Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

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, fluitist 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.

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

Cutting Edge String Quartet Music with Vocals from Matt Siffert

When you think of a songwriter with a string quartet, you probably imagine the end result being some kind of chamber pop or art-rock. What Matt Siffert has done is something entirely new. It’s not opera or arias but it’s not rock either: you could classify this as indie classical with vocals, or a style that Siffert has invented and has yet to name. Either way, his new album Cold Songs is is an extremely enjoyable, bracing ride.

Don’t let Siffert’s soft voice fool you: he has an edge. While there’s a lot of bitterness in the storyline here, Siffert has a sense of humor that often takes centerstage.The music follows the lyrics very closely, sometimes almost to the syllable, shifting from pensive and wistful to savage and vicious, or simply playful. The composition is lively and sophisticated, with intricate counterpoint, polyrhythms and harmonies that range from austere to harsh to hints of neoromanticism, serenely sustained passages up against slashing, turbulent interludes. Violinists Maria Im and Olivia Mok, violist Erin Wight and cellist Eric Allen dig in, soar and wail through this terse five-song collection

The first song, Figures from Your Past sets the tone, shifting nonchalantly from a rather blithe pizzicato intro to brooding and then insistant and angry. After a seething a-cappella verse -“Even a thief tastes my kiss, even a jackal hears my hiss, even a weatherman feels my fickleness” – the strings rise up again, agitated, to a cold ending.

The second track, October is the post-breakup scene, brooding and downcast, biting melody set to a lush arrangement. Showoff brings some welcome comic relief: “Sometimes I gotta show off,” is Siffert’s insistent mantra, as he turns the quartet loose with dancing countermelodies over a catchy cello hook and a jauntily suspenseful vamp on the way out.

Two Women at Once is a wryly rakish, theatrical Brecht/Weill-style cabaret number with an unexpectedly creepy interlude and an equally unexpected plaintiveness as it winds out: none of these songs follow any kind of predictable verse/chorus format.  “I haven’t loved in weeks, maybe more, maybe none,” Siffert’s narrator asserts. The album returns to a pensive and eventually creepy ambience with When Is It Gonna Be Me, whose steady, apprehensive swirl foreshadows that this is no ordinary lovelorn ballad, and as it darkens it becomes genuinely sinister. Where Siffert goes from there is ts too good to spoil.  You can hear all this at his Bandcamp page, where the album is streaming all the way through: Siffert and this string quartet play Zirzamin on Feb 1 at 8 PM.

January 24, 2013 Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, rock music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments