Lucid Culture


The Mise-En Festival; Arguably 2019’s Best New Music Marathon

There are several annual festivals dedicated to new orchestral and chamber music in New York, but no organization casts a wider net than Ensemble Mise-En. Over the past few years, they’ve championed some of the best obscure composers from around the world and resurrected others whose work has been undeservedly forgotten. Last night at Scandinavia House, an expanded edition of the group played a marathon conclusion to their annual festival. The first half was a characteristically rare treat.

The first piece of the night was the world premiere of João Quinteiro‘s Energeia, with Yoon Jae Lee conducting an octet of strings, winds and percussion. Assembled from a vast series of flitting, momentary motives, it became all but impossible to figure out who was playing what, Just when an idea hinted that it would coalesce, it was gone. The two percussionists, Josh Perry and Chris Graham, had a blast, their whirs and buzzes and a momentary, thunderous boom from a large collection of strikable items punctuating a dancing, flickering parade of fragmentary imagery. That put everyody in a good mood.

The night’s piece de resistance was the American premiere of Seoul-based Yie Eun Chun‘s Urban Symphony, Lee conducting a fifteen-piece ensemble throughout its striking, cinematic, whirlwind cinematic shifts. A portrait of the composer’s home turf, it evoked the noir bustle of Charles Mingus, the persistent unease of Messiaen, a little circular Steve Reich in the background along with Miho Hazama at her most majestic. Insistent, kinetic riffage that rose to frantic levels and a creepy chase scene midway through contrasted with tense, minimalist call-and-response over a pulse that began on the cowbell and then made its way through less comedically evocative instruments. It flickered out calmly at the end: peace had finally come to the city. It’s hard to imagine a more consistently thrilling new orchestral work played anywhere in this city this year: it deserves a vast audience.

Another consistently gripping if somewhat quieter composition was another American premiere, Peder Barratt-due‘s microtonal duet ldfleur. Violists Anna Heflin and Hannah Levinson brought its spare, determined unresolve into sharp, sometimes disquieting, sometimes jaunty focus with their dynamic interplay, down to whispery harmonics and then back.

The coda of the first half of the marathon – which was scheduled to run late into the night – was the world premiere of Martin Loridan‘s Concerto pour Piano et Ensemble. Windy, toneless gusts filtered in from the winds and horns, to the violins – watching Marina Im and Sabina Torosjan blow into their instruments was ridiculously funny, considering how meticulously they would articulate the composer’s calm, hovering lines afterward. Pianist Yumi Suehiro’s grim, fanged, revolving phrases, both on the keys and inside the piano, contrasted with that hazy sustain, first from the strings and then the rest of the full ensemble. If Reich had ever wanted to write theme music for a Halloween haunted house, this could have been it.

This was it for the Mise-En Festival, but the group maintains a year-round schedule, both at their home digs in Bushwick and points further from the dreaded L train.

June 30, 2019 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Obscure Treasures at the Opening Night of This Year’s Mise-En Festival

Before last night’s otherworldly, flickering “composer portrait” of the individualistic proto-serialist Klaus Huber to open this year’s Mise-En Festival, had there ever been an all-Huber program performed in New York? Actually, yes – by Ensemble Mise-En, a couple of years ago. Which comes as no surprise. For the past several years, the Brooklyn-based new-music group have been adventurous as adventurous gets, with a wide-ranging sensibility and fearless advocacy for undeservedly obscure composers from across the ages unsurpassed by any other chamber music organization in town.

While Huber’s work sometimes echoes the stubborn kineticism of Ligeti, the rapture of Messiaen, the poignancy of Mompou and the ethereality of Gerard Grisey, ultimately Huber is one of the real individualists of 20th century music. George Crumb was another contemporary who came to mind as pianist Dorothy Chan shifted from simple, lingering chords, to a sudden horrified flurry capped off by a giant crash, to wispy brushing on muted strings inside the piano in a methodically shapeshifting take of Huber’s trio piece, Ascensus. Alongside her, flutist Kelley Barnett and cellist Chris Irvine worked slow, deliberate mutations on brief accents and bursts, The audience was spellbound.

Barnett and Irvine joined forces with oboeist Erin Lensing, trombonist Mark Broschinsky, violinist Maria Im and violist Carrie Frey for the night’s opening number, In nomine – ricercare il nome. It was akin to watching an illuminated Rubik’s Cube…or the deck of the Starship Enterprise in slo-mo as harmonies shifted back and forth between the strings and winds.

Im’s solo take of a very late work from 2010, Intarsimile für Violine came across as a less petulant take on a Luciano Berio sequenza, employing extended technique, wispy overtones and the occasional microtonal phrase for subtlety rather than full-on assault. Barnett serenaded the crowd from the Cell Theatre’s balcony with Huber’s 1974 solo piece Ein Hauch von Unzeit, whose trills and misty ambience became more of a lullaby,

Pianist Yumi Suehiro teamed with Barnett, Frey and percussionist Josh Perry for a methodically calm, somewhat benedictory coda, Beati pauperes, whose deep-space stillness brought to mind the awestruck, concluding expanses of Messiaen’s Quartet For the End of Time. Perry enhanced the mystery with spacious, distant booms on a big gong as the melody grew more warmly consonant, the group conducted with equal parts meticulousness and quiet triumph by founder Moon Young Ha.

This year’s Mise-En Festival continues through this Saturday, June 30 Tonight’s 8 PM Brooklyn program features solo works by Victor Marquez-Barrios, Patrick McGraw, Amelia Kaplan, Lydia Winsor Brindamour and an electroacoustic piece by Steven Whiteley, performed at the group’s Bushwick home base at 678 Hart St, #1B (at Marcy Ave). Admission is $15/$10 stud/srs; take the G to Myrtle-Willoughby and be aware that there’s no Brooklyn-bound service afterward.

June 28, 2018 Posted by | avant garde music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Typical NYC Concert Moment: A Brilliant Program by Under-the-Radar Ensemble Mise-En

To anyone who might be cynical about music in New York: you don’t get out enough. Last night at the Tenri Cultural Center in the West Village, Ensemble Mise-En played a richly eclectic, entertaining and often transcendent program including two world premieres and a US premiere which should have happened long ago. This adventurous, relatively young (average age: guessing mid-20s), mixed winds/strings/percussion ensemble put together a program that puts to shame most of the bills taking place in the high fifties and mid sixties in this town most days of the week.

The evening started on an auspicous note with Irish composer Karen Power’s Cold or Hot Bean Slurper for chamber orchestra with guest conductor Mark Loria out in front of the ensemble, where he would remain for the second piece as well. One might see the title and think Chinatown noodles: au contraire, this brought a richly dynamic sense of fun, vivid timbral contrasts and a long, apprehensive upward arc to music that put a lively spin on the spectral sounds coming out of IRCAM in the mid-80s.

Eric Lyon‘s sarcastic punk classical suite Noise Variations for chamber orchestra was next on the bill. The title was sarcastic as well. It actually wasn’t particularly noisy – rather, the ensemble brought an often cruelly sardonic feast of close harmonies and parodies of classical tropes, from a twisted spoof of Beethoven’s Diabelli variations, to a LOL-suspenseful Waiting for Godot To Play the Next Motif interlude, to a coldly and richly satisfying faux-heroic overture that wound up the piece on an high note – or a low note, depending on your perspective. Either way, it was great fun.

They gave Danish composer Hans Abrahamasen’s Walden Variations a playful, suspensefully bucolic treatment, again mining the space between agitation, or just plain motion, for all the suspense and potential laughs it was worth, throughout this otherwise vividly verdant, subtly rising and falling tone poem.

The concert ended up on a riveting, Shostakovian note with South Korean composer Isang Yun’s 1988 Distanzen for Wind Quintet and String Quintet, a New York premiere. Yun spent prison time after being nabbed by the South Korean gestapo for his 1967 jaunt to the north of the country, and the horror of his experiences resonated throughout the uneasy, often chililng, semi-horizontal work. Ali Jones’ raw, fiery cello intro, Nicholas Walls’ surrealistically echoing, ominously sostenuto horn and the potently moody insistence of Ben Thomas’ bass propelled this haunting, brilliant work to a lush swell that hit a shiveringly agitated swell before a chilly, ethereally calm, not altogether safe conclusion. All in all, it was a triumphant performance including but not limited to ensemble members flutist Domenica Fossati, oboeist Stuart Breczinski, clarinetists Diego Vasquez and Jinju Yeo, alto saxophonist Kevin Baldwin, bassoonist Jack Chan, horn player Nathaniel Center, trimbonist Tyler Vahldick, pianist Dorothy Chan, subtle percussionist Clara Warnaaar, violinists Sabina Trojosjan and Hanjal Plvnick, violist Sam Kelder and maestro Moon Young Ha, confident,  inspired and understatedly intense on the podium.  Brilliant programs like this are all over the place in New York, but you have to look for them. Ensemble Mise-En plays their next show on May 2 at 8 PM at the Cell Theatre in Chelsea with music by Bent Sørensen, Erik Lund, Louis Karchin and Moon Young Ha.

March 8, 2013 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, lists, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment