Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

An Urbane, Greek-Adjacent New Live Album From the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center just got back from tour in Greece…and brought a record back with them. Their new album, Odyssey – streaming at PBS – bolsters the argument that more artists should make live albums, classical ensembles included. It’s also genteel party music. 0riginally broadcast on PBS” Live From Lincoln Center, it features both standard repertoire and more obscure material diversely associated with Hellenic culture.

It begins with Tara Helen O’Connor’s dynamically swaying, often broodingly muted solo take of Debussy’s Syrinx for Flute and concludes with a gregariously cheery, occasionally beery rendition of Mendelssohn’s Octet For Strings in E-flat major. The ensemble – violinists Sean Lee, Danbi Um, Aaron Boyd and Arnaud Sussmann; violists Matthew Lipman and Paul Neubauer; and cellists David Finckel and Dmitri Atapine – have a particularly good time with the teenage composer’s clever echo effects in the second movement.

The two partitas in between have a more distinctly Greek flavor. Emily D’Angelo brings an unexpected arioso intensity to the miniatures of Ravel’s Cinq Melodies Populaires Grecques for Voice and Piano, over Wu Han’s nimble shifts from Middle Eastern-tinged chromatics to misty, muted Mediterranean balladry. Then Neubauer teams with Boyd for a quartet of short pieces from George Tsontakis” Knickknacks for Violin and Viola. The only Greek composer included on the album gets a particularly strong interpretation: with the music’s insistently rhythmic, acerbic call-and-response enhanced by excellent recording quality, the duo evoke a considerably larger ensemble.

Then they team with O’Connor for Beethoven’s Serenade in D major, which the extensive liner notes describe as “a bit of nostalgia marking the end of an era.” Well put: Mozart is cited as an influence, and the Italian baroque also seems to be a strong reference in the livelier, more balletesque movements.

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center – a roughly 180-member, rotating cast of world-class talent – are celebrating fifty years of exploring the vast world of small-ensemble repertoire, in intimate performances that continue year-round from their home base at Alice Tully Hall.

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September 14, 2019 Posted by | classical music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Make Their Central Park Debut

You might think that the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center would have played the summer concert series at the Naumburg Bandshell in Central Park at some point in the past 44 years, but it actually never happened until Thursday night. Which, when you think about it, isn’t so surprising. Lincoln Center being their home, the logical destination for them for summer concerts is out back in Damrosch Park. This was like the Mets making a visit to Yankee Stadium. How did they fare off their home turf? It would be nice to say they came to conquer; a more fair assessment would be that they met the situation halfway, through no fault of their own or the organizers of the Naumburg concerts, who do a fantastic job. The sound was amplified and mixed well and many people in the crowd got to take home a free t-shirt. What possibly could have gone wrong?

In the year 2013 it has become more than obvious that outdoor concerts in New York in the summer may soon become a thing of the past: combine budget cuts in every conceivable area with the effects of global warming and then do the math. Cellist David Finckel, violinist Sean Lee, violist Daniel Phillips and flutist Tara Helen O’Connor typically play the comfortable, sonically excellent, air-conditioned Alice Tully Hall when they’re not on the road. This time out, they had nasty humidity and heat to make their job difficult and impact their ability to stay in tune. They opened with Mozart’s Quartet in D for Flute, Violin, Viola and Cello, K285 and then followed with Beethoven’s Serenade in D for Flute, Violin and Viola, Op. 25. Both pieces, the Mozart especially, are the kind of works that composers of their era wrote to pay the bills: if not for the applause between the two, it would have been hard to tell when the former ended and the latter began. Whether the endless volleys of call-and-response, or simply the heat, lent an air of sluggishness, is open to debate: the concert will air in its entirety on WQXR on September 2; you can listen at ciento y cinco punto nueve (105.9 FM used to be the salsa romantica station) or at WQXR.org and be the judge.

But serendipitously, the Beethoven picked up with a lively folk dance just as the sun set and a cool calm settled over Central Park, and suddenly the musicians seemed at home, through the dynamically shifting three final movements, ending on a drolly energetic, teasing note with a series of classic Beethovenesque endings. Then pianist Wu Han joined the full ensemble and they played Dvorak’s Quintet in A Major, B. 155, Op. 81. You probably know this piece even if you don’t think you do: it’s a staple of film scores from the 40s and 50s, especially the sad, slow second movement, and Han went deep into lingering cavatina mode for that. As the piece went on, helicopters circled and circled – you would have thought that Osama Bin Laden and Dick Cheney were canoodling in a nearby gully. Whatever the copters were looking for, they didn’t find, in many, many passes overhead. When the music was audible, it was excellent, particularly Dvorak’s long, expansively cinematic first movement, the robust scherzo of the third and the bittersweet romp out with the fourth. Anyone who thinks that Dvorak is all about lush optimism should hear what this crew did with it. This was it for the Naumburg concerts for 2013. The CMSLC will be back at Alice Tully Hall with all kinds of enticing programs in the weeks ahead.

August 26, 2013 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Cygnus Ensemble’s Ab Nou Cor Crosses All Boundaries

Indie classical outfit Cygnus Ensemble has a fascinatingly eclectic collection of Frank Brickle chamber works titled Ab Nou Cor out recently on Innova. They call it “neo-medieval psychedelia.” That’s actually not a bad way to describe at least some of this. The best way to start is not with the original compositions but with the new arrangements of a couple of fairly well known pieces from the 13th and 18th centuries. Perotin’s famous early medieval choral work Sederunt Principes has never sounded more modern. Utilizing the whole ensemble – guitarists William Anderson and Oren Fader (who also employ period stringed instruments here), cellist Susannah Chapman, oboeist Robert Ingliss, flutist Tara Helen O’Connor, violinist Calvin Wiersma and pianist Joan Forsyth – they highlight portions of the old madrigal to bring out a seemingly global range of influences, from a stately Spanish court theme (shades of Miles Davis) to a jaunty, practically Celtic dance. They also reinvent Ferrucio Busoni’s Berceuse Elegiaque as a warped Pavane for a Dead Infant with thoughtful handoffs between voices and some memorably rumbling and then eerily starlit (and probably extemporaneous) piano from Forsyth.

In addition to composition, Brickle is also an inventor whose pioneering work in software-based radio won him a government contract. Not that you need to be aware of that to see how disparate his interests are. The opening track is the first of a handful of partitas: a syncopated cello/theorbo dance, a dramatic third-stream jazz interlude with soprano Haleh Abghari soaring overhead, a return to the theme with the guitar dancing over a cello pedal note, a briefly somber interlude setting up a waltz theme with considerably more restrained vocals. Could this or some of the other works here have been composed for the theatre?

They certainly sound that way, especially The Creation, a Towneley Mystery Play. This number clocks in at around thirteen minutes of tension between dramatic consonance and airy atonality featuring high-voltage flourishes from Abghari, a couple of brief, brooding piano/strings interludes and a deliciously creepy, music box-style crescendo that leads to a concluding rondo. They explore jazz on Midnight Round, its hypnotic, elegantly fingerpicked interplay between the guitarists echoing Redhooker’s adventures in that field. Merlin I evokes Roy Wood’s explorations of moody medieval fretwork and then sees the ambience shattered by Abghari’s piercing, unnervingly atonal leaps and bounds.

As much as Brickle likes to explore multiple genres within a lengthy suite, he also likes vignettes. The title track is a rather insistent, brief work for theorbo and voice; the stately, pleasantly steady, rather skeletal Teutonic concluding cut featuring the same instrumentation. There’s also the murky piano miniature In Media Res with its striking low/high contasts, and Genius Loci, a delicately interwoven thicket of twin acoustic guitars.

March 21, 2012 Posted by | avant garde music, experimental music, Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment