Da Capo Players at Merkin (Concert Review)

Da Capo Chamber Players Perform a Potpourri of American Works

 

Da Capo Chamber Players

Da Capo Chamber Players

Merkin Concert Hall

June 4, 2018

 

NEW YORK – Themed programs and portrait concerts are all the rage these days. As such, it is refreshing when an ensemble goes eclectic, presenting a diverse array of music. Such was the case on Monday, June 4th, when Da Capo Chamber Players performed eight pieces by living American composers who write in a plethora of styles. Consisting of violinist Curtis Macomber, cellist Chris Gross, flutist Patricia Spencer, pianist Steven Beck and joined by guest artists soprano Lucy Shelton, clarinetists Marianne Glythfeldt and Carlos Cordeiro, and percussionist Michael Lipsey, the musicians are a formidable cadre of some of New York’s best new music performers. This was handily demonstrated in all of the works on offer at Merkin — how often can you depend on that level of consistency?

 

Few groups perform the rhythmic patternings of minimalism more assuredly than the Da Capo Players. Here they clearly delineated the differences between various types of ostinatos. Sweet air (1999) by David Lang juxtaposed its repetitions with distressed dissonances, In the sole premiere on the program, Dylan Mattingly’s Ecstasy #3 (2018) presented passages filled with an alt-folk-inflected melody. An arrangement by Robert Moran of Philip Glass’s Modern Love Waltz (1980) may have explored repetition in the most straightforward way of the pieces here, but its fluid playfulness made it a fetching addition to the proceedings.

 

The modernist wing of composition was represented too. Elliott Carter’s Canon for Four (1984) received an incisive rendition, with the contrapuntal details of the work vividly underscored. Tanoa León’s One Mo’ Time (2016) mixed a varied palette of chromaticism with inflections of gospel and jazz. She is one of the best at allowing these two traditions to coexist in her music in organic fashion. Christopher Cerrone supplied one of the evening’s most imaginative works. Hoyt=Schermerhorn for keyboard mixed a gradual build-up of soft textures that was somewhat indebted to the works of Feldman but through quicker changes of harmony. Over time, effects such as reverb and treble register loops brought the piece from its eighties origins into the twenty-first century. Amalgam (2015) by Taylor Brook, was the concert’s most experimental piece, with the players (and soprano Lucy Shelton) moving from disparate roles to unison playing, then heterophonic treatment of the piece’s melody. Amalgam is a fascinating composition that certainly proved to be a successful experiment for Da Capo.

 

The concert’s standout was Romancero (1983), for soprano and ensemble, settings of four medieval poems thought to be from the Sephardic Jewish tradition by Mario Davidovsky. Shelton was as expressive as ever and well-matched for the angular challenges posed by Romancero’s post-tonal pitch vocabulary. Her voice ranged from delicately floating pianissimo passages to forceful forte declamations. The instrumental parts are quite demanding as well, reminiscent of the complexly articulate language of Davidovsky’s electroacoustic Synchronisms. Shelton is a frequent collaborator with Da Capo (see a recent video of their rendition of Arnold Schoenberg’s Pierrot Lunaire below), and their association showed in the intricate interplay between voice and instruments: a gem of a performance.

 

As if to remind us of the celebratory catholicity of taste that bound together the disparate strands of this program, its finale was the brief, yet brilliantly multi-faceted, Encore (1991) by Bruce Adolphe. Composed to celebrate the Da Capo Players’ twentieth anniversary, it has remained a staple of their repertoire. It is hard to believe that the group has now been going for 48 years. Based on the vigor with which they performed at Merkin Hall, the sky’s the limit for their upcoming golden anniversary season.



 

 

Friday: Aaron Parks Trio at Smalls

Parks trio color
Aaron Parks Trio left to right : Billy Hart, Aaron Parks, Ben Street Photo: © Bart Babinski / ECM Records

On Friday, June 16th from 7:30 to 10 at the New York jazz venue Smalls, pianist Aaron Parks celebrates the release of Find the Way, his second release on ECM as a leader (and third overall). On 2013’s Arborescence, Parks appeared on the label as a solo artist, crafting improvisations in a live setting that were gently sculpted but nevertheless stirring selections. This time out, Parks plays in a trio; he has a versatile and well-versed rhythm section at his disposal and to his credit, the pianist adopts an attitude of collaboration, encouraging each artist to take a turn in the spotlight. He is joined by eminent jazz drummer and frequent ECM recording artist Billy Hart and bassist Ben Street, a musician with many avant-jazz credentials who also plays in Hart’s quartet.

Aaron Parks - Find the Way

With energetic tom fills and textural cymbal playing, Hart particularly stands out on “Hold Music,” one of eight originals on the recording (the only cover is the title song, a chestnut that isn’t a household name, but ought to be). On “Song for Sashou,” Street supports a supple quasi-bossa, gliding in and out of register with Parks’ comping to underscore both rhythmic elements and a fetching countermelody.

There’s a painterly quality to the tune “Adrift.” It serves as a point of departure from the washes of sound that Parks evokes in his solo playing. These are now incorporated into a multifaceted context with a rhythm section’s underpinning. Still, the title is an accurate one; even with drums and bass, there is a delicacy of approach here that prevents the music from feeling too strongly grounded. Often Parks takes neo-impressionist approach. “Unravel” flirts with Ravel in its extended chord arpeggiations and revels in delightful offsets in the interplay between the hands. “The Storyteller” pits Parks’ stacking of extended chords against bluesy right hand licks. Meanwhile, Hart makes space for fills to spur things onwards and Street plays multi-register melodies, once again finding a melodic role for the bass to navigate. “Alice,” with aching suspensions and deft filigrees in its intro, followed by a rousing colloquy for the trio, is a particularly memorable composition and one that demonstrates that there is a bit of welcome steel in the midst of this trio’s buoyant demeanor. Find the Way is a big step forward in the development of Parks’ already potent musicality – one imagines that this will be a memorable gig!

Locrian Players Celebrate Rautavaara

Shoot for Locrian Chamber Players

On Saturday March 25th at 8 PM, Locrian Chamber Players present a concert at their home base of operations, the performance space at Riverside Church. The program celebrates the legacy of Einojuhani Rautavaara (1928-2016) with two works: The Last Runo for flute and string quartet and the violin-piano duo Summer Thoughts. It also features New York composer Harold Meltzer’s Piano Quartet. The evening is rounded out with pieces by Paolo Marchettini, Anthony Donofrio, and Chia-Yu Hsu. Admission is free; reception to follow.

1/10: Jenny Q. Chai at LPR (Concert Preview)

jennyqchai

Pianist Jenny Q. Chai is a versatile artist. Her repertoire includes works by contemporary Europeans such as Phillipe Manoury and Marco Stroppa (her dissertation topic), and she recently recorded an excellent portrait CD on Naxos of music by Nils Vigeland. She also performs standard repertoire, such as Robert Schumann and Claude Debussy.


On January 10, in a program entitled Where is Chopin? (subtitled “Steampunk Piano 2”), Chai creates a juxtaposition of Carnaval by Schumann with brand new pieces that feature artificial intelligence, performing the music of Jaroslaw Kapuscinski, a Stanford University-based composer who uses the AI program Antescofo. It supplies a live visual component that responds to the particular nuances and inflections of a given performance. Doubtless Chai will give the program plenty to think about.

Blue Streak Ensemble Visits New York

brouwer
Composer Margaret Brouwer’s Blue Streak Ensemble visits New York on Sunday and Monday with a free concert in Brooklyn and a modestly priced one in Manhattan.
Good new music ensembles have a programming ethos. Brouwer’s curation is decidedly eclectic encompassing, on one end of the spectrum, some of the more intricate lieder by Johannes Brahms and, on the other, contemporary works for electronics by Mario Davidovsky and Andrew Rindfleisch. Somewhere in the middle of this stylistic orbit are pieces by Chen Yi and John Harbison. 
So, refreshingly, stylistic features or agendas aren’t an issue when it comes to programming. One might say that Brouwer celebrates the old saying, “variety is the spice of life.” This allows us to enjoy a diverse program unified by the talents of persuasive performers Sarah Beaty, Erika Dohi, Kimia Ghaderi and Haruka Fujii.
blue streak
Sunday, July 12, 20153:00 PM
St. John’s Episcopal Church
139 St. John’s Place
Brooklyn, NY
(Near the 2, 3, B, Q, and R lines)
Free admission, no tickets required.
Monday, July 13, 20157:30 PM
Marc A. Scorca Recital Hall, 7th floor
330 7th Avenue (at West 29th St.)
New York, NY
(Steps away from the 1, 2, 3, A, C, E, N, Q, and R lines)
Tickets are $15 in advance through Eventbrite, and $20 at the door. Student tickets are half price. Price includes a wine reception following the performance.
PROGRAM
Margaret Brouwer: Declaration, for mezzo soprano, violin and piano (East Coast premiere)
Clint Needham: On the Road for violin and piano
Andrew Rindfleisch: Listen, for electronic playback
John Harbison: Two Arias from The Great Gatsby 
Huang Ruo: Sound of Hand for percussion (July 13 only)
Chen Yi: From Old Peking Folklore, for violin and piano
Johannes Brahms: Von ewiger Liebe, Mädchenlied and Ständchen, for mezzo and piano (July 12 only)
Mario Davidovsky: Synchronisms No. 9 for solo violin and electronic sounds
PERFORMERS
Haruka Fujii, percussion (July 13 only)
Sarah Beaty, mezzo soprano
Kimia Ghaderi, violin
Erika Dohi, piano

Thursday: Sarah Plum at Spectrum

Sarah Plum

On Thursday, June 25th at 7:00 PM, violinist Sarah Plum plays a concert at  Spectrum (121 Ludlow Street, NYC). Tickets are $15 ($10 for students and seniors) and are available at the door.

Plum, a new music specialist, has two CDs coming out on July 14th, both on the Blue Griffin imprint. On the first, joined by Timothy Lovelace, she presents the first volume in a projected series of music for violin and piano by Béla Bartók. The second is a CD of new music, concertos by Sidney Corbett and Christopher Adler.

On her gig at Spectrum, Plum plays works by both of the aforementioned living composers, as well as pieces by Charles Nichols and Mark Engebretson. Her program features both pieces for violin and electronics and violin and piano. She is abetted by pianist Francine Kay. Below, you can check out a video of a work on the program, Nichols’s Il Preto Rosso for violin and interactive electronics. Plum repeats the Nichols at New York City Electroacoustic Music Festival on June 26 at 4:00pm ( info at nycemf.org).

5/29 – Locrian Chamber Players Concert

Locrian Chamber Players concert will give a concert next Thursday (May 29) at 8PM in Riverside Church, 10th floor performance space.  The concert is free.
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The program:
George Crumb–“Sun and Shadow,” for mezzo-soprano and amplified piano
Harrison Birtwistle–“Lied,” for cello and piano
Nils Vigeland–“Capriccio,” for flute, glockenspiel, cello and harpsichord (world premiere)
Justin Merritt–“A Gauze of Misted Silver,” for harp and string quartet
Ashley Wang–“Antares Falling,” for piccolo and piano (New York premiere)
Edmund Jolliffe–“Turn On, Tune In and Drop Out,” for flute, harp and string quartet (world premiere)
The players:
Calvin Wiersma and Curtis Macomber, violin; Daniel Panner, viola; Greg Hesselink, cello; Diva Goodfriend-Koven, flute and piccolo; Anna Reinersman, harp; Jonathan Faiman, piano; Jacqueline Horner-Kwiatek, mezzo-soprano; Elaine Comparone, harpsichord.
A reception will follow the concert.