Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Cantata Profana Blend Renaissance Drama and Twentieth Century Austerity with Fun and Relevance at Symphony Space Tonight

The lights went down in the disused Roebling Avenue storefront, and then members of Cantata Profana – harpsichordist Daniel Schlosberg, theorbo player Arash Noori, clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich, violinist Jacob Ashworth, tenor Jonathan Blalock and baritone Jonathan Woody – launched into Monteverdi’s brooding kiss-off anthem, Interotte Speranze. What do you do the night before a big Symphony Space gig? Book a Williamsburg show…and pack the place. And then treat a mostly twentysomething crowd to mulled wine, Oreos and a surrealistically edgy, irresistibly fun performance that makes unexpectedly vivid connections between Renaissance vocal music and  Twentieth Century austerity. As if we need more proof that there’s a young, engaged audience that’s clamoring for serious concert music but has been priced out at the establishment venues, this is it. If the idea of pairing hauntingly resonant Webern vocal works with proto-parlor-pop and proto-opera appeals to you, Cantata Profana are reprising last night’s entertainment at Symphony Space tonight at 8 PM; tix are $25/$10 stud.

Cantata Profana are a prime example of how versatility is the new specialization, across the musical spectrum these days: it’s  the revenge of the utility player over the high-priced allstar. The ensemble – a core of singers and players surrounded by a semi-rotating cast – proved as at home with acidic Second Viennese School tonalities as with elegant medieval Italian balladry. The piece de resistance at this show is American composer George Rochberg’s Contra Morten et Tempus, with its hair-raising dynamic shifts and various quotes from Ives, Berio and other contemporaries. Another similarly bracing number on the program is Luigi Dallapiccola’s’ Due Liriche di Anacreonte, a showcase for tersely considered interplay between mezzo-soprano Virginia Warnken Kelsey and among the supporting cast at well. And the juxtaposition between a partita by Renaissance Jewish composer Salamone Rossi, rising from a rather haunting, almost klezmer introduction to more easygoing Mediterranean tones, against the twelve-tone acerbity of Webern, was an example of shared ambition, an unexpectedly smooth segue.

To wind up the bill, the group employs a rather mystical diptych by Guido Caccini to set up Monteverdi’s famous early operatic piece Il Combattimento di Tancredi e Clorinda, sung with appropriate drama by tenor Samuel Levine with support from Woody and scintillating sopratno Emma McNairy (whose raw power, unleashed in the small Williamsburg space, provided the night’s most adrenalizing moments). Like the rest of the earliest music on the bill, it makes an unanticipatedly good pairing alongside the serialist works – it’s hardly arioso, considering that the vocal line doesn’t really move around that much, leaving the cruel irony of the deadly duel between the knight and his crush-in-diguise all the more resonant. Especially in our era of global conflicts which are no less logically twisted.

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January 22, 2016 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

The Borromeo String Quartet Do Some Foreshadowing on the Upper West

A Boston institution (and once a New York one during their two-year Lincoln Center residency a while back), the Borromeo String Quartet played Webern, Bartok and Beethoven with a warm familiarity and a soulfulness last night at the upper west side’s Music Mondays series. They know this material, and they get it.

Anton Webern’s Langsam Satz was the opening piece and was delivered with late-summer lustre, heavy on the vibrato. It’s basically an increasingly complex series of permutations on a simple, memorable four-note riff, making its way around the ensemble as it gently shifted shape. The Tschaikovskian second movement featured strikingly boisterous pizzicato phrasing from violist Mai Motobuchi, after which the group brought it back down to a warm cantabile mood.

Bartok’s Sixth String Quartet made a sharp contrast, and received a marvelously subtle treatment. This one doesn’t have the outright wrath of much of the composer’s work but it’s full of satire and a pervasive unease that quickly makes itself utterly inescapable. If Sartre’s Huis Clos had a soundtrack, this could be it. Cellist Yeesun Kim plowed deeply into the resonant introduction and brought the rest of the ensemble along as they alternated ominous atmospherics and slightly furtive embellishments. Violinists Nicholas Kitchen and Kristopher Tong built a distant whirlwind on the second movement; the third, a twisted dance, had alarms going off, signaling the approach of what appears to be a satirical version of the kind of pretty nocturne exemplified by the Webern. A series of perfectly precise violin overtones signaled in the completely counterintuitive, calm ending: seventy years later, Bartok is still a car-length or two ahead of most composers.

They closed with Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 92. For the composer, it was something of a landmark, signaling the development of a wholly original sound, in the process shifting the paradigm away from the predictable call-and-response of Haydn that he’d emulated up to that point. It’s a clinic in tension between apprehensive, fiery, Vivaldiesque crescendos and smoothly swaying teutonic phrasing, darkly shadowed by its lower tonalities, and the quartet let those contrasts speak for themselves. In a way, it was the perfect piece to follow the first two because it synthesizes the emotional content explored by each: Bartok’s disquiet and Webern’s optimistic solidity. And like them, it ended warmly, in the style of a Bach cantata: a somewhat triumphant song without words that tacked an unexpectedly happy ending on after all foreshadowing to the contrary. With its brisk dynamic changes and fluid runs that border on the torrential, it’s not easy to play, but the Borromeos made it seem that way. The next Music Mondays concert at the dual-congregation church at 93rd and Broadway is December 13 featuring the Sospiro Winds plus violinist Miranda Cuckson and pianist Aaron Wunsch, playing music of Gyorgi Ligeti.

November 9, 2010 Posted by | classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment