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.



 

 

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