bachheadTo 918 Bathurst last night to hear the Happenstancers’ latest offering Hypersuite.  The concept was to take movements from Bach suites and partitas for solo instrument and combine them into sets with (mostly) contemporary music of like form.  The one exception was some Telemann but we’ll come to that.

So the first set consisted of cellist Sarah Gans playing Ana Sokolovic’s vez before a brief segue brought in Katya Poplanskaya on violin for the adagio from Bach’s Violin Sonata BWV 1005.  It’s really interesting as, although the Sokolovic piece uses a fair amount of extended technique there’s a definite sense that they belong to the same soundworld.  Both are spare and spiky and eschew anything that might conventionally be called melody.

textThe second set had a lot in common with it.  Brad Cherwin on clarinet played Augusta R. Thomas’ d(i)agon(als) followed by the sarabande from Bach’s Partita BWV 1013 (usually played on flute).  This segued into Telemann’s fantasie 8 played on English horn by Aleh Remezau.  Completely different from the first set; more melodic and dance like, these three pieces also had much in common.

The second half kicked off with The allemande from BWV 1013 on clarinet, followed by Sokolovic’s cinq danze, II on violin and the gigue from from BWV 1008 on cello.  Here there is more contrast with the Sokolovic exploring a more complex sound world though still with clear affinities to the Bach.  This was followed by Elliott Carter’s a 6 letter letter on English horn.  It’s a quite long and complex piece which clearly places serious physical demands on the player.

The final set combine Bach and Sokolovic again.  This time the bourée anglaise from BWV 1013 (clarinet) was followed by the allemande from BWV 1003 on cello before things wrapped up with Sokolovic’s cinque danze, iii on violin.  Here the unifying thread is the dance but the thrill was a most virtuosic performance by Poplyansky of the complex and varied extended techniques demanded by the finale.

So summarizing and closing thoughts… The combinations of pieces worked brilliantly and demonstrated inter alia that a lot of contemporary music is surprisingly close to Bach in spirit (or Bach was a couple of hundred years ahead of his time).  All the playing was brilliant.  There was nowhere to hide in this program.  It’s the first time I’d seen an English horn played up close and personal.  It looks like really hard work!  The few seconds of segue ways between movements were very well handled.

So, a fascinating, brilliantly curated and played concert in the really lovely surroundings of 918 Bathurst.  What’s not to like?

Graphics: Brad Cherwin (who else?)


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