Frank Abbinanti | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Frank Abbinanti 

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FRANK ABBINANTI

Instrumental music is by nature resistant to political interpretation. Take Beethoven's Eroica Symphony, the first famous example of a composer endorsing a revolutionary ideal: without the explicit dedication to Napoleon, the music's Sturm und Drang would seem about as partisan as a tornado. And even in this more politicized century, the works of Shostakovich and his antiestablishment comrades, meant to express anger, anguish, and hope in political contexts, relied heavily on subtitles and notes to put across the creators' views. Such is the fate of Bosnia, a brand-new composition for solo trombone by Frank Abbinanti, a local composer and new-music advocate. As its title hints, Bosnia is a lament for a ruined country, prompted not by firsthand experience but by news accounts. Abbinanti, who's largely self-taught on the trombone (and the tuba), will perform it himself. A self-proclaimed socialist, he's demonstrated an affinity for the avant-garde in Europe, where politics pervade everyday life in a way they don't here. He's one of the masterminds behind the New European Music Overseas festival, which last fall managed to bring together various musical factions in town for a retrospective of postwar currents; the showcase succinctly summed up the dead ends and promising new directions. And it's under NEMO's aegis that Abbinanti organized this free chamber recital. But as much as I respect his enthusiasm and energy, I can't say I admire Abbinanti's music all that much. He does well enough regurgitating the ideas and methods of those he looks up to--Frederic Rzewski, Cornelius Cardew, and Stockhausen--but he's yet to go out on his own limb. Also on the program are several dauntingly intellectual pieces, most from the 80s. Ach, Es by the young German composer Annette SchlŸnz, Alexandrines by former Village Voice critic Tom Johnson, and Morton Feldman's King of Denmark. In the last, a classic that helped redefine the performer's role, solo percussionist Douglas Brush will exercise his freedom following only a few guidelines from the composer. Thursday, September 18, 5:30 PM, video theater, Harold Washington Library Center, 400 S. State; 312-747-4875. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Amy Rathblatt.

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