Lunsqui and Honstein works provide the highlights in Dal Niente program

Mon May 13, 2013 at 7:57 am

By Gerald Fisher

Ensemble Dal Niente performed Saturday night in Uptown.

In an atmosphere of genteel decay at the People’s Church in Uptown, Chicago’s indispensable new music ensemble Dal Niente joined forces Saturday evening with fellow promoters High Concept Labs. The ambitious and challenging program of music by mostly young composers culminated in a semistaged music theater piece inspired by a strangely moving thread of email correspondence.

The program was titled “WERKplaats” in tribute to a 1970s Dutch new-music collective, which served as a model for Dal Niente’s own musical  endeavors. As about a hundred or so thirty-something patrons tanked up on free alcohol they were regaled with brand-new compositions by their contemporaries.

The opener was a work called Glaes by Brazilian-born Alexandre Lunsqui, which was a dynamic sonic collaboration between pianist Mabel Kwan and the prodigiously talented percussionist Gregory Beyer.  Kwan subjected the piano to every kind of assault, producing a bevy of plucking, twanging, tapping and other noises in close rapport with an array of percussion including an African single-stringed instrument called a berimbau which added a picturesque element to the performance.  The result was an exhilarating and at times delicate duet, which proved one of the evening’s highlights.

A solo work performed by cellist Chris Wild was titled If it encounters the animal, it becomes animalized…  by Chicago-based composer Daniel R. Dehaan. Rough-edged bow scraping over the cello’s amplified strings made up the musical experience rather than any tonal element.

Moving as not moving by Santiago Diez Fisher was a collaborative work created in 2012 at a Darmstadt Summer Courses workshop, scored for a chamber ensemble including bass flute, bass clarinet, baritone sax, electric guitar and strings.  The sonic variety of these robust instruments was employed in a tension-and-release sequence of overlays, which was largely abstract but performed with great attention to detail and ensemble cohesion.

A short new work by Chicagoan Morgan Krauss titled Overcast in the Purest of Hues also featured the bass flute, bass clarinet, and baritone sax. This trio configuration offered more tonal interactions, heavy breathing on the flute and a steady rhythmic forward impulse, which fades to silence at the coda.

The major offering of the evening were two scenes from the chamber opera, My Heart Iz Open. American composer Robert Honstein based his opera on a sequence of emails intercepted and turned into a lonely-hearts story with a genuinely touching emotional impact.

A mid-sized chamber ensemble accompanied sweet-voiced soloist Carrie Henneman Shaw as an online relationship seeker, calling herself My Heart iz Open, who has become obsessed with a man with the screen name of Jeffrey J. Miller and fantasizes about him obsessively and rather pathetically. The mellifluous harmonies of the female quartet, Quince Contemporary Vocal Ensemble, provided commentary and vocal interest.

The thread of communication was projected behind the performers as quasi-supertitles, and the first segment was a vocal rendering of the dating website’s terms of use, which was ironic and rather disturbing in its objectivity.  The second and final segment reflected the woman’s longing for Jeffrey and her ultimate shattered dreams and loneliness.

Hopefully Honstein will flesh out this auspicious beginning into a completely realized work.

Posted in Performances

Leave a Comment