Dal Niente shines in Raphael Cendo’s dazzling, kinetic music

Mon May 26, 2014 at 1:13 pm

By Gerald Fisher

Dal Niente presented a concert devoted to music of composer Raphael Cendo Sunday night at Constellation.
Dal Niente presented a concert devoted to music of composer Raphael Cendo Sunday night at Constellation.

Ensemble Dal Niente can always be counted on to present a challenging program. For their outing at the performance space Constellation Sunday evening, the virtuoso new music collective devoted an entire evening to one composer, the 39-year old French-born Raphael Cendo who was present for the performance.

Cendo’s music is full of dazzling extremes utilizing classical instruments but exploiting them for sounds and gestures that are unconventional, unexpected and unconfined. He uses the term “saturation” to describe the sonic experience he creates—a thwarting of limits with an excess of energy. It is the uncontrolled kinetic aspect of his musical palate that makes the listening so stimulating and engrossing.

The four works presented included a world premiere performance commissioned by Dal Niente and an amazing solo turn by percussionist Greg Beyer.

The program opened with Rokh 1 from 2012, which is scored for bass flute, violin, cello and piano. The work was held together by the remarkably detailed conducting of Michael Lewanski, who pointed out the rhythmic and emotive extremes with clarity and precision. The instrumentalists were exemplary in the seemingly unlimited sounds they elicited, with pianist Winston Choi and bass flutist Emma Hospelhorn standouts in their respective parts which ranged from the delicate to the bombastic.

Scratch Data, for percussion and prerecorded electronics, dates from 2002 and is thus an early work of the composer. In the hands of Greg Beyer it was an audience-jarring immersive experience of sounds produced by, among other instruments, drums, woodblocks, cymbals, marimba, gong and unspecified electronic sounds all of which Beyer tossed off with exciting virtuosity.

Furia (2009/2010) for cello and piano was a bit more restrained, but exhibited the saturation technique of unlimited sounds starting from the very quiet and delicate opening to the more aggressive attacks on the instruments in a contemporary version of the cello sonata form. Cellist Chris Wild and pianist Choi were very much in touch with each other and with the music’s emotional core.

Sunday’s world premiere was Graphein for 10 musicians (piano, cello, bass, violin, clarinet, flute, harp, horn and percussion). This line-up was perfectly suited to Dal Niente’s many superb musicians. The orchestral narrative was rich and aggressive but varied with lyrical interludes and instrumental solo extensions which were again under the firm control of Lewanski. The conductor kept lines clear and allowed the work to express emotions from the disturbing to the conversational, ending in a comforting decay as the final gesture.

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