Misato Mochizuki at Miller Theatre (concert review)

Yarn/Wire
Photo: Cherylynn Tsushima

Misato Mochizuki Composer Portrait

Thursday March 2, 2017

Miller Theatre

By Christian Carey

NEW YORK – On Thursday, March 2nd, Japanese composer Misato Mochizuki was featured on Miller Theatre’s Composer Portraits series. In a concert featuring four U.S. premieres and concluding with a work commissioned and premiered at the 2015 Lincoln Center Festival, the audience was introduced to a range of her work. Throughout, Mochizuki demonstrated a clear aesthetic embodied by an interest in exploring a panorama of instrumental timbres and effects and a flair for dramatic, often quasi-ceremonial, designs.

The earliest work on the program, Au Bleu Bois (1998) for solo oboe, was a standout. Mochizuki uses various playing techniques in an imaginatively constructed trajectory, ranging from microtones to multiphonics through all manner of alternate fingerings. James Austin Smith made this formidable work sound fluent and exquisitely well-shaped. Moebius-Ring (2003) was likewise given a persuasive rendition by Ning Yu, who handled its muscular, seemingly ceaseless, repetitions of corruscating glissandos with mastery. Percussionist Russell Greenberg’s committed and commanding performance of Quark-Intermezzi III featured a catalog of percussion instruments and extended techniques. Unfortunately, here Mochizuki’s penchant for the reiterative moved past the merely confrontational to the assaultive, populating the work with fortissimo thwacks of a tam-tam over and over again and a flock of searing bowed crotales (which appeared elsewhere on the program in a similarly overdosed measure).

Russell Greenberg

JACK gave an excellent performance of Mochizuki’s first string quartet Terres Rouges (2006). Once again, there was a “kitchen sink” aspect to the catalogue of playing techniques featured; in general, editing could be a friend to the composer. However, several of the gestures found a structural place that helped one sieve through the panoply: a strident high violin note that opened the piece and reappeared, transformed, at its conclusion, the exertion of varying degrees of bow pressure, microtonal harmonics, and hammer on techniques reminiscent of the way heavy metal guitarists dig in. Indeed, one could see the members of JACK revelling in the challenges posed to them, acting as a tight ensemble unit.

The concert closed with Le monde des rond et de carrés (2015). Written for Yarn/Wire and first premiered at the 2015 Lincoln Center Festival, it is a piece just as much about ritual and choreography as it is about challenging chamber music. Its beginning is particularly striking. Percussionists Ian Antonio and Greenberg made their way from the back of the hall to the stage, playing crotales and cup bells. Once onstage, they were joined by pianists Laura Barger and Ning Yu in unison passages, which gradually began to accumulate a more extensive pitch profile as the percussionists moved to mallet instruments. The intensity of the glockenspiel and vibraphone, played in fiercely fortissimo patterns, urged the pianists to their own glissandos and ostinatos. After the aforementioned searing passages featuring bowed crotales, a drumkit was added to the proceedings, first played by Antonio, then with Greenberg joining in. The piece’s climax involves the kit exclusively, with both the pianists joining the percussionists attacking the kit as well, unleashing a bombardment of crashing cymbals and forceful drumming. It was a kinetic and fascinatingly choreographic conclusion to the piece and the concert. Mochizuki has found stalwart advocates in Yarn/Wire and JACK; one can imagine future fruitful collaborations among them.

Tarik O’Regan on NMC (CD Review)

Tarik O’Regan

A Celestial Map of the Sky

Hallé

Hallé Youth Choir

The Manchester Grammar School Choir

Jamie Phillips conductor

Sir Mark Elder conductor

NMC Recordings CD

 

Tarik O’Regan’s music has appeared upon some thirty recordings, but NMC’s CD, A Celestial Map of the Sky, is the first entirely devoted to his orchestra music. The disc supplies an excellent overview of the British composer’s work. The title piece is persuasively performed. The Hallé Youth Choir and The Manchester Grammar School Choir make music worthy of cherubim and the Hallé Orchestra accompanies them with clustered harmonies that glow. The piece has a fascinating back story: it was inspired by two woodcuts of the celestial hemispheres engraved by Albrecht Dürer in 1515. These are among the oldest “star charts” that have been found in Europe. Latent Manifest takes its inspiration from a few centuries later, in a single gesture from a Bach violin sonata which then undergoes procedures of expansion until it positively flourishes. Premiered at the BBC Proms, Latent Manifest is a muscularly orchestrated work that features Hallé’s formidable brass section to stirring effect.

 

O’Regan is of Moroccan descent on his mother’s side. When he was growing up, he lived for a time in Africa. Raï and Chaâbi present elements of African folk music through a Western lens.

Components from that tradition – African instruments, choices of timbre, and, particularly, rhythmic patterns – enliven both pieces. It is here that O’Regan’s music takes on its most “post-minimal guise,” exploring percussive ostinatos punctuated by strings. Here and elsewhere, the orchestral forces are martialed with incisive command by Jamie Phillips and Sir Mark Elder. The disc is capped off with Fragments from Heart of Darkness, a suite of instrumental music from O’Regan’s chamber opera based on the Joseph Conrad book. It begins suitably mysteriously with sinuous chromaticism but gradually moves toward another bevy of ostinatos, first folk-tinged and then martially stentorian.

 

Those who would like to hear a bit of the composer’s famed vocal music aren’t left wanting by this project. A bonus download-only track, “Now Fatal Change,” features countertenor Ryland Angel and violinist Lara St. John. A reworking of material found in Chaâbi, with a text originally set by Henry Purcell, it is an attractive piece fetchingly performed by the duo. Angel has a rich, resonant voice that handles both registral edges of the vocal part with ease. St. John draws similarly plummy tone from her instrument, finely tuning the many passages of multiple stops and performing ostinato sections with verve.

 

He may be as prolific as all get out, but A Celestial Map of the Sky marks itself as a special project in O’Regan’s catalog. Recommended.

Hayes Biggs played by Thomas Stumpf (YouTube)

Pianist Thomas Stumpf’s latest Albany Records recording features composer Hayes Biggs’s first Piano Prelude, The Secret the Silent Lazarus Would Not Reveal. Based on the poem, “The Afterlife,” by Billy Collins, it is a virtuosic traversal of the piano’s low register, featuring sepulchrally jazzy chords and ominous angular melodies.

Stumpf’s Reflections on Time and Mortalitya two-disc set, also includes pieces by Chopin, Debussy, Janàcek, Bartók, John McDonald, and Yehudi Wyner.

Moon Duo: “Lost in Light” (Soundcloud)

Moon Duo - Jasmine Pasquill

Moon Duo’s Occult Architecture, Vol.2 is out on May 5th, 2017 via Sacred Bones.

Moon Duo Tour Dates:
Sat. March 11 – Mexico City, MX @ Festival NRMAL
Wed. Mar. 15 – Newcastle, UK @ Northumbria University
Thu. Mar. 16 – Manchester, UK @ Band On The Wall
Fri. Mar. 17 – London, UK @ Heaven
Sat. Mar. 18 – Paris, FR @ Le Trabendo
Sun. Mar. 19 – Nancy, FR @ L’Autre Canal
Mon. Mar. 20 – Zurich, CH @ Plaza
Thu. Mar. 23 – Budapest, HU @ A38
Fri. Mar. 24 – Graz, AT @ Orpheum Extra
Sat. Mar. 25 – Vienna, AT @ Chelsea
Mon. Mar. 27 – Leipzig, DE @ UT Connewitz
Tue. Mar. 28 – Berlin, DE @ Bi Nuu
Wed. Mar. 29 – Copenhagen, DK @ Pumphuset
Thu. Mar. 30 – Oslo, NO @ Bla
Fri. Mar. 31 – Stockholm, SE @ Kagelbanan
Sat. Apr. 1 – Gothenburg, SE @ Pusterviks
Mon. Apr. 3 – Groningen, NL @ Vera Club
Tue. Apr. 4 – Amsterdam, NL @ Paradiso Noord
Wed. Apr. 5 – Eindhoven, NL @ Effenaar
Thu. Apr. 6 – Brighton, UK @ The Haunt
Fri. Apr. 7 – Leeds, UK @ Brudenell Social Club
Sat. Apr. 8 – Glasgow, UK @ Stereo
Fri. Apr. 21 – Chicago, IL @ Empty Bottle
Sat. Apr. 22 – Detroit, MI @ El Club
Sun. Apr. 23 – Toronto, ON @ Horseshoe Tavern
Tue. Apr. 25 – Montreal, QC @ La Sala Rossa
Wed. Apr. 26 – Boston, MA @ Great Scott
Thu. Apr. 27 – Brooklyn, NY @ Rough Trade
Fri. Apr. 28 – Philadelphia, PA @ Johnny Brenda’s
Sat. Apr. 29 – Washington, DC @ DC9
Sun. Apr. 30 – Cleveland, OH @ Beachland Tavern
Thu. June 8 – Ravenna, IT @ Beaches Brew
Sat. June 10 – Barcelona, ES @ Unload Club
Mon. June 12 – Bilboa, ES @ Kafe Antzokia
Tue. June 13 – Madrid, ES @ Caracol
Wed June 14 – Biarritz, FR @ Wheels and Waves Festival
Thu. June 15 – Montpellier, FR @ Le Rockstore
Mon. June 19 – Antwerp, BE @ Trix
Tue. June 20 – Brussels, BE @ Les Ateliers Claus
Sat. June 24 – Sat. July 1 – Roskilde, DK @ Roskilde Festival
Fri Aug. 18 – Parades De Coura, PT @ Parades de Coura

Goldfrapp: “Ocean” (YouTube)

Photo: Alison Goldfrapp

Goldfrapp’s new LP, Silver Eye, is out March 31st via Mute. A more synth-filled adventure this time around, which one can hear on the album’s leadoff track “Ocean.” While not all of their tour is confirmed as yet, there are dates (below) in the New York and Philadelphia areas.

Silver Eye Tour Dates:
20th March – O2 Academy, Oxford – SOLD OUT
21st March – The Junction, Cambridge – SOLD OUT
23rd March – The Leadmill, Sheffield – SOLD OUT
24th March – BBC 6 Music Festival, Glasgow – SOLD OUT
27th March – Roundhouse, London – SOLD OUT
24th April – Theatre Of Living Arts, Philadelphia
26th April – Brooklyn Steel, New York
27th April – Brooklyn Steel, New York 
8th July – Blue Dot Festival
14th July – Latitude Festival

Fifth House and Baladino – Nedudim (CD Review)

Fifth House Ensemble & Baladino

Nedudim

Cedille Records/Baladino CD

 

Fifth House Ensemble’s second CD for Cedille, Nedudim (Hebrew for “wanderings”) employs material from a plethora of folk traditions: Appalachian American, blues, Greek, Balkan, Turkish, and Indian, to name only some of them. Fifth House enlists as their performance partners the versatile world music group Baladino. Composer Dan Visconti and Baladino member Thomas Moked Blum supply imaginative arrangements that juxtapose notated material for Fifth House and quasi-improvisatory guides for Baladino. In addition to standard Western instruments – horn, flute, clarinet, saxophone, piano, and strings – the listener is also greeted by didjeridu, duduk, oud, ney, and African percussion.

 

The combination of these two ensembles is a successful one, creating a fluidity of rhythmic interaction that many crossover albums with folk elements lack. Indeed, the coexistence of instruments East and West and pieces that hew closer to classical or folk traditions provides the CD with enjoyable variety. A star in the proceedings is the incredibly versatile vocalist Yael Badash, whose singing matches the fluency of the instrumental performances. Nedudim traverses a great deal of musical ground, but never strays.