Women Triumph on a Stormy Night at the Barge

United StatesUnited States Here and Now Festival: Soloists, Bargemusic, New York City. 2.9.2017. (DS)

Performers: Jennifer Choi (violin), Yoko Reikano Kimura (shamisen), Nancy Allen Lundy (soprano), Ursula Oppens (piano), Kathleen Supove (piano) & Dalit Warshaw (piano)

Laura Kaminsky Fantasy for solo piano
Yoko Sato – The Road for solo shamisen
Paula Matthusen AEG III for piano
Augusta Read ThomasToft Serenade for violin
Dalit Warshaw – Selections from But Not Forgotten
Milica Paranosic – Meeting Jessica for piano and electronics
Missy MazzoliA Thousand Tongues

Over Labor Day weekend, the Here and Now Festival at Brooklyn’s Bargemusic was rocked by more than just the rainstorm winds that beat against the wooden-vessel-turned-intimate-music-hall. All offerings came from women composers, who equally populate contemporary repertoire, and rightly deserve celebration in a dedicated concert.

The same must be said for the performers, all women. Ursula Oppens, who opened the evening with Fantasy for solo piano by Laura Kaminsky, is a leader in contemporary and 20th-century works. The opportunity to hear her perform can be likened to watching someone organize the colors of a Rubik’s cube. She takes a new piece and matches its needs, focusing so subtly that the threads of meaning start emerging with clarity. Dynamics are carefully placed. Tempos are neither overrun nor haltingly dragged. Not only is Oppens an expert at interpretation, but when she plays, it often sounds like the item in question must have been written for her.

The evening continued with a variety of instruments – traditional violin, prepared piano with electronics, and even Japanese shamisen. While all the pieces stood out, the final composition, A Thousand Tongues by Missy Mazzoli, showed that contemporary music still embraces the ideals of beauty. For violin and piano with electronics, Mazzoli marries the influences of minimalism, lyrical song, and sampling into a fresh blend of sound that derives its own original take on both the modern and the past. At one point, even the barge seemed to rock in time to the heartbeat in the bass line, oblivious to the rain outside, and surrendering to a well-crafted art.

Daniele Sahr

For another review of this concert, click here.

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