Sunday, March 12, 2017

Never Enough Kronos Quartet

Last night was the last night of the TSO's New Creations Festival.  I wasn't able to go to most of the nights, like I did last year, but the concert I went to was very interesting and actually enjoyable (one can definitely not say that about most evenings of contemporary music).  I had sort of assumed that it would be a Kronos Quartet concert, occasionally supported by the TSO musicians, but in fact it was completely the opposite.  The Kronos Quartet only came on-stage for the final number, and they didn't do an encore.  Too bad.  It's almost the complete reverse of last year's Toronto concert, which I reviewed here.  I can't complain too much, since we did get a world premiere of Nicole Lizée's Black Midi, but I suppose I would say that, after tonight, I've seen them 4.5 times rather than 5 times.  (I might point out that they'll be doing a full show in Calgary in about 10 days but no premieres.)  I'll certainly keep my eyes open to see when they will be back around.

There were four pieces on the program.  Nicole Lizée's Zeiss After Dark, which was a very short (2 minute) piece commission for Canada's 150 birthday.  It was ok but very staccato.

Cassandra Miller's Round was an intentionally drone-like piece but with actual melody.  It was quite soothing.  Also, this was another world premiere, so that's pretty cool.  Apparently the entire concert was recorded for on-line release, so I'll probably try to acquire it if the price is right.

Then we had Daniel Bjarnason's Emergence.  While not a true premiere (it's been performed in Iceland), the composer had made some last minute tweaks and additions to the final movement).  There were aspects that reminded me a bit of Mahler (with the banging of pipes).  It was decent for contemporary classical music, but I liked Round better.

Then Kronos appeared.  In addition to being backed by the TSO, there was video going on at the same time, as Lizée was explaining/exploring the phenomenon of Black Midi where people programmed thousands of notes into their Midi synthesizers to get it to crash.  The videos were intentionally jokey (like a metronome going out-of control) and many of them involved a man sticking a piece of score (like this one below) on his tongue like it was an acid tab.

It was hard to decide whether to watch the videos or Kronos.  In addition to foot stomping and hand clapping, the Quartet had electronic gadgets they played with, they had mini noodles (like the swimming pool flotation noodles) to twirl around their heads and at one point they were tearing up paper very loudly.  Pretty typical for Kronos these days actually.  I liked it quite a bit, and I'll definitely keep my eyes open to see if they put out a disc of Lizée's compositions.  I'd probably buy that, but only if it came with the video.

All in all, a very interesting night at Roy Thompson Hall, and it certainly didn't hurt that the concert started early and ended at 9 sharp (there was no intermission).

I haven't bought my tickets yet, but there are a couple of other interesting concerts coming up that are along the same lines -- April 1 (U of T Wind Ensemble and TorQ Percussion Ensemble) and April 2 (Esprit Orchestra's Overdrive concert).  See you there!

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