Evolving Symmetry is the first of a promised series of collaborations by soprano Adanya Dunn, clarinetist Brad Cherwin and pianist Alice Gi-Yong Hwang. The focus will be on “modern” chamber and vocal works (for some value of “modern”) and last night at Heliconian Hall they presented French works ranging from the 189os to the 1960s.
The program was bookended by two late Poulenc works; the song cycle La courte paille to nonsense verse by Maurice Carème and the clarinet sonata. These works were composed at the same time and share some musical material though the sonata seems a weightier work. The songs are fun and playful and they were interpreted by Ms. Dunn with excellent French diction and lots of humour. The sonata is seems much sadder and more reflective though its final movement is manic enough. Fine playing from both musicians here.
There were two Debussy pieces in the program; the deuxième rhapsodie (originally for saxophone and piano but arranged here for clarinet) and some of the 1891 songs. The rhapsodie is an interesting piece. It sounds more modern and even jazz influenced than some of the later pieces in the program. It’s a 1908 piece so i don’t suppose there can be any actual jazz influence. The songs are expressive and langourous and very French fin de siècle. Fine playing and singing all around here.
Rounding out the program were Milhaud’s Scaramouche; another piece originally written for saxophone. The first movement sounds as if it comes straight from a Warner Bros cartoon, the second slow movement features a deceptively simple antiphony between the piano and clarinet and the third is latin inflected. It was very skillfully handled. I don’t really know how I feel about this music. It’s not jazzy but it feels like the sort of thing that belongs more in a rather staid nightclub of the 1930s (not the sort of place where one might stick a knife through one’s hand to impress a young lady) than a concert hall. I felt rather the same way about the Francaix piano sonata of 1960. It’s a piece that requires great virtuosity and Ms. Kwang certainly delivered but ultimately it seems a bit trivial rather living up to Mr. Cherwin’s claim that it’s “the best clown music you will ever hear”. I hate clowns.
So, an interesting and thoughtful program very well executed but not really in my sweet spot musically. I look forward to seeing what future programs offer.