Da Capo Chamber Players Present Global American Chamber Music at New York City’s Merkin Hall at Kaufman Music Center

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June 12, 2019 by Admin

This concert was presented on June 5, 2019 at New York City’s Kaufman Music Center by the wonderful Da Capo Chamber Players.

It began with Chinary Ung’s Child Song, performed by Da Capo core members: flutist Patricia Spencer, violinist Curtis Macomber, cellist Chris Gross and pianist Steven Beck. This is an attractive application of Asian (not necessarily specifically Cambodian) music techniques in combination with Western ideas; it included, among other things, note-bending, glissandos and manually-muted piano. The music is contemporary, but with a feel for the ancient. The ensemble gave a nice weight to the performance, but also provided moments of almost dance-like lightness. The ensemble balance was lovely. The child in the title would seem to be wise beyond his years.

Next up was Nigerian-Jamaican composer Noel Da Costa’s Blue Tune Verses, a short and attractive solo for Ms. Spencer.  I’ve often found these sort of pieces difficult to get along with, but Ms. Spencer’s seeming inner pulse, lovely sound and innate sense of organization and style made the piece work. She gave shape to abstract ideas and created a lovely aural essay.

Then, Chou Wen-Chung’s Ode to Eternal Pine was performed by Da Capo’s core members and joined by clarinetist Nuno Antunes and percussionist Michael Lipsey. The percussion and bass clarinet brought us dramatically to Eternal Pine, and were quickly joined by the rest of the ensemble. We heard many of the same techniques as in the Ung piece, with again, new and old interwoven, and again, to very good effect. Once more, wonderful ensemble balance, with the percussion not overwhelming the other players. Kudos to Michael Lipsey for the strength and subtlety of his playing. This was music of nature, in several seasons and textures, partly obscured through a filter, and also directly in front of the listener, in great detail.  The 95 year-old Chinese-American composer was in the house and received generous applause for his work.

After intermission, we heard Pablo Ortiz’s Vida Furtiva. Although of Argentinean heritage, I didn’t hear any particular Latin influence in this piece, or any of the ancient influences in the Ung and Wen-Chung works. Instead, I heard strong, propulsive, dynamic music, forcefully presented by Mr. Macomber, Mr. Antunes and Mr. Beck, with nothing furtive about either the composition or the performance.  The rhythmic pulse, once established, runs throughout the piece, and gives the performers a wonderful tension to exploit, which they certainly did. Once more, balance seems to be their watchword, and one of the ensemble’s driving principles.

Next came American Gabriela Lena Frank’s Cuatro Bosquejos Pre-Incaicos. The first movement seems about to dance, then fades, the second to move slowly in place. The third again moves rhythmically at first, then heads out on a journey of perhaps a thousand miles. The fourth almost suggests a continuation, perhaps a climb to a vista, and then moving a bit higher still. Lovely playing and a fine partnership of lute and cello virtuosity.

Finally, Venezuelan-American composer Reinaldo Moya’s Cronica de una Muerte Anunciada. Having read the Gabriel Garcia Marquez novelette, Chronicle of a Death Foretold, on which this is based, a number of years ago, I’ve wondered why this fascinating story hasn’t been more fully exploited by the music world. It would seem to be an ideal subject for an opera, but nos takers so far, at least as far as I know. So, it’s wonderful to hear it rendered as a large-scale chamber work, performed by the full ensemble. The music, which evidenced influence from Mexico’s Carlos Chavez, is almost cinematic, and gives a strong sense of place and incident. Impressive ensemble work, with the whole being the sum of very fine parts.

A fine evening of nuance, balance and exploration, expertly presented.

Jeffrey James

Editor, SoundWordSight

Visit Da Capo Chamber Players at https://colbertartists.com/artists/ursula-oppens/

Visit the composers:

Chinary Ung – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Chinary_Ung

Noel Da Costa – https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Noel_DaCosta/

Chou Wen-Chung – https://chouwenchung.org/

Pablo Ortiz – https://arts.ucdavis.edu/faculty-profile/pablo-ortiz-0

Gabriela Lena Frank – https://www.glfcam.com/people/gabriela

Reinaldo Moya – https://www.reinaldomoya.com/

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