Lisa Bielawa: Chance Encounter
Orange Mountain Music CD 7004
Susan Narucki, soprano
Lisa Bielawa’s 2007 Chance Encounter is a kindred spirit to the recent spate of “random acts of culture” documented on YouTube. The work is meant to be performed in public spaces, with the musicians emerging gradually from their surroundings, and audience members choosing a vantage point from which to experience the music. The piece has had notable outings in Manhattan and, during Bielawa’s residency at the American Academy in Rome, on the banks of the Tiber River.
An inventive song cycle for soprano and twelve instruments, Chance Encounter consists of texts overheard in public spaces like those in which the work is presented. Bielawa finds quiet profundity in everyday speech, questions and observations grouped into songs named for their prevailing sensibility: “Topos Nostalgia,” “Drama/Self-Pity,” “Nothing,” “Aimlessness Song.” The songs are interleaved with instrumental transitions, each of which anticipates the material of the subsequent song.
Bielawa’s vocal writing – more traditional here than in some of her other works, but no less engaging – is performed by the esteemed soprano Susan Narucki, who collaborated with Bielawa in compiling the texts. Though the words are at times difficult to understand, Narucki sings with characteristic warmth and expressivity throughout. The work’s elegant instrumental textures are expertly rendered by The Knights, a versatile chamber orchestra comprised of some of New York’s finest young musicians. The soloists featured in the interludes – Eric Jacobsen (cello), Colin Jacobsen (violin), Ben Baron (clarinet) and Lance Suzuki (flute) – deserve special mention for the clarity and conviction of their playing.