In a program that spans the course of 110 years, Kettle Corn New Music and Cantata Profana also spanned the gamut from grief to reverie and humor to playfulness in their May 27th performance at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in New York. Featuring a roster of stand-out performers, their Alice in Wunderbar program was clearly devoted to exquisite music-making.
Alice in Wunderbar
Three Epitaphs and Három Weöres-dal
A highlight of the evening was the world première of Alex Weiser’s Three Epitaphs. Weiser commented to the audience that, “each of the songs is a lyrical oasis in the middle of a larger work.” The players were scattered around the room: flute, oboe, and clarinet to the right; voice, piano, and percussion at the front; and strings in the back of the hall. Oscillating bird call sounds in the winds commingled with the rising string lines providing a compelling realm of sound on which the voice could provide moments of warmth, glow, and nostalgia. Kate Maroney‘s round, complex voice suited these texts and the composition elegantly. Maroney, joined by pianist Lee Dionne, also gave a fully expressive performance of György Ligeti’s Három Weöres-dal (Three Weöres Songs). Each of the three pieces had unique character whether it was from managing the flux between bright and darker sounds or matching the percussive quality between voice and piano excellently.
The final piece of the evening, Unsuk Chin’s Akrostichen-Wortspiel (Acrostic Wordplay), was a pleasantly surprising vehicle for sensitive ensemble work. Jessica Petrus’s vocal work in this performance was impressive. She demonstrated a gorgeous sotto voce sound, at times, that she used to effortlessly float and hang a tone on the air before diving headlong into a crush of syllables. She continued to use that effortless tone to match stratospheric pitches timbre to timbre with her ensemble colleagues.
Schoenberg Chamber Symphony, Op. 9
The first piece of the program also deserves special mention here. Arnold Schoenberg’s Kammersymphonie No. 1, Op. 9 arranged by Anton Webern was a dream in legato playing offered by Jesse Han (flute), Bixby Kennedy (clarinet), Jacob Ashworth (violin), Hannah Collins (cello), and Lee Dionne (piano). There was an understated maturity inherent in the opening accented lines of the Chamber Symphony without being heavy-handed. This attention to musical detail is a welcomed indication of graceful playing and ultimate care for the repertoire that they have programmed as an ensemble. However, nothing gives an auditory signal that “you’ve lost my attention” like a room full of crinkly, cellophane popcorn bags which unfortunately coincided with some beautiful musical moments. The gesture of the popcorn is wonderful and audience experience-driven, but it would be ideal if it didn’t also detract from the performance.
The devotion of the musicians to the honest and nuanced performance of the repertoire, well-chosen by the leadership, makes the partnership between Cantata Profana and Kettle Corn New Music a vital addition to one’s concert calendar. It seems that both will be announcing upcoming season information soon. For more, click through to CantataProfana.com or KettleCornNewMusic.com.