When The Stars Align

Lembit Beecher (foreground) in rehearsal with the Del Sol Quartet (photo by the Del Sol Quartet)

Lembit Beecher (foreground) in rehearsal with the Del Sol Quartet (photo by the Del Sol Quartet)

This week, in the San Francisco/Berkeley area, the stars have aligned in a way I couldn’t possibly have imagined some months ago. I met Dylan Mattingly and Lembit Beecher, each of whom has been featured on Prufrock’s Dilemma, separately. At the time I met them, I don’t believe they knew one another. This week, the stars have aligned to present world premieres by each of them, all in the Bay Area, and two part of the same festival.

December 7 and December 8, 2012, mark world premieres of Lembit Beecher’s These Memories May Be True (December 7) and Dylan Mattingly’s Gone, Gone, Gone (December 8) in the same festival, Del Sol Days, about which you can find out more here.

On hearing the first movement of Beecher’s piece in rehearsal, George Mattingly reported, “Heard the first movement of Lembit’s work yesterday, and it was wonderful. Can’t wait to hear the whole piece tomorrow night.” Del Sol Quartet posted the photograph at the head of the post and wrote “how could you resist a movement entitled “Estonian Grandmother Superhero”?

On December 7, in addition to Beecher’s work, the program will include a world premiere by composer Matt Cmiel. I don’t know Cmiel or his work (yet), but Dylan Mattingly and he are long-time musical compatriots, as evidenced in the entertaining interview here. The other pieces on the program are Daniel Ward’s These Walls, Gabriela Frank’s Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout, Joe Dudell’s Vaporize, and the American premiere of Kui Dong’s Shall We Play?

On December 8, in addition to Mattingly’s work, the program will include a world premiere of Irene Sazer’s Thunder, the San Francisco premiere of Bagatelles for String Quartet and electronica, by Mason Bates, and will close with the great Australian composer Peter Sculthorpe’s String Quartet No. 16, with Stephen Kent on didjeridu.

Last, not least, December 6, 2012, marked the world premiere of Dylan Mattingly’s Invisible Skyline, performed by the Berkeley Symphony under conductor Joana Carneiro, and including the fine pianist Sarah Cahill. Articles and interviews in advance of the premiere can be found here and here, and audio of Carneiro and Mattingly talking about it, backed by excerpts from a Berkeley Symphony rehearsal of the piece, can be heard here (scroll down to previous programs, December 6).

David Littlejohn, a writer who, among other things, writes periodic pieces on the West Coast cultural scene for the Wall Street Journal, has already weighed in:

Dylan Mattingly’s half-hour, full-orchestra “Invisible Skyline,” the most beautiful thing of his I’ve heard, if he’ll forgive me that out-of-date adjective. Continuously pulsed along by the piano, harp, a few percussion and strings, the rest of the strings were allowed to sing their way over them, rising to fortes, softening to pianos, with breaks at just the right places for solo turns by woodwinds and brass. Continuous pleasure, with not one uninteresting, reactionary or stolen moment.

And sometimes a picture is worth a gazillion words:

Dylan Mattingly flanked by his dad George and mom Lucy at the premiere of Invisible Skyline (photo by Sarah Cahill)

Dylan Mattingly flanked by his dad George and mom Lucy at the premiere of Invisible Skyline (photo by Sarah Cahill)

Congratulations, Lembit and Dylan!


Listening List: Music by Lembit Beecher and Dylan Mattingly can be found on their This Composing Life features here on Prufrock’s Dilemma (click the name of each composer for the link).


Wonderful reviews of the performances of all three works have appeared now in the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Classical Voice. See quotes and links below for details.

Composer Lembit Beecher

Composer Lembit Beecher

Of Lembit Beecher’s These Memories May Be True: “Out of the haze of memory in the first two movements emerges a rhythmic dance whose energy befits the title (“Estonian Grandmother Superhero”), only to give way to a hauntingly lovely finale full of swooping string harmonics and fluttery whispers.” For the full San Francisco Chronicle Review review, click here.

Dylan Mattingly with the Invisible Skyline score (photo by the Berkeley Symphony)

Dylan Mattingly with the Invisible Skyline score (photo by the Berkeley Symphony)

Of Dylan Mattingly’s Invisible Skyline: “ . . . there’s no denying the composer’s ability as an orchestrator – he blends and interweaves the different sections and their sonorities with a deft hand.” For the full San Francisco Chronicle review, click here. And from the San Francisco Classical Voice: “the atmospheric changes through different keys, textures, and dissonant chords, all layered over the minimalist accompaniment, created a vivid psychedelic journey. It also evoked a sensation as if I were lying on a grassy hillside with my eyes closed, knowing that the glow above the skyline surrounds me, yet floating in the sky at the same time and sensing the colors shifting slowly as if I were looking through a slowly rotating kaleidoscope.” For the full review, click here.

Of Dylan Mattingly’s Gone, Gone, Gone: “The effect was captivating . . . .This piece struck the right balance between fun and challenging, all performed with the fluid cues and a warmth of music-making that befits an ensemble named after the sun.” For the full San Francisco Classical Voice review, click here.

10 thoughts on “When The Stars Align

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      When good things happen to good people, it’s cause to celebrate, isn’t it? As for catalysts, I all credit must go to the wonderful organizations that commissioned these compositions: the Del Sol Quartet and the Berkeley Symphony, whose commitment to fine new music is what made this all possible. (Sort of like your online poetry magazine, The Passionate Transitory, which introduces all those fine poets to us!)

  1. Hilary

    Hi Susan .. it’s always amazing how the gods conspire for things to work out – this weekend sounds as though it will be quite incredible.

    The Digeridoo has another use … “is that by learning to play one – using the circular breathing technique, this may help people reduce their snoring and sleep apnea through the strengthening of their muscles in the upper airway.” It interested me when I found out about the possibility as I’d come across a friend who had appalling sleep apnea – she ended up in hospital quite often …

    It’s great to recognise new musicians .. and very good luck to them with their careers – and thanks for bring their names to our awareness … cheers Hilary

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Fascinating tidbit about the digjeridu (interesting the alternate spellings, by the way; I wasn’t able to trace out their origins, but both seem in common use).

  2. shoreacres

    That’s a splendid photo of Dylan with his folks. It made me smile to look at it.

    I smiled, too, at this sentence from David Littlejohn: “Dylan Mattingly’s half-hour, full-orchestra “Invisible Skyline,” [is] the most beautiful thing of his I’ve heard, if he’ll forgive me that out-of-date adjective.” Really? “Beautiful” is out of date? Woe is me – I never got the memo. ;)

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      Yes, I find it impossible not to smile when I look at that photo—and don’t they have the best of reasons to smile, even more so now that the SF Chronicle review has come out (see “breaking news” item in this post). On the subject of “beautiful,” I, too, never got the memo, and if I did, I’d probably file it in the circular file! (Witness the preface I give to comments.)

  3. David

    I can’t wait to hear the new Mattingly work, and though I can’t agree with the critic that the word ‘beautiful’ is out of date with regard to contemporary music any more, I do so concur with his observations about never a dull or derivative moment. Great to see the two big names among your brood coinciding.

    1. Susan Scheid Post author

      I’m with you on the word ‘beautiful,’ as I’m sure you know. I’ve had some early eyewitness reports back now on all three concerts, and a great time was clearly had by all.

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