MAVerick Ensemble offers a bracing program on a wintry night

Sun Mar 21, 2010 at 7:39 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

MusicNOW may have the high profile among Chicago’s contemporary music series, but there are several smaller groups in the city toiling—quite courageously in this economy—to bring new music to local audiences.

One such event took place Saturday night in Wicker Park when the MAVerick Ensemble presented a short but compelling program of works for violin, clarinet and cello.

The narrow gallery in the Flat Iron Building made for up-close-and-personal music-making, but the relaxed setting along with MAVerick artistic director and cellist William Jason Raynovich’s informal introductions provided the right receptive ambience.

It’s striking to think that the Cappricci of Salvatore Sciarrino (1976) are being heard for the second time in Chicago this season. Inspired by Paganini’s famous 24 Caprices, Sciarrino’s deconstruction calls on an array of harmonic effects to create an offbeat yet haunting distillation, making us hear the violin’s expressive possibilities with fresh ears.

Violinist Jennifer Leckie’s concentrated, acutely colored performance of two of the Cappricci provided impressive advocacy of this challenging music, surmounting the daunting technical hurdles of No. 4 to make a commanding whole out of what can seem a miscellany of effects. Likewise, in Cappriccio No. 5, Leckie brought an array of nuanced dynamics and bravura to Sciarrino’s angular moto perpetuo.

Clarinetist Andrea R. DiOrio gave committed advocacy to Pablo Chin’s Kaval Imaginario, playing with rounded tone and fiery commitment in this display piece for solo clarinet, though the close quarters made for some piercing moments in the instrument’s highest reaches.

The Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art is the MAVerick Ensemble’s home base, and the Scherzo for clarinet and cello by Ukrainian composer Anastasiya Pavlyuk (2009) was commissioned for the group. There is a strong folkish flavor in the opening passages of this work and if the argument turns rather episodic, DiOrio and Raynovich provided a worthy performance, some disarray in the closing bars apart.

In his solo turn, Raynovich served up intense solo playing in Paul Oehlers’ Juggernaut, though the lame techno-pop electronic backing, played from computer, was less interesting than the cello line. Raynovich’s own two-channel WZJB in drone, offered some diverting sonic effects, without quite distinguishing itself from the multitude of bee-caught-in-glass-jar electronic musical works.

All three instrumentalists came together for the finale of John Cage’s Music for Three. As is often the case with Cage’s number pieces, the structural design and working out are more interesting than the actual musical results, though the players, Leckie in particular, gave admirable advocacy to Cage’s spare, elliptical lines and slow-moving textures. The traffic noises and street sounds from Milwaukee Avenue below added their own obbligato sonic overlay, which Cage likely would have enjoyed immensely.

The Maverick Ensemble’s next event takes place 2 p.m. April 25 at the Ukrainian Institute of Modern Art, 2320 W. Chicago Avenue, with music of Cage, Crumb, Raynovich, Yurina and Bousted.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “MAVerick Ensemble offers a bracing program on a wintry night”

  1. Posted Apr 05, 2010 at 5:21 pm by Paula Giannini

    I have been impressed over the years, by the MAVerick Ensemble’s imaginative programming and the high professionalism of its playing. This group stands out in the spectrum of performances of new music in Chicago.

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