Tallis Scholars Premiere Nico Muhly in Midtown

Tallis Scholars: A Renaissance Christmas

Tallis Scholars. Photo: Nick Rutter.

Miller Theatre Early Music Series

Church of St. Mary the Virgin

December 1, 2018

Published on Sequenza 21

By Christian Carey

NEW YORK – The Tallis Scholars, directed by Peter Phillips, made their annual appearance in New York as part of Miller Theatre’s Early Music series at the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Midtown. The program was billed as a dual celebration — the 45th anniversary of the Tallis Scholars and Miller Theatre’s 30th anniversary season.

In honor of the occasion, Miller Theatre commissioned a new piece for the Tallis Scholars by composer Nico Muhly. Muhly has, of late, garnered a great deal of attention for two Metropolitan Opera commissions  — Two Boys and Marnie — but he often talks about his first love being choral music (he began his musical career as a chorister). Muhly’s choral works are exquisitely crafted and texturally luminous. Rough Notes (2018), his new piece for the concert at St. Mary’s, took its texts from two diary entries by Robert Falcon Scott, written near the end of his ill-fated voyage to Antarctica. The first excerpt describes the aurora australis, providing words such as “arches, bands, and curtains”  that are ripe for colorful musical setting. The second was Scott’s stoic expression of confidence in his team’s ability to accept their impending deaths with dignity. Muhly’s use of lush cluster chords in the first section gave way to more sharply etched, but still glinting, harmonies in the second, as well as poignantly arcing melodies. The divided choir of ten voices was skilfully overlapped to sound like many times that number. It is always fascinating to hear the Tallis Scholars switch centuries, and thus style, to perform contemporary repertoire; for instance, their CD of Arvo Pärt’s music is a treasure. One hopes that they might collaborate on a recording with Muhly in the future.

The rest of the program was of considerably earlier music, but ranged widely in chronology. The earliest piece was an elegant and under-heralded Magnificat setting by John Nesbett from the late Fifteenth century that is found in the Eton Choirbook. Chant passages give way to various fragments of the ensemble that pit low register vs. high for much of the piece. It culminates by finally bringing all the voices together in a rousing climax. The Tallis Scholars has, of yet, not recorded Nesbett, but Peter Phillips has committed the Magnificat to disc in an inspired performance with the Choir of Merton College, Oxford (The Marian Collection, Delphian, 2014).  

Palestrina’s motet Hodie Christus natus est, and the eponymous parody mass which uses this as its source material, were the centerpiece of the concert. The motet was performed jubilantly and with abundant clarity. The mass is one of Palestrina’s finest. He took the natural zest of its source material, added plenty of contrapuntal elaborations, and made subtle shifts to supply a thoughtful rendition of the text. Although we are, in terms of the liturgical calendar, in the midst of the reflective period of Advent, being propelled forward to the midst of some of the most ebullient yet substantial Christmas music of the Renaissance was a welcome inauguration of the season.

The two works that concluded the concert dealt with different aspects of the Christmas story. William Byrd’s Lullaby is actually quite an unsettling piece; its text deals with the Slaughter of the Innocents as ordered by Herod. One is left to imagine the infant Jesus being consoled by Mary and Joseph in the midst of their flight from persecution. Byrd composed it in the Sixteenth century (it was published in 1588), but Lullaby was the piece on the concert most tailored to this moment, evoking concerns of our time: the plight of refugees, the slaughter of innocent bystanders by acts of senseless aggression: particularly the vulnerability of children to indiscriminate bombing abroad and the epidemic of gun violence in our own country.

The last piece returned to a festive spirit and brought the Tallis Scholars to the cusp of the Baroque with Hieronymus Praetorius’s Magnificat V with interpolations of two carols: Joseph lieber, Joseph mein and In dulci jubilo. During the Christmas season, interspersing carols and sections of the Magnificat was a standard practice in Baroque-era Lutheran churches; J.S. Bach might even have done so in the services he led at St. Thomas Church in Leipzig. Praetorius plus two carols gave the Tallis Scholars an opportunity to share three of their most-performed Christmas pieces. From seemingly effortless floating high notes to sonorous bass singing, with tons of deftly rendered imitative passages in the inner voices, the group made a glorious sound. One eagerly awaits their return to New York during their 46th season.

Best of 2018: Best Violin Concerto

Best of 2018 – Best Violin Concerto

Michael Hersch

end stages, Violin Concerto

Patricia Kopatchinskaja, violin,

International Contemporary Ensemble, Tito Muñoz, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra

New Focus Recordings fcr208

Composer Michael Hersch consistently writes music with emotional immediacy that explores aching vulnerability with consummate eloquence. His Violin Concerto is like a wound still raw. Soloist Patricia Kopatchinskaja ramps up the intensity, as does ICE, conducted here by Tino Muñoz, rendering the work’s first and third movements with bracing strength and its second with fragile uneasiness. This emotion returns, amplified by high-lying solos and echoing attacks from the ensemble, to provide a tensely wrought close to the piece.

Orpheus Chamber Orchestra is renown for their conductor-less approach to chamber orchestra works. Still, the coordination and balance they exhibit on Hersch’s end stages deserves particular praise. Glacial slabs of dissonant harmonies give way to howling French horn and a buildup of contrapuntal intensity. This is succeeded by a tragically mournful tune accompanied by a bee’s nest of clusters and sliced string-led attacks. Taut wind dissonances then punctuate an angular, rambling string melody, succeeded once again by nervous pile-ups of angular crescendos. The seventh movement is buoyed by heraldic trumpet and vigorous repeated string chords, while the finale returns to a colorful, harmonically ambiguous ambience. The piece is Hersch at his most Bergian, bringing together artful organization and visceral emotion. Recommended.

Michael Hersch – end stages and Violin Concerto

Þráinn Hjálmarsson on Carrier Records (CD Review)

Þráinn Hjálmarsson

Influence of Buildings on Musical Tone

Caput Ensemble, Krista Thora Haraldsdottir, Icelandic Flute Ensemble, Ensemble Adapter, Nordic Affect

Carrier Records

Composer Þráinn Hjálmarsson’s latest CD, Influence of Buildings on Musical Tone, revels in the exploratory sound world of effects and extended techniques. That said, his work is more than an assemblage of alternative ways to treat instruments. Rather, the technical extensions serve to expand Hjálmarsson’s considerable palette of expression.

The five different pieces on Influence of Buildings each employ a different ensemble. The title work features the Caput Ensemble, while “Grisaille” is performed by the Icelandic Flute Ensemble. Both pieces deal with an upper register melodic line that is slowly bent and distressed until it is entirely transformed.

 

https://vimeo.com/282605939

 

Kristin Thora Haraldsdottir plays the solo viola work Persona, adopting a penetrating tone and easily reaching stratospheric harmonics and digging in to sections with varying bow pressure. A flair for the dramatic allows this piece to move from pensive to more animated gestures in a captivating meditation. Mise en scéne plays up the percussive capacities of Ensemble Adapter, eventually deploying sustained upper register flute lines against the percussive attacks of harp and percussion and breathy exhalations and plosive pops from bass clarinet. The piece develops into a more harmonic terrain, with shades of spectra creating beguiling verticals.

The album’s closer is the string trio Lucid/Opaque, performed by members of Nordic Affect. The strings repeat pitch patterns that, while not necessarily tonal in orientation, encompass individual partials of a harmonic series. The overall effect is enhanced by a reverberant space, lending a naturally ambient character to the proceedings, even more so the case because of the number of repetitions of the opening gesture. Gradually, the opening shape is altered, with splashes of string noise and edgy bowing, changes in rhythm, and the overall duration of phrase overlaps developing the character of the main line over time. The material becomes even more forceful as octave displacements, notably a low cello line and repeating altissimo violin notes, are added. Here, and elsewhere, Hjálmarsson’s Influence of Buildings on Music Tone demonstrates a judicious approach to the selection of material that is then most imaginatively deployed and developed. Recommended.

 

Supersilent 14 (Recording review)

Supersilent

14

Smalltown Supersound
2018

On Friday September 28th, Supersilent – the experimental trio of Arve Henriksen (trumpet, voice and electronics), Helge Sten (Electronics), and Ståle Storløkken (keyboards and electronics) – released a fourteenth album, their second for the label Smalltown Supersound. The group is best known for performances of “slow jazz:” avant jazz that unfurls at a gradual rate. Supersilent 14 revels in slow tempos, as the track “14.7” (embedded below) demonstrates. However, this time out there are a few other components shifted t0 make for a different listening experience.

The recording’s dozen tracks – labeled with numbers and nothing more – are relatively aphoristic, ranging from the horror movie industrial cast of the one-minute long “14.9” to the comparatively spacious and spacey “14.12,” which clocks in at five minutes and thirty-nine seconds. Thus, “slow jazz” tracks and more primarily electroacoustic soundscapes are allowed limited room for development, instead presented as atmospheres that often seem to begin in progress. Some Supersilent releases have hewed towards a lusher palette than 14, which instead tends towards the edgy. Henriksen’s trumpet is frequently distressed and sometimes subsumed by electronics. Sten, who also releases electronica under the name Deathprod, produced and mixed the recording. His approach revels in noise and overtones in nearly equal measure. The result is an impressive amalgam of both ends of the “sound art spectrum.” Occasional moments of recognizable patterning, like the Middle Eastern scalar passages that supply a coda to “14.4,” sounding all the more remarkable for their relative isolation in the proceedings.

At a certain point in their respective careers, most recording artists find it difficult to come up with fresh ideas. With “14,” Supersilent not only seems to have reconsidered their music afresh; they sound like a group just getting started.

 

Low – “Rome (Always in the Dark)” (Video)

 

This week, Low released a video for “Rome, Always in the Dark,” one of the tracks off of their new Sub Pop recording Double Negative (released yesterday).

On Double Negative, Low, probably best known for its work as one of the premier slowcore bands, moves their music closer to an aesthetic involving deconstruction and electroacoustic elements. One saw glimmers of this approach on their previous album, Ones and Sixes (2015), but now the band approaches distressing and reconstituting recorded material, including warped cassette tapes, full on and with aplomb. It is a fascinating new layer that complements, rather than replaces, the duet vocals of group founders Alan and Mimi Sparhawk and the group as a whole’s knack for finding fetching melodies and fashioning memorable instrumental arrangements. Double Negative is one of the freshest-sound and best executed recordings to see release this Fall. For a band in its third decade together, this vitality is all the more remarkable.

 

The band is touring in support of Double Negative (see dates below)

2018 Tour Dates
Sep. 19 – New York, NY – National Sawdust
Sep. 20 – New York, NY – National Sawdust
Sep. 21 – New York, NY – National Sawdust
Sep. 29 – Lisbon, PT – Lisboa ao Vivo
Oct. 01 – De Compostela Santiago, ES – Sala Capitol
Oct. 02 – Madrid, ES – Sala But
Oct. 03 – Barcelona, ES – Fabra i Coats
Oct. 05 – Milan, IT – Teatro Dal Verme
Oct. 06 – Zurich, CH – Bogen F
Oct. 08 – Leipzig, DE – UT Connewitz
Oct. 09 – Berlin, DE – Festsaal Kreuzberg
Oct. 10- Bochum, DE – Christuskirche Bochum
Oct. 11 –  Brussels, BE –  Orangerie (at Botanique)
Oct. 12 – Amsterdam, NL – Paradiso
Oct. 13 – Paris, FR – La Gaîté Lyrique
Oct. 15 – Bristol, UK – Trinity
Oct. 16 – Manchester, UK – Manchester Cathedral
Oct. 17 – Dublin, IE – Vicar Street
Nov. 02 – St. Paul, MN – The Fitz
Nov. 05 – Detroit, MI – El Club
Nov. 06 – Toronto, ON – Great Hall
Nov. 08 – Montreal, QC – La Sala Rosa
Nov. 09 – Boston, MA – Brighton Music Hall
Nov. 10 – Philadelphia, PA – Underground Arts
Nov. 12 – Washington, DC U Street Music Hall
Nov. 13 – Pittsburgh, PA – The Funhouse
Nov. 14 – Cleveland, OH – Grog Shop
Nov. 15 – Grand Rapids, MI – Pyramid Scheme
Nov. 16 – Chicago, IL – Rockefeller Chapel
Nov. 17 – Madison, WI – High Noon Saloon

2019 Tour Dates
Jan. 29 – Glasgow, UK – Tramway
Jan. 30 – Birmingham, UK – Birmingham Town Hall
Jan. 31 – Brighton, UK – St. George’s Church Brighton
Feb. 01 – London, UK – Barbican
Feb. 02 – Kortrijk, BE – De Kreun
Feb. 04 – Groningen, NL – Vera
Feb. 05 – Erlangen, DE – E-Werk (Erlangen)
Feb. 06 – Cologne, DE – Kulturkirche Köln
Feb. 07 – Frankfurt, DE – Sankt Peter
Feb. 08 – Hamburg, DE – Uebel & Gefährlich
Feb. 09 – Aarhus, DK – Voxhall
Feb. 11 – København, DK – The Koncerthuset – Studie 2
Feb. 12 – Gothenburg, SE – Pustervik
Feb. 13 – Oslo – Norway – Parkteatret
Feb. 14 – Stockholm, SE – Kagelbanan (Small Room)
Mar. 08 – Denver, CO – Globe Hall
Mar. 09 – Santa Fe, NM – Meow Wolf
Mar. 11 –  Phoenix, AZ – Valley Bar
Mar. 12 – Tustin, CA – Marty’s On Newport
Mar. 13 – Tijuana, MX – Moustache
Mar. 15 – Los Angeles, CA – Lodge Room
Mar. 16 – San Francisco, CA – Great American Music Hall
Mar. 18 – Portland, OR – Star Theater
Mar. 19 – Vancouver, BC – Imperial
Mar. 20 – Seattle, WA – Neumos
Mar. 23 – Provo, UT –  Velour Live Music Gallery

Quatuor Bozzini at Time Spans 2018 (Concert Review)

Bozzini Quartet.
Photo: Yuko Zama.

Quatuor Bozzini

Timespans Festival

DiMenna Center for Classical Music

August 14, 2018

NEW YORK – Quatuor Bozzini, a Canadian string quartet, have performed and recorded a plethora of contemporary music. While their advocacy is wide-ranging, the music of Canadian composers is near and dear to Quatuor Bozzini. They demonstrated this at the opening concert of Time:Spans Festival, five concerts this past week devoted to some of the most ambitious repertoire of today. The Bozzinis’ committed and razor-focused performances of works by Linda Catlin Smith and Cassandra Miller made them a tough act to follow.

Linda Catlin Smith’s Folkestone (1999) is inspired by an 1845 sketchbook of watercolors by J.M.W. Turner. While the Catlin Smith piece isn’t programmatic, Folkestone’s point of departure is the idea behind the sketchbook, that of returning to the same location over and over again to depict it in different light, weather, and events, thus creating a panoply of artwork that responds to it. The piece is cast in a series of twenty-four sections, called “panels” by the composer, interspersed with silences in between them to denote “page turns” between the musical sketches.

 

Composing prevailingly slow and soft music, allowing it silence and space to breathe, Catlin Smith is a kindred spirit of the Wandelweiser collective, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. However, she employs a highly individual pitch language. In places, piquant clusters populated Folkestone, casting adrift from pitch centers and offering instead rich polychords. However, peering out of the corners of her music are singable tunes and sumptuous consonances. All of these features in combination supply a slowly evolving, gently articulated music that is truly beguiling.

 

Cassandra Miller’s About Bach (2015) co-opts a phrase from J.S Bach’s Chaconne No. 2. However, the quotation is a jumping off point for an extended meditation on repetition. The melody, in the altissimo register, is repeated over and over by the violins in the quartet. They trade off the tune in a ricocheting antiphony that is among the most interesting aspects of the piece, underlining the element of space in the quartet. The other players provide brief, bustling lines in counterpoint.

 

In Catlin Smith’s piece, repetitions were varied and off center, requiring the listener’s attentiveness to differences in the various sketches she creates. Miller’s About Bach instead revels in repetition with the small differences of antiphony being the only change. One had to be willing to put aside the desire for differences of a large sort in Miller’s piece. But in the right headspace, going with the repeats instead of waiting for them to end, the piece proves spellbinding.

Both Smith and Miller have new CDs out on the British label Another Timbre. Miller’s disc, a recording by Quatuor Bozzini, is one of the label’s latest run of discs by Canadian Composers. Smith has been recorded both by the Bozzinis and, more recently, Apartment House. All Another Timbre outings are heartily recommended.

 

loadbang Celebrates 10th Anniversary with Concerts, New Focus Recording

CC: Cheering for the home team in this post (I collaborated with loadbang back in 2011 on a microtonal setting of “Prayer,” a poem by Joannie Mackowski). 

loadbang
Photo: Anthony Collins

Ten years ago, the members of loadbang met in the Contemporary Performance Program at Manhattan School of Music. A mixed chamber ensemble, consisting of Jeffrey Gavett, baritone, Andrew Kozar, trumpet, William Lang, trombone, and Carlos Cordeiro, bass clarinet, they have since commissioned, composed, and arranged a number of works for their hybrid grouping. They specialize in extended techniques, microtonality, and unconventional notation systems. In short, they are some of the most daring performers at the vanguard of contemporary music.

As in past years, loadbang held a Commission Competition in 2018, awarding First Prize to Cristina Lord: 

Oren Boneh and Yoshiaki Onishi were runners-up.

Earlier this year, loadbang released its latest recording, Old Fires Catch Old Buildings on New Focus.

It features compositions by two of the group’s members – Gavett and Lang – as well as pieces by Paula Matthusen, Reiko Fueting, Taylor Brook, Scott Wollschleger, and Angélica Negrón. Old Fires brings together some of the aforementioned special techniques with new demeanors: the jocularity of Brook’s piece, references to Sciarrino in Lang’s, and the spectral-based and breath-focused work of Fueting.

Below you can find a video  of the title track from the latest CD, as well as listings for the ensemble’s coming season. Happy anniversary loadbang!

 

 

loadbang: Upcoming Events

September 18, 2018: Susquehanna University (Selinsgrove, PA)
loadbang will be performing music by Mark Applebaum, Evan Johnson, Andy Kozar, William Lang, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, and Heather Stebbins.

September 23, 2018: Longy School of Music (Boston, MA)
loadbang will be performing a faculty recital featuring music by Mark Applebaum, Evan Johnson, Nils Vigeland, Heather Stebbins, Julia Werntz and ZongYun WE.
2pm

October 11, 2018: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 10 at location TBD (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by Daniel Bayou, Anne Hege, Eli Greenhoe, Lisa Atkinson, and Sonja Mutic. 7:30pm

October 17, 2018: Pendulum New Music at University of Colorado, Boulder (Boulder, CO)
loadbang will be performing a recital of works by Mark Applebaum, Eve Beglarian, Taylor Brook, Anne Here, Paula Matthusen, and Sonja Mutic.

October 21, 2018: Chatter New Music Series (Albuquerque, NM)
loadbang will be premiereing two pieces for loadbang and strings by Eve Beglarian and Scott Wollschleger in addition to works by Lisa Atkinson, Eli Greenhoe and Eric Richards.
10am

November 6, 2018: Out of the Box Series at the University of the Arts (Philadelphia, PA)
loadbang will be performing music by Quinn Collins, Paula Matthusen, Angélica Negrón, Paula Matthusen and Paul Schuette.

November 14, 2018: Concert in the Crypt at the Church of the Intercession (New York, NY)
loadbang will be performing music in this remarkable space by composers including Eve Beglarian, Jeffrey Gavett, Evan Johnson, William Lang, Hannah Lash, Paula Matthusen and a NY premiere of a new work for loadbang by Christian Wolff.
7:30pm

November 20, 2018: loadbang Presents: Solos at Arete (Brooklyn, NY) Featuring loadbang’s trumpeter, Andy Kozar. Repertoire TBA
7pm

December 4, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #1 ­ The Music That Defines at Roulette (Brooklyn, NY)
loadbang will be performing works that have been cornerstones of the repertoire. Music by Charles Wuorinen, Reiko Füting, Eve Beglarian, Andy Akiho, Hannah Lash, and Alexndre Lusqui. 8:00pm

December 5, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #2 ­ loadbang plays loadbang at The Crypt at the Church of the Intercession (NYC)
The members of loadbang have been writing for the ensemble since its inception. This concert will feature works by Carlos Cordeiro, Jeffrey Gavett, Andy Kozar and William Lang.
7:30pm

December 6, 2018: loadbang at 10: Concert #3 ­ Commission Competition Winners at The DiMenna Center’s Cary Hall (NYC)
For many years, loadbang has been holding a yearly Commission Competition. This concert will feature the past winners, Gary Philo, Evan Johnson, David Franzson, Chris Fisher­Lochhead and Ioannis Angelakis
7:30pm

February 11, 2019: CPP @ MSM 10th Anniversary Alumni Showcase at Manhattan School of Music’s Ades Space (NYC)
loadbang formed 10 years ago as students at MSM’s Contemporary Performance Program (CPP). This concert, as a celebration of the program’s 10th year, will feature alumni ensembles including loadbang, MIVOS, Rhythm Method, and TAK.
7:30pm

February 16, 2019: Brandeis University (Waltham, MA) February 17, 2019: Brandeis University (Waltham, MA)

Premiering works of student composers.

March 7, 2019: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 11 at Opera America (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by Chaya Czernowin, Vincente Atria, Andrew Harlan and a NY premiere by Andrew List. 7:30pm

March 19, 2019: loadbang Presents: Solos at Arete (Brooklyn, NY) Featuring loadbang’s vocalist, Jeffrey Gavett. Repertoire TBA
7pm

April 13, 2019: American Opera Projects and Chatter present Hannah Lash’s ‘Stoned Prince’ at SITE Santa Fe (Santa Fe, NM) loadbang will be performing an expanded version of Hannah Lash’s monodrama, Stoned Prince

April 14, 2019: American Opera Projects and Chatter present Hannah Lash’s ‘Stoned Prince’ at Las Puertas (Albuquerque, NM) loadbang will be performing an expanded version of Hannah Lash’s monodrama, Stoned Prince

April 18, 2019: loadbang Presents: Premieres Vol. 12 at Opera America (NYC)
loadbang will be giving world premieres of works by George Lewis, Claus Steffen­Mankopf, Alex Temple and loadbang’s Carlos Cordeiro and Jeffrey Gavett.
7:30pm