Posts Tagged “International Contemporary Ensemble”

Afterglow afterglow

music of Keeril Makan

performed by International Contemporary Ensemble

mode records

  • Mercury Songbirds for alto flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano and percussion
  • Husk for flute, oboe and harp
  • Afterglow for piano
  • Becoming Unknown for flute/bass flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, trumpet and double bass
  • Mu for violin
  • After Forgetting for clarinet, piano, percussion, violin, and cello


performed by ICE:

Eric Lamb, flutes; Joshua Rubin, clarinets, James Austin Smith, oboe; Gareth Flowers, trumpet; Erik Carlson, violin; Kivie Cahn-Lipman, cello; Randall Zigler, double bass; Nuiko Wadden, harp; Cory Smythe, piano; Nathan Davis, percussion; Erik Carlson and Adam Sliwinski, conductors

Some of the first music I heard by Keeril Makan was rough, aggressively dissonant, and full of tense and explosive energy. Afterglow, the new release of Makan’s music performed by International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) tones down the savagery and highlights Makan’s control of timbre, color, and gesture. The title track, a solo piano work, obsesses on sympathetic string reactions to simple repeated tones for almost four and a half minutes. As elegantly as Afterglow builds and adds material, part of me wishes that the piece kept that opening texture for the full 14 minute duration. Cory Smythe’s performance truly revels in the stillness and quietness of the resonant strings and the recording makes me yearn to hear the piece live.

Mu, the only other solo work on the disc, is for prepared violin and structured using an open form. Erik Carlson paces the glassy sounds and long notes well and assembles a coherent and engaging performance (although a brief one, only about 3 minutes). Husk, for flute, oboe, and harp, also emphasizes coloristic gestures and resonance over a short time frame. Again, the composition is full of poignant pauses and space to let the harp strings resonate. The woodwind writing is proto-melodic and mostly consists of long sustained tones which shift timbral space between the flute and oboe. As one would expect from ICE, the performance is vibrant.

Three longer chamber ensembles bookend and center this recording. Mercury Songbirds combines more aggressive and spikier arrivals against a subdued and omnipresent piano drone. Becoming Unknown is the most conventionally tuneful work but these melodies are fragmented, twisted, and just as soon as they build any strength they begin to decay away. I was especially drawn to the touches of trumpet in this otherwise woodwind-dominated texture. The final work on the disc, After Forgetting, has in some ways the most expected formal design on the disc which makes it rather unexpected. A constant droned pulse permeates and drives the piece forward while melodic gestures and arrivals fit in, around, and against it. The traditional harmonic touches soften the dissonance a bit and as the pulse fades out the work resumes the haunting beauty found on the rest of the disc. The abrupt final cutoff of the piece took me by surprise; I was convinced it was an error in the recording.  Overall, ICE plays with a spectacular affinity for shape, color, and gesture. Their sound is a perfect fit for Makan’s music.

Comments No Comments »

Terrestre

New Focus Recordings FCR 122

Claire Chase, flute

International Contemporary Ensemble

The only drawback to a Claire Chase CD is that you don’t get to watch her play. Fortunately, the performances and production on Terrestre are such that Chase’s visceral energy comes through loud and clear. She is joined on several pieces by her outstanding colleagues in the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE).

Terrestre opens with the title track, by Kaija Saariaho. ICE has worked with Saariaho on several occasions, and it’s apparent from this vibrant recording that Chase, violinist Erik Carlson, cellist Kivie Cahn-Lipman, harpist Nuiko Wadden and percussionist Nathan Davis feel a deep connection to her music.

The old chestnuts on this disc are by modernist icons. Chase and pianist Jacob Greenberg romp through Pierre Boulez’s Sonatine and Franco Donatoni’s Fili, while she and clarinetist Joshua Rubin spar elegantly in Elliott Carter’s Esprit Rude, Esprit Doux.

The highlight of the album is Dai Fujikura’s Glacier for solo bass flute: a subterranean, twenty-first century answer to Debussy’s Syrinx. Chase follows it with a graceful reading of Laura Mullen’s poem was-O, closing out her second solo release and building anticipation for her third.

Comments No Comments »