Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Inbal Segev Reveals the Deep Inner Core of the Bach Cello Suites At Lincoln Center

Cellist Inbal Segev played a mesmerizingly intuitive, emotionally electrifying selection of Bach cello suites from her forthcoming album at Lincoln Center last night. During an extensive and enlightening Q&A with an intimate penthouse crowd, she came across as both deeply reflective and also something of a restless soul – a runner during her conservatory years, she’s clearly still defining her own path. When she picked up her bow, she played with a penetrating yet luminous tone reflective of the centuries since her cello was manufactured in Italy in 1673. It was the antithesis of a cookie-cutter performance: Segev varied her dynamics and attack with sometimes minute, sometimes striking variation depending on emotional content, revealing the music as songs without words.

Excerpts from Nick Davis‘ forthcoming documentary film about Segev, screened before the concert, revealed that she’d been scheduled to complete the album prior to this year (the music is still in the editing stage). But during the initial recording, she collapsed. In trying to embrace a more traditional baroque approach to the music, one that goes against the grain of her own intuition as an artist, she ended up abandoning the project. She told the crowd that her only choice was to regroup and reapproach the album – the Bach suites being sort of a rite of passage that most A-list cellists record sooner or later – with her own integrity front and center. That last night’s concert sounded perfectly suitable for release on cd validates that she picked the right moment to listen to her inner voice.

During the Q&A, three of the cellist’s remarks were especially telling. First, she admitted to being more comfortable in the concert hall than in the studio: “Onstage, it’s everything we’re trained to do: you don’t have time to think,” Segev explained. Which begs the question of why more artists, in the classical world and elsewhere, don’t release more live recordings. Another interesting remark spoke volumes. In response to an audience member inquiring about the degree to which Segev employs the traditional metronomic rhythm for playing Bach, the cellist replied that she didn’t. “A metronome can kill a piece easily,” she cautioned. Which deeply informs how Segev approaches Bach: while she didn’t rubato the music or imbue it with tropes from Romanticism or otherwise, her interpretations were irrefutably individualistic.

She equated the stark sarabande from the Suite No. 5 in C Minor to Webern, explaining how elusive its tonal center is and then illustrating it with a spare, exploratory quality enhanced by tuning her A string down to a G for extra overtones, as was popular in Bach’s era. By contrast, much of the Suite No. 2 in D Minor was considerably more straightforward. She ended the show by finding the inner danse macabre in the gigue from the Suite No. 5. If the new album is anything like this concert, it’s amazing.

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February 26, 2015 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cellist Inbal Segev Treats a Chelsea Crowd to an Intimate Solo Show

Let’s say you run a Chelsea gallery and want to expand your base. Maybe you know somebody who knows one of this era’s great cellists. Why not invite that cellist for a solo performance, and invite a whole bunch of people to see her play? That’s exactly what the brain trust at the FLAG Art Foundation did last night. And the place was packed, an impressively diverse crowd treated to intimate, meticulously nuanced performances of Bach’s Suite in C Major and Krzysztof Penderecki’s Divertimento by Inbal Segev.

Segev approached the Bach emphatically, digging in hard, especially in the lowest registers as she got underway. Ranging from gracefully balletesque to matter-of-factly scurrying to a similarly considered, wary resonance, she brought a wide emotional spectrum to life. The Penderecki gave her a chance to expand her dynamics, shifting through its uneasy leaps, bitingly percussive pizzicato climbs and creepy washes with a steely focus. From the first few notes of the concert, Segev had a feel for the room, with a tone that blended rusticity and moody, richly ambered gravitas. The sonics of the untreated white-box gallery space aren’t suited to many kinds of music, but its natural reverb turned out to be the perfect complement to the program’s mostly low-midrange tonalities.

Enticement via concert has been going on for a long, long time: after all, why do you think so many restaurants have live jazz? And it’s become more crassly commercial since the dawn of social media: punk bands at the sneaker store chain; kiddie bands at the supermarket; sissycore bands at hastily prefabricated Bushwick “luxury” condos. Segev’s performance was a refreshing alternative to all that – and instantly puts the FLAG folks on the map for their consummately good taste.

May 22, 2014 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Inbal Segev and Fernardo Otero Kill the Lights at le Poisson Rouge

To play the cello, you have to be comfortable in the dark. Wednesday night at le Poisson Rouge, cellist Inbal Segev and her old Juilliard pal, pianist Fernando Otero, treated a sold-out crowd to a performance as deep and intense as they could have possibly delivered. Segev wasted not a single second in setting the tone for the night, digging in mightily with a solo rendition of Bach’s Cello Suite No. 5 in C Minor, BWV 1011. As the chords opening the initial prelude roared through the club’s PA system, it was clear that she was going to follow this haunted road as far as it led. For awhile, it was heavy metal, 1725 style. And when the fugal second part began, she let its stately nonchalance speak for itself, its long sequence of broken chords dancing on a grave, maybe.

Otero, known for his uncompromising, slashing melodic attack and fearlessly dark lyricism, joined her for a set of five of his pieces. Milonga, the first, was done as a murky modal tableau, basically a one-chord rumble like Cecil Taylor in a long brooding moment. It built to rapidfire lower-register boogie that gradually added an otherworldly deep-space glimmer as he developed it, one hand playing off the other with a staccato that surprisingly wasn’t crushing but very subtly modulated: a heavy piece done with dynamics that its mighty wallop overshadowed. Segev got the chance to accent the boogie with a savage staccato and lit into it with relish. The two musicians seem to be kindred spirits, with an easy chemistry that contrasted with the unease and sometimes outright anguish of the material. A song without words artfully contrasted Segev’s apprehensive precision against Otero’s minutely jeweled, otherworldly glimmering righthand clusters; they closed with a diptych with echoes of Satie, Chopin’s E Minor Prelude and ELO, rivulets playing wildly against Segev’s stoicism followed by an animated chase scene that ended on a disconcertingly ambiguous note.

Segev closed with a stunning solo rendition of Kodaly’s Sonata, Op. 9 for Solo Cello. It’s a genuinely phenomenal piece of music, decades ahead of its time. Segev shared some of the highlights beforehand with the crowd, noting that it dates from the same year – 1917 – as the famous Debussy Cello Sonata, and offered a taste of some of the highlights, which utilize a lot of pizzicato and some delicious chordal slipsliding late in the piece. But all the pyrotechnics paled next to the chilling, proto-Shostakovian, stygian mourning of the adagio movement. Opening with some jarring juxtapositions leading into plenty of suspense, it becomes a relentless, crushing dirge before finally reaching for a somewhat macabrely charged energy in the third movement, a thicket of extremely difficult passages simultaneously bowed and plucked (Segev had it down cold) lit up with numerous quotes from Hungarian folk dances. Kodaly, like Bartok, did some serious research in the countryside before embarking on this dangerous journey. The crowd screamed for an encore and Segev rewarded them with a lickety-split, doublestop-driven, perfectly precise version of a sizzling bluegrass theme by fellow cellist Sean Grissom.

June 4, 2011 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment