William Bolcom was writing accessible popular music for the concert stage when that was not a cool thing to do. The 72-year-old composer will be at the Modern this weekend for a retrospective concert of his work.
Bolcom has written large-scale works, including eight symphonies and three full-length operas, the latest being an acclaimed 2004 work based on Robert Altman’s film A Wedding. Still, the event at the Modern will be focused on his considerable output of smaller-scale pieces, like Octet: Double Quartet, so named because it’s written for two string quartets playing in concert rather than a single ensemble. This violent piece was called “magnificent” by the Boston Globe when it premiered in 2008. Of even more recent vintage is The Hawthorn Tree, a cycle of songs set to works by female poets. Singing that work will be mezzo-soprano Joyce Castle, who performed its world premiere last year.
Then there are excerpts from Bolcom’s Cabaret Songs, an ongoing project consisting of several volumes of jazz-inflected songs with chatty texts by Arnold Weinstein that often stray into playful, dreamy surreality (“Amor,” “Black Max”) but can also cut deep, as in “George,” a portrait of a transvestite friend who comes to a sad end. The exact selections to be performed will be announced from the stage. Regardless, an afternoon with this American master and his music should be something to treasure.
The concert of William Bolcom’s music begins at 2pm Sat at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth, 3200 Darnell St, FW. Tickets are $25. Call 800-462-7979.