A concert of contemporary works for accordion? Why not! Well it was more of a concert of contemporary works for fixed reed instruments with, ironically, Trinity St. Paul’s most impressive fixed reed instrument forming an unused but imposing backdrop to the proceedings. Things started off conventionally enough with Soundstreams’ Artistic Director Lawrence Cherney on stage with three players of different instruments describing their histories and properties and then mild Hell broke loose as a curiously clad Joseph Macerollo burst into the auditorium, ejected Lawrence and friends and launched into R. Murray Schafer’s performance piece La Testa d’Adriane; the tale of a head mystically preserved between life and death. At this point the purpose of the rather bizarre contraption on stage was unclear but soon enough the cloth was pulled back to reveal Carla Huhtanen, or her head at least. More accordion and speech from Macerollo and a bizarre collection of grunts, squeaks, shrieks and gurning from Carla followed. Madness or genius? It’s Schafer. The question is unanswerable.
Following this we got an unannounced linking piece from Hector del Curto on bandonéon from somewhere up high, stage left before cutting to Taejong Park’s Duologue for saenghwang and marimba. It was an interesting introduction to the capabilities of the Korean saenghwang; a rather elaborate and bizarre looking harmonium played here by Korean virtuoso gamin with percussionist Ryan Scott. More linking from Hector and we were onto Dance of the Blind by Marjan Mozetich. This was apparently the composer’s first essay into tonalism and that it certainly is. It’s like an extended folk dance for accordion (Michael Bridge), violin (Timothy Ying), viola (Sheila Jaffe) and cello (David Hetherington). It was pleasantly tuneful but not truly memorable.
The second half kicked off with the premiere of Anna Pidgorna’s On the Courtship Displays of Birds of Paradise. It’s a choreographed piece for saenghwang and accordion (Michael Bridge) that evokes rather than mimics the courtship behaviour of those rather weird birds. It uses extended techniques on both instruments as well as demanding some thespian ability from the players. As performed here it made good use of the space too. I’m not sure I would want to listen to an audio recording but it made a good performance piece.
Alexina Louie’s Refuge for accordion (Joseph Macerollo), harp (Erica Goodman) and Bev Johnston (percussion) is one of those pieces that is essentially atonal and arhythmic. The latter I struggle with. At least there was some texture here and I’m sure there is technical composery stuff going on that’s beyond me and I’m missing something but not really my thing. More linking stuff to cover the set up changes in the second half, this time from gamin on saenghwang.
The final two pieces were jazz/tango inflected works by Argentinian composers Quique Sinesi and Astor Piazolla featuring Hector del Curto on bandonéon and Tania Gill at the piano with Timothy Ying joining on violin for the second piece. Fun, upbeat music to see us out into a cold night and a good demonstration of the properties of the bandonéon.
The idea of showcasing a bunch of related, slightly off beat instruments is a good one and it was well executed. The use of the space was well thought out and the linking interludes masked what could have been really tedious set up changes. All in all a very worthwhile effort from Soundstreams.