On a journey: East Berlin, Germany

On a journey: East Berlin, Germany

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

"Voices", Ensemble Dal Niente @ Nichols Hall, MIC, January 31 '13

I attended a concert program entitled, "Voices", and presented by Shanna Gutiérrez, the flautist of the Chicago-based contemporary chamber ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente. She created a program of seven pieces, consisting of four world premieres, two U.S. premieres, and a 'classic' in the contemporary flute repertoire. Here's the list:

- (2009) (US Premiere) for solo flute and electronics, Olga Krashenko (b. 1983)

-Zungenspitzentanz (1983) vom 'Samstag aus Licht' for solo piccolo, Karlheinz Stockhausen 

-Dizzy Divinity I (1985) (US Premiere) for solo flute, Horatiu Radulescu (1942-2008)

-An exceedingly clear absolution engine (2012) (World Premiere), Ray Evanoff (b. 1984)

-Still Life (2012) (World Premiere) for soprano, flute, and cello, Jamie Leigh Sampson (b. 1984)

-Letterludes (2012) (World Premiere) for alto flute, guitar, and percussion, Frederick Gifford (b. 1972)

-Sur le debris (2012) (World Premiere) for bass flute and electronics, Francisco Castillo Trigueros 
(b. 1983)

I really liked Zungenspitzentanz, Still Life, and Sur le debrisZungenspitzentanz, or "a dance for the tip of the tongue", reminded me of Der kleine Harlekin, a piece for solo clarinet, which I heard played by my friend in Germany, clarinetist Merve Kazokoglu. The unusual entrance/musician-turned-stage-character who breaks the fourth wall were intriguing, and held the audience's interest. Still Life was based on the idea that anxiety, isolation, and panic can exist behind a facade of calm, or a 'still life'. Soprano Amanda DeBoer Bartlett delivered a compelling performance. Sur le debris took amplified gestures from the bass flute, and, via looping and 'disintegrating' the sound with electronics, manipulated the gestures into permutations and extensions. For example, Shanna clicked on the keys without blowing any air into the flute, and Trigueros' electronics manipulated the key percussion into vivid clicking sounds that caused my mother to turn excitedly to me, saying that she hadn't expected to hear a piece that "resembles my [often upset] stomach." My only complaint during Sur le debris is directed at the sound volume of the amplified manipulations. It was sometimes too loud, and bordered on hurting my eardrums. 

Sur le debris caught the attention of my parents, who, while avid music lovers, usually don't attend contemporary chamber ensemble concerts. "Americans like innovation and fresh creativity, and this kind of music will draw them in. They might be bored during Mozart, but their imaginations will be inspired by the non-conforming sounds," mused my mother, reflecting on the concert. I think she's on to something. 

Shanna had a confident and polished stage presence, as did her guest artists. Wardrobe choices were eye-catching but not distracting, and the energy emanated from the stage was vibrant and invigorating, yet poised. I look forward to more Ensemble Dal Niente performances in the future. 

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