues from Carnegie Hall to Munich, Germany, sang two of the works.
Wery worked with a colorful palette, tonal harmonies and rhythmic vitality that sometimes was flavored with ethnic or folk rhythms. Although he showed skill in his voicings and developed his material, he was partial to stopping midstream with one style and veering off into another.
So, even if he started to build up a good head of steam, the train would suddenly head off onto another track. Silence, which can be a great contrasting tool, was not always effectively used.
“The Maenad’s Daydream” (2013) for flute, viola and harp was a good blend with some dark, ethnically tinged scales and a kind of frazzled dance. Thibodeau’s tone was rich. “The Passage of Orpheus” for English horn and string trio (2008) went between long, sustained lines with pretty harmonies and choppy, dry string chords. Against all this, Fossner made the most of his slow scales with seamless connections.
“The Song of Cyrus Kleiner, the Nanotechnologist” (2013) with lyrics by Eugene Mirabelli was a fantastical comedy for Bloomfield and the Hyperion. His English diction was fine and his tone was resonant in a singspiel part.
Wery’s first String Quartet (2013) started off with a bang but swiftly jumped to lyrical passages and sudden harsh bursts.
Snow’s solo was hesitant but the finale was like a Czech folk song with the Hyperion in all-out mode.
Wery’s most original was “Letters from Cohoes” (2011). Not only did he write the humorous text, which Bloomfield reveled in, but the support had wit of its own: a tango, Thibodeau on various flutes, including a bass flute, Middle Eastern swing, and some special effects. The balances were good, and the artsy song was in a Gerald Busby comedic vein and entertaining.