Lucid Culture


CD Review: Thomas Piercy and Vilian Ivantchev’s Cafe Album

A collection of brilliant segues. For a casual listener, this is the perfect rainy day album, pleasantly pensive with a balance of melancholy and more upbeat material, especially toward the end. For more adventurous fans, it’s a smartly innovative concept that works all the way through. Clarinetist Thomas Piercy and acoustic guitarist Vilian Ivantchev link fourteen pieces together as a suite, beginning with the French late Romantics, taking a detour into the German baroque before following the gypsy path to Brazil and from there to Argentina, where the trail ends on a note that threatens to jump out of its shoes with joy. It’s a very subtly fun ride.

Having worked with both Leonard Bernstein and KRS-One, Piercy is diversely talented. He’s as strong in his upper register, with a buoyant, flute-like presence on Telemann’s A Minor Sonata, or soaring with bandoneon textures on the Piazzolla pieces here that close the album, as he is mining the darker sonorities of Bartok’s Roumanian Folk Dances suite, or Erik Satie’s Gnossienne or Gymnopedie No. 1. Ivantchev displays almost superhuman discipline, restraining himself to terse, rock-solid chordal work or precise arpeggios, with the exception of the Piazzolla where he gets to cut loose a little more – but not much. Ultimately, this album is all about connections, and the duo make them everywhere. Debussy’s Le Fille aux Cheveux de Lin (The Blonde Girl) follows so seamlessly out of Satie that it could practically be the same piece. Likewise, following the last of Bartok’s gypsy dance transcriptions with Villa-Lobos’ Modinha is so logical that it’s almost funny when you think about it. The duo close the album with two brief arrangements of songs by vintage Argentinan tanguero Carlos Gardel (Mi Manita Pampa and Sus Ojos Se Cerraron) into a stripped-down yet melodically rich version of Piazzolla’s four-part suite Histoire du Tango and then, seemingly as an encore, Jacinto Chiclana which ends the album on a note equally balmy and bracing. Piercy’s viscerally intuitive feel for the tension-and-release of tango lets the guitar hold things together this time, giving him a chance to launch into some quiet rejoicing. Piercy plays the cd release show for this album at Caffe Vivaldi on June 19 at 8:15 PM with his trio: live, they are considerably more boisterous.


June 15, 2010 Posted by | classical music, latin music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Bach Has Been Reformed!

That’s right. Good old Johann Sebastian has finally discovered syncopation, dynamics and standard tuning! And it’s rumored that he’s become an atheist. OK, enough of that joke.

Bach ReformedRob Moose alternating between tenor guitar and mandolin, accompanied by violinist Dana Lyn – played last night at Barbes and earned a roaring ovation from a surprisingly full house, especially for an early show. This isn’t the latest scheme to market classical music to a rock crowd: it’s new interpretations of Bach that breathe fresh energy into the music while remaining impressively true to its original passion and intensity. Both players have a smooth, legato style, a unique approach that works because they make the music fluid without actually swinging it.

The emotion in Bach is not in the rhythm: done right, it’s metronomic and mechanical. But as anyone in the Bach cult (it’s hard to think of a real Bach fan who isn’t completely hardcore about it) is aware, the melodies span the entire spectrum of human emotion, from the subtle to the extreme. Tonight’s show alternated between wistfulness and ebullience, as the duo ran through almost an hour’s worth of their own arrangements of several pieces including the Partita in D Minor for Violin, an E Major cello piece that they’d transposed to G (it works better that way on guitar, without all the open strings that have to be muted), and a six-part cello sonata.

Moose is also an occasional composer, and the two played an air that he’d written a couple of years ago, whose slightly nostalgic feel (with some indie rock chords snuck in for extra volume) fit perfectly with the rest of the program. Lyn, who plays a lot of Irish music, played one of her own pieces (“127 bars,” noted Moose) that started very Celtic, then took a striking detour with a somewhat drastic tempo change and a lot of eerie dissonance before getting all pretty and upbeat again. They closed with a jig and a bourree, Moose playing from memory, very impressively. The two didn’t completely nail every single change: “Check out this really cool intro!” Moose encouraged the audience, as he’d missed his cue seconds before. But the passion and fun of the performance far overshadowed any slight imperfection.

“We decided to talk to the audience tonight,” revealed Moose. “All this Bach just makes us more introverted.” Throughout the show, they shared amusing, off-the-cuff insights into how this piece or that was especially difficult, or interesting, and why. Lyn told a long joke with a limerick whose punchline involves screwing up the limerick. And she screwed it up even further, which actually made it even funnier. Bach Reformed will dispel any ill-founded notions you might hold after being subjected to NPR fund drives or WQXR’s programming for the entirety of December: in their hands, Bach is all about the fun (and the dance: remember, that’s what jigs and bourrees are for). Whether you’re hardcore, or just discovering how beautiful and intense Bach’s music is, you should see these guys sometime.

April 9, 2008 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment