Five premieres in great Chicago buildings illuminate a rainy Saturday

Sun Sep 19, 2010 at 8:22 pm

By Lawrence A. Johnson

Musicians perform Jason Raynovich’s “Whirl” from the lobby balcony of the Marquette Building Saturday. Photo: Amanda K. Foran.

As with sports and barbeques, the Chicago weather did not cooperate for Accessible Contemporary Music’s architecturally conceived event Saturday with rain forcing two of the performances indoors.

Still, ACM’s ambitious moveable feast more than succeeded in its goal of meshing several new compositions with the “frozen music” of architecture. Titled “Songs about Buildings and Moods,”  the event–part architectural tour, part progressive concert–served up five world premieres by some of Chicago’s most intriguing young composers presented in several significant Loop buildings.

Sunlit by Amos Gillespie led things off in the Cultural Center Saturday morning. Though the overcast weather mitigated the desired visual of light shining through the ceiling’s glass dome, this quartet for violin (Madeline Capistran), cello (David Keller), sax (Gillespie), and percussion (Katie Wiegman) conveyed something of the room’s formal elegance. Producing a big sonority in the resonant space, the music moved from a mellow opening to a lively middle section and scherzo-like passage before retuning to the opening music.

Barely glimpsed on the second floor of the Monadnock Building, was a trio of violin, cello and French horn (Dave Hampton, Derek Layes and Robin Clevenger). Monadnock by Seth Boustead and Hampton is composed, semi-improvised music, with the lean lyrical themes gently emroidered and expanded upon by the musicians. Heard from the dark narrow lobby, this meditative music suggested Gorecki in its  hypnotic Minimalist style, and proved quite haunting, unaffected by the squeak of wet footwear and the security guards’ conversation.

The two planned outdoor performances had to be moved inside due to the weather. Randall West’s Aqua suffered little from the change moving from the third-floor terrace of the Aqua building to a meeting room just a few feet away. The music for trio (cellist Alyson Berger, violinist Maria Storm, and clarinetist KT Somero) segues from a lyrical sweet melody exchanged between violin and cello, then clarinet to some Minimalist pulsing, and a jaunty Allegro. Overall the overlapping figures of West’s Aqua nicely reflect Jeanne Gang’s undulating architecture.

Kyle Vegter’s Bertoia, inspired by the Bertoia wind sculpture outside the Aon Center was the one work that appeared to be adversely affected by the change of venue. The original plan was to have the live playing of the cello and violin (Tom Clowes and Becca Wicox) mixed with live electronic wind and ambient sounds produced by microphones attached to the sculpture.

Relocated to the Millennium Room at the Culutral Center, Vegter had to make do with mixing previously recorded electronic sounds from the sculpture. This could have still proven effective but the balance seemed off with the electronic component so loud it tended to overwhelm the compelling music coming from the two string players.

The clear hit of the afternoon was Jason Raynovich’s Whirl. Performed by four musicians in the Marquette Building (flutist Alicia Poot, violist Ben Weber, trumpet Mary Paziouros and percussionist Rebecca Laurito). the musicians started playing on the stairs before ascending to the second floor balcony that hovers over the interior lobby.

The Tiffany mosaic friezes around the atrium depict events from the life of Father Jacques Marquette, Chicago’s first European settler, which were artfully reflected in Raynovich’s score. The music begin with an ars antiche feel, the tambour-like percussion lending a ceremonial atmosphere, followed by a mournful wooden flute cantilena against gently plucked viola.  Fanfare trumpet passages follow, enhanced by some well-timed obbligato thunder, and the martial music becomes increasingly crunched and chromatic, in perhaps an ironic commentary on the European colonists. Regardless, Whirl gave listeners plenty to thnk about musically and otherwise, and was given superb advocacy by the four young musicians.

Posted in Performances

One Response to “Five premieres in great Chicago buildings illuminate a rainy Saturday”

  1. Posted Sep 20, 2010 at 7:31 pm by Abraham Poot

    The performance in the Marquette was phenomenal. We had the pleasure of listening to the entire performance twice.

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