Duo TwoSense Afloat Again

United StatesUnited States Janáček, Martin Bresnick, Samuel Carl Adams: TwoSense (Ashley Bathgate, cello and Lisa Moore, piano), Karen Bentley Pollick (violin), Courtney Orlando (violin), Bargemusic, New York City, 20.6.2012 (BH)

Janáček: Pohádka (Fairytale) (1923)
Martin Bresnick: Prayers Remain Forever (2011)
Samuel Carl Adams: Piano Trio (2011, world premiere)
Martin Bresnick: Trio for piano, violin and cello (1988)

In September 2011, the cello and piano duo TwoSense (Ashley Bathgate and Lisa Moore) had scheduled this concert at Bargemusic, the unique floating venue nestled in the shadow of the Brooklyn Bridge—that is, until the New York Fire Department closed down the barge unexpectedly, canceling the recital. Some ten months later, all parties were able to reconvene, and the reward for those who waited was a strong program featuring recent works by Martin Bresnick and Samuel Carl Adams.

Ms. Moore is well known for her expertise with Janáček, and the evening opened with his Pohádka (Fairytale), which scholars attribute to V.A. Zhukovsky’s The Tale of Tsar Berendyey, about the adventures of the Tsar, Princess Marya and her father, Kashchey. Packed with the composer’s typical folk-based rhythms, here it received—perhaps paradoxically—an urbane yet rustic performance. Moore’s light flicks on the keyboard were matched by equally deft pizzicato from Bathgate, and the concluding Allegro had plenty of garrulous energy. Some of that energy was held in check for Martin Bresnick’s Prayers Remain Forever, based on based on a poem by Yehuda Amichai. Bresnick writes of the poet’s intent to provide gentle consolation, but finding a “strain of existential reproach.” His musical response is an initial, solemn section, followed by one of great fervor. Moore and Bathgate gave the new piece an appropriately stirring reading, with both artists shaping Bresnick’s phrases with the intensity of passionate human speech.

In his comments, Samuel Carl Adams mentioned his Piano Trio as a kind of “tribute to 18th-century forms,” and for a young composer whose output regularly includes “noise, pulsating rhythms and slow harmonic movement” it is a departure, with a definite input from jazz. The coda was especially fun, and with Karen Bentley Pollick on violin, the trio enthusiastically captured Adams’s playfulness. Bresnick’s Trio (from 1988) is in four movements, starting with a spare, sustained opening (“simplice, inesorable”), which quickly becomes more ardent, fusing the three instruments in a rich choir. The contrapuntal, pizzicato-filled second movement arrives in vigorous contrast, followed by an airy, questioning love song. Near its end, a forceful piano cadenza leads straight into the final movement, which uses elements from the first three. After a ferocious mid-section—this time with Courtney Orlando adding her violin to the duo—the ending lands suddenly, mysteriously.

Bruce Hodges