The third concert in the Heliconian Hall series from Adanya Dunn, Brad Cherwin and Alice Hwang was titled Intersections and was designed to explore “the sphinx like mind of Robert Schumann” through his own music and music inspired by him. First up was Kurtàg’s Hommage à Robert Schumann featuring Alice and Brad and guest violist Laila Zakzook. This is a complex and difficult piece. Some sections consist of short fragments of “conversation” between the instruments. At other times there is a more obvious line and it varies in mood from extremely violent to almost lyrical. It’s an interesting exploration of Schumann’s various musical personalities through a completely different sound world.
Next up were two fairly familiar Schumann songs Widmung and Seit ich ihn gesehen. I guess in this kind of program these serve as palate cleansers for the chewier material. In any eveny nicely executed by Adanya and Alice.
Next came the interweaving of three very different kinds of pieces. Two of Georges Aphergis’ Recitatives (nos 5 and 14) bracketed three of Rzewski’s Nanosonatas for solo piano. The whole was wrapped around by three of Adam Sherkin’s songs from Saxa Ignis. The Aphergis pieces are rather weird vocalises requiring the solo singer to make a wide range of sounds from singing to grunts and screams. The image on this page is from one of this series (though not one Adanya sang). It’s a very different kind of vocal performance from lieder singing and Adanya does it really well. The Rzewski pieces sound almost tonal by contrast though they use extended techniques and the last of the three was off in a much more experimental place. Very impressive work by Alice. The Sherkin pieces were originally written for saxophone and voice but were arranged here for clarinet and voice. Interesting works again with short fragmentary phrases, no obvious tonal centre and the vocal line cruelly high in places. It was quite refreshing to hear contemporary Canadian music that was prepared to be difficult and not ape the “cult of accessibility” that seems to be a fashion in much of North America.
Things finished up appropriately enough with more Schumann. First a couple of songs; Lied der Suleika and Er ist’s, which were firmly in the mainstream Romantic German lieder tradition and idiomatically presented by Adanya and Alice. Finally the Fantasiestücke Op. 73 for clarinet and piano. It’s an interesting piece with three short, contrasting movements finishing up with some fireworks for both instruments nicely brought off by Brad and Alice.
It’s pretty impressive to find a way of incorporating so much different music around a common theme in a concert lasting just an hour. It’s a format I like. Lot’s to think about in a fairly short space of time.