Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Would or wouldn't it be nice? A song of retractable rhetoric

Would or Wouldn’t It Be Nice Would or wouldn’t it be nice if Russia Did or didn’t meddle in our stuff? Could or couldn’t we push back on Putin? Have or haven’t we just had enough? Now that he and Trump Had time together, Will or won’t we know it’s worse or better? Does or doesn’t Donald know the difference Between what isn’t and what is? Should or shouldn’t he know what he’s saying? Is or isn’t he a stable whiz? Since presidential words are consequential Knowing would from wouldn’t seems essential. Wouldn’t it be nice? Maybe if he thinks and wishes, gets things straight within his head He won’t have to say the opposite of what he clearly just said. Please or displease Putin? Make him glad or not? Time to toss the dice! We must study all his speeches to learn what each meant Till we find the grounds for Trump’s impeachment! Let’s talk about it! Oh, wouldn’t it be nice? Good night, no. 45! Sleep tight, no. 45! [repeat]

Monday, July 16, 2018

Ensemble Caprice's J.S. Bach cantatas set two spires atop the 2018 festival edifice

Concluding the 52nd annual Indianapolis Early Music Festival, Ensemble Caprice and guests from Echoing Air, an Indianapolis ensemble, and the Bach Society of Minnesota performed two cantatas
Matthias Maute conducted two Bach cantatas Sunday afternoon.
by J.S. Bach, "Wir danken dir, Gott" and "Lobet Gott in seinen Reichen," at the Indiana History Center Sunday afternoon.

Matthias Maute, who directed the program, also was featured as recorder virtuoso in two shorter Bach works, Solo per flauto, BWV 1013, and his arrangement of the Italian Concerto, BWV 971, a work familiar in the original to pianists and harpsichordists.

Maute brought to the former piece his ready command of tone, phrasing, and articulation. The interval skips in the Allemande were adroitly managed and the flow of sequences in the Corrente was poised. Expressively, the high point was the Sarabande, where just enough sostenuto lingering was evident at the slow tempo to strike the ear as more inviting than dawdling.

His choice of the Italian Concerto as a showpiece for a single-line instrument was inspired:  The keyboardist's right hand has most of the glory in the original, and thus the risk of imbalance in this arrangement was minimal. The slow movement is especially rich in flourishes in that topmost voice — the kind of display Maute revels in. The texture was more than adequately filled in by two violins, viola, cello, violone, and harpsichord. Coordination drifted slightly in the opening Allegro, though at the faster tempo (Presto) of the finale, the musicians seemed to have no trouble staying together.

As for the cantatas, four singers from Echoing Air supplemented the four Minnesota soloists in the choruses. The rapport was seamless. I enjoyed especially the brilliance of the opening chorus in "Lobet Gott," known as the Ascension Oratorio, for its vivid depiction of Christ's ascent into heaven, capped eventually by a musically depicted viewpoint from beyond. The twinkling bursts of soprano against a stately choral background captured a text focusing on God's splendor and praiseworthiness.

Further tone-painting came with the bass recitative (sturdily sung by Aaron Lawson) expressing the faithful's sorrow at Jesus' departure, as the flutes became teardrops rolling down pallid cheeks. Baroque flutes have a tone especially apt for such a depiction, whereas the modern flute would likely make those tears viscous. Trumpets, oboes, and timpani, supplementing the usual string complement, emphasized the sense of occasion that clings to both these scores.

In the Ascension Oratorio, tenor Nicholas Chalmers displayed the dignity and clarity needed for the Evangelist's narrative role. The most eloquent solos in that cantata fell to Nerea Barraondo, whose thrilling true-alto tone lent the right air of urgent entreaty to "Ah, stay with me, my dearest life thou" (to use the program insert's English translation). Soprano Linh Kauffman displayed a similar intensity and emotional commitment, but her negotiation of the aria "Jesus, thy dear mercy's glances" betrayed inconsistent projection and want of color.

The performance of "Wir danken dir" set a high standard for the assembled musicians, and revealed Maute's thoroughness and panache as a conductor. Special mention should be made of the superb mastery that Ilya Poletaev displayed in the organ obbligato to the assertive alto aria, "Hallelujah, strength and might to the name of God Almighty."

To go from particular to general, that was one of many moments in which Maute's learned familiarity with High Baroque style and its historical setting flowered in translating that learning from the printed page into heartening reality, with Indianapolis Early Music Festival patrons the beneficiaries.

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Will the Mueller investigation ever break, ever break, ever break Roger Stone?

Early Music Festival enters final weekend with three-concert stint by Ensemble Caprice

Thematic programming is common at the Indianapolis Early Music Festival, and none of the guest artists handle it with more conviction than Ensemble Caprice. The 2015 festival had an alluring example of that when the group was joined by soprano Esteli Gomez in repertoire exploring the interplay of the Old and the New World.
Ensemble Caprice al fresco: Ziya Tabassian (from left), David Jacques, Susie Napper, Matthias Maute, Sophie Lariviere.

Based in Montreal, the 25-year-old Renaissance and Baroque band on this visit opened its three-day festival run Friday night with "Chaconne: Voices of Eternity."

The surprising program title alludes to the nature of the chaconne's cumulative structure. The form, based on a repeated bass figure or phrase, can go on indefinitely. There is no development; all the contrast has to be laid over the short basic line. Unlike the canon, overlapping of the generating phrase is not part of the structure, but similarly the chaconne implies infinity. Pachelbel's Canon in D is a feature of many weddings in part because it can be fitted to a desired length without distortion.

Anyway, Ensemble Caprice's leader Matthias Maute grouped this program's selections according to love relationships between composers and women. However subject to disruption and decay it may be in real life, in music love (we like to think) is eternal, especially if embodied in such a form as the chaconne.

After brief spoken introductions — a little unidiomatic, as if German were being fluently but awkwardly translated into English — a musical segment was presented. The divisions were marked by Maute's picking up a rose from the floor, then placing it in a vase after his narrative. The last rose, he said sweetly, was for the audience in the Basile Theater at the Indiana History Center.

This was carefully applied charm. Much more freedom as well as naturalness of execution was evident in Maute's recorder playing, where his virtuoso style was masterfully applied. A group of Czech folk songs and Tarquinio Merula's "Ciacona" displayed his maestro status especially well.

He is seconded in Ensemble Caprice by recorder player Sophie Lariviere in the group's "front line." It's evidently a seamless partnership. The expert filling-out of the instrumental texture lay in the hands of Susie Napper, cello; David Jacques, baroque guitar, and Ziya Tabassian, percussion. Balance and consistency were remarkable.

The group's repertoire naturally tends toward shorter pieces, which lend themselves to the thematic assemblage Ensemble Caprice is known for. This program's exception in terms of length was Maute's arrangement for two recorders and cello of Bach's Chaconne for unaccompanied violin. Though based on potentially endless material, the original work is a favorite with modern violinists (and audiences) because of its majesty and intimacy  — qualities distributed in dramatic fashion. Partly because of its recasting, this version had a lighter feeling throughout, emphasizing different attributes of the piece and its deceptively offhand ingenuity. The instrumental interlocking was smooth at every point.

Also distinguished by length and the eminence of its composer was Antonio Vivaldi's Trio Sonata in D minor ("La Follia"), which concluded the program. Based on a tune already well-known by the time Vivaldi used it (1739, according to Maute's oral program note), the work was fleshed out in this version so that the entire Ensemble Caprice was involved. The exuberance of the material was thus underlined, up to the point that the title's meaning ("craziness") was credibly evoked, especially in the judicious variety of Tabassian's percussion. The catchy piece ended the scheduled program with a flourish, provoking a standing ovation punctuated by whoops and bravos.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

William Tatge's 'General Cargo' carries its freight with distinction

Pianist William Tatge and his New York trio display their "General Cargo."
Another young jazz pianist, born abroad to American parents, steeped in classical music as well as jazz. Sound familiar? Indiana jazz fans had a chance to see the emergence of the Paris-born American Dan Tepfer as a result of his victory in the 2007 American Pianists Association jazz competition.

Now comes into view William Tatge, with a trio recording called "General Cargo," released last month on Brooklyn Jazz Underground records. The Italian-born Tatge is a few years older than Tepfer, and his European foreground is much larger than the APA winner's. But he is developing an American career that has resulted in his first CD with the trio he heads in New York City. Pablo Menares is on bass, Nick Anderson on drums.

"General Cargo," which represents a six-year compositional period, shows Tatge's focus on writing that eschews themes and "heads" in favor of amalgams of spontaneity and meticulousness. The pianist's temperament seems to be earnest, even brooding, in pieces ranging from about seven to nine minutes each.

He sets out material that sounds a bit tentative, but with a lyrical bent that allows him to expand naturally the circle of expression, boosted by his compatible sidemen. Like most jazz pianism since Bud Powell, Tatge's is quite right-hand-focused, though his style owes little to bebop.

That was the impression I got particularly from the second track, "The Lay of the Land." Just as tentativeness suits an effort to assess the lay of the land, so does "Illegal Machines" favor a hint of subversiveness in its use of mechanical figures. A disjunctive melodic line easily welcomes Bartokian accents. The layout is animated in the course of its exposition by the warmth of bluesy passages.

The trio can achieve a very full sound that doesn't become cluttered. Menares' solo in "Civilization" carries a sardonic message, punctuated effectively by piano and drums. The efficiency with which foreground and background are balanced is commendable in this, the album's best track.

There is little waste in the trio's playing on "General Cargo," which palls only when the material is weak, as on "Sentinel." "Mother of Nothing" also, despite its patient, soft-spoken character, seems
too unconcerned about where it is going. It had exhausted my interest by the end of its nine-minute run. Otherwise, this CD stands out impressively from the crowded pack of today's piano-trio recordings.