Sunday 18 August 2013
ICElab’s fourth concert in their residency at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart Festival offered four world premieres, all written this year. Celebrating a dynamic multi-culturalism, this afternoon featured works by the African-American Tyshawn Sorey (b.1980) and the Brazilian Felipe Lara (b. 1979).
A rising figure in the hermetic world of serious free improvisation, Mr. Sorey’s Acts II hit the ground running and hardly paused for air. The tour de force animalistic apoplexies from the brass (trumpet and horn) were led by the composer himself on the trombone. Pitted against them were the struck and pluck instruments (piano, percussion and electric guitar) which were no less frenzied. Well done in his piece is the balance of the violence of the free improvisation that ‘resolves’ to more static forms of layered rhythmically stable ostinati.
If Acts II was intimidating, Felipe Lara’s Som(bra) for amplified alto and bass flutes was shocking. Performed by the magnificent Alice Teyssier and Claire Chase, ICE’s artistic director, it’s impossible to imagine this sexually charged duo making a stronger case for Mr. Lara’s brilliant projection of human and animal societies ancient and contemporary. One could imagine our two protagonists as feline sisters hissing, howling, whispering, burping and roaring at each other (Flutes? How? Wow!). They ate up and spit out the composer’s seemingly impossible demands and, more than glorifying in their own mastery of extended techniques, revealed Felipe Lara’s extraordinary imagination.
Tyshawn Sorey’s New York/Copenhagen for violin with the composer on drums didn’t take full advantage of Jennifer Curtis’ capabilities, aptly described by an audience member as ‘awesome.’ After the opening of impassioned Eastern-hued violin cantilenas, the following improvisational music devolved to that bordering on the inaudible and unconscious. The rock-driven closing was compositionally unimpressive. However, Ms. Curtis is no mere violinist, musician or personality. She is a presence, an unselfconscious force of nature. Coupled with Mr. Sorey’s supple rhythm, this structurally awkward piece nevertheless had a sense of propulsion.
Diffuse was Mr. Lara’s Tiento for nine instrumentalists, conducted by the sharp and clear Steven Schick. Perhaps writing for a larger group sapped the composer’s inspiration, or the musical immediacy was dampened by the necessity of the players to follow visual cues rather then each other.
Dear ICE: Thank you! Two great premieres out of four is good math to me any day.