Interruption; the first concert of this year’s West End Micro Music Festival, happened last night at the season venue; Redeemer Lutheran Church on Bloor West. It was a clarinet quintet concert with a twist or two that was illuminated for me by a chat with clarinettist Brad Cherwin after the show.
The starting point was how to present the Brahms Quintet in b, op. 115 without just pairing it with something obvious like the Mozart quintet. The solution was ingenious, surprising and a bit disorienting (in a good way). The movements of the quintet were split up and interleaved with other works. (Cherwin and friends have form in this department!). The concert began with Nico Muhly’s Slow Canons for two violins and electronic drone but with all five performers on stage so it was a seamless segue into the first movement of the Brahms. Then there was more Brahms with parts of Nahre Sol’s Brahms Interludes worked in. Brad explained this at the interval but didn’t give us any indication of exactly how the second half would go.
There was of course the rest of the quintet but now interspersed with excerpts from György Kurtág’s Signs, Games and Messages and some more Sol (I think). It was fascinating to listen to. There’s the high romanticism of the Brahms cut with three flavours of minimalism almost like sorbets between heavier courses but presented seamlessly. I think I actually enjoyed the Brahms (a composer to whom I’m a bit allergic) more because of this.
Great performances too running the gamut from very sparse, very quiet through some contrapuntal pizzicato to the full blown and highly energetic Brahms. Full marks to Amy Hillis and Eric Kim-Fujita on violins and Hee-Soo Yoon on viola as well, of course, to the festival leading lights Sebastian Ostertag on cello and Brad Cherwin on clarinet. The experience was further enhanced by the evocative lighting design by Adam Geoff Harris.
There are three more concerts in this year’s festival (see here) and each promises a different way of presenting classical chamber music by combining with other kinds of musical forces or even other art forms. Redeemer Lutheran is also a really nice, intimate, venue for this kind of music.