Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Trio Tritticali’s Issue #1 – One of 2011’s Best Albums

Brooklyn string ensemble Trio Tritticali have just released their new Issue # 1, one of the most gripping, intelligent, richly eclectic albums of recent years. Drawing on elements as diverse as Egyptian dance vamps, the baroque, bossa nova, tango and European Romantic chamber music, they blend those styles together seamlessly and imaginatively for a bracingly intricate sound that’s uniquely their own. The chemistry between violinist Helen Yee, violist Leanne Darling and cellist Loren Dempster is intuitively playful. As the songs slowly unwind, the band exchanges thematic variations, converses, intertwines and occasionally locks horns, individual voices often disappearing or reappearing when least expected: they may be a trio, but there are surprisingly many moments when it’s only two or even one of them. They love minor keys, and have a thing for chromatics, no surprise considering that Darling also jams with the Near East River Ensemble. Yee also plays yangqin dulcimer in Music from China; Dempster also performs with the avant-garde Dan Joseph Ensemble and with well-known dance ensembles.

Which makes a lot of sense: Dempster’s rhythmic, often funky edge is key to this group, right from the title track, which alternates stark, dark funk, then goes quiet and mysterious, then finally explodes in a blaze of chamber metal. It’s the most dramatic moment on the album. They follow that with a bracing tango, La Yumba, which takes a detour into early Beethoven with a cello solo that rises imperceptibly until it’s sailing over the lushness of the other strings. The dynamic shifts in this one are especially yummy.

A long, suspensefully crescendoing Middle Eastern piece, Azizah begins with a casually ominous series of taqsims (individual improvisations), shifting methodically from tone poem to processional to triumphant swing, voices constantly shifting and handing off ideas to each other. By contrast, Corcovado is a nostalgic bossa ballad that takes a turn in a more wistful direction, Dempster’s brooding solo leading to an intricate, stately thicket of violin and viola. A jazz-pop song in disguise that goes unexpectedly dark, Stolen Moments is a showcase for Dempster’s walking basslines, pensively swinging lines and bluesy accents. The sarcastically titled Ditty is actually one of the album’s most stunning compositions, another long detour into the Middle East with a funky modal edge, a memorably apprehensive Darling solo and an equally memorable lead-in from Yee, who comes in buzzing like a mosquito with an off-kilter, swoopy edge while the cello and viola lock in an intense, chordally pulsing bassline.

The seventh track, Who Knows Yet is a gorgeous, starkly wary waltz with a series of artful rhythmic shifts and a series of bitingly bluesy variations – it reminds a bit of Rasputina in an especially reflective moment. Psychedelic and very clever, Sakura is a diptych: an austere tone poem with the cello mimicking a koto, then a pensive, minor-key 5/4 funk theme with yet more deliciously unexpected tradeoffs between instruments. The concluding tone poem, Heart Lake, evokes Brooklyn Rider’s adventures in Asian music, viola and violin trading atmospherics over Dempster’s hypnotic, circular bassline – it’s like Copal at their most ambient, with distantly Asian motifs. This is one of those albums where every time you listen to it, you’ll discover something new – you can get lost in this music. With compositions like this, it won’t be long before Trio Tritticali will be playing big stages like Symphony Space; for the moment, you can catch them at low-key Brooklyn brunch spot Linger Cafe (533 Atlantic Ave. between 3rd and 4th Aves) on frequent Sundays – the next one is December 10 – starting around 1 PM.

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November 24, 2011 Posted by | classical music, middle eastern music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

A Stellar Concert at the Bulgarian Consulate

Despite all the cuts in funding to the arts over the past couple of years, there are still innumerable vital neighborhood concert series hidden away in unexpected places throughout New York, and we have not come close to discovering all of them. One recent rediscovery is the exciting chamber music series at the Bulgarian Consulate on the upper east. Last night Trio+ played an unselfconsciously inspired program that blended the comfortably familiar with some unexpected treats.

Pianist Vadim Serebryany, of Huntingdon College in Alabama, opened with Alban Berg’s Piano Sonata, Op. 1, a defiant evasion of any kind of resolution. Serebryany left plenty of room for hammering home the crescendos when he needed to, through the matter-of-factly fugal tradeoffs between righthand and the left in the first movement, the more sustained middle passages and the hint of a triumphant theme to close it: acidic tonalities within familiar architecture delivered with a confident familiarity with its strengths.

Cellist Wolfram Koessel (of the American String Quartet, and concertmaster for the Mark Morris Dance group) was joined by violinist Yosuke Kawasaki (of Japan’s National Arts Centre Orchestra) for a fearlessly intense romp through Ravel’s Sonata for Violin and Cello. It sounds like nothing Ravel wrote before or after, a jarring, percussive series of juxtapositions that could easily pass for Bartok in places. Yet as astringently assaultive as much of it is, it’s an opportunity for musicians to interweave those striking gestures with grace, and that’s what Koessel and Kawasaki did. The first movement is a series of convergences and divergences, themes shifting from one instrument to another and unexpectedly resolving counterrythms that seemed perfectly logical in the hands of these two. And when it came time for Koessel to switch from pizzicato to sweeping sustain, rather than smoothing it out, he dug in with an intensity that kept the joyous ferocity going full steam. The biting cantabile of the third movement and the clever exchanges of ideas and role reversals in the somewhat triumphant final one were delivered with fluidity yet also with wallop.

The exuberant fun continued when Serebryany joined them for a similarly spirited version of Schubert’s Piano Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 98 (D898). The catchy (some might say somewhat cloying) first movement is a staple of classical radio, something that WQXR would throw on regularly at about five minutes before the hour back in the day. This trio took the theme, went deep into it and pulled out every bit of operatic grandeur, then elevated the andante pocco mosso second movement from a lullaby to a majestic, swaying dance on the waves, then traded off with an occasional smirk on the final scherzo and rondo, Serebryany’s impeccably imperturbable fluidity the perfect anchor for the energized swells and accents of the strings. The series here (121 E 67th. between Park and Lexington Aves.) continues on February 16 at 7:30 PM with an all-Beethoven program by violinist Georgy Valtchev, cellist Amir Eldan and pianist Lora Tchekoratova.

January 20, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Vanessa Fadial, Aron Zelkowicz and Salley Koo Make an Auspicious Trio

Thursday at Trinity Church was the first time that pianist Vanessa Fadial, cellist Aron Zelkowicz and violinist Salley Koo had performed together. They should do this more often: they complement each other well. Their one piece together as a trio was Ravel’s Piano Trio in A Minor, a four-part suite. Fadial’s affectingly shimmery cantabile gave Koo the perfect launching pad for her vividly searching, soaring lines while Zelkowicz mined its myriad dynamic shifts for all they were worth. Throughout the brightness of the first movement, the brisk counterpoint of the second, the serioso intensity of the third and whirling bustle of the conclusion, they played with a singleminded seamlessness that spanned from brooding to downright joyous.

Fadial and Zelkowicz had opened the program with a lively, inspired version of another suite, De Falla’s Suite Populaire Espagnole, a series of frequently intense flamenco-tinged themes, including a couple of stately waltzes (one with a macabre marionette feel) and a plaintive lullaby. Zelkowicz followed that, playing from memory, with a solo arrangement of the Chaconne from Bach’s Partita No. 2 (BWV 1004). The piece is almost three hundred years old, yet was as transcendent to listen to as it must have been when it was written. Zelkowicz dug in and gave it a mighty gravitas: in his hands, it was more of a requiem than a courtly dance. When it came to the long, absolutely riveting series of eight-note broken chords about two-thirds of the way through, he pulled back just a little and let the seemingly endlessly shapeshifting series of rivulets go on their own to paint a picture that lit up the bleakness with incredible poignancy. Tony Tommasini’s consideration of Bach this past Sunday for his ongoing “top 10 classical composers of all time” pantheon in the Times couldn’t have made more sense than it did at that moment.

January 15, 2011 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment