dal niente is back in town and better than ever. The ensemble was invited to Darmstadt this summer where they won the Stipiendienpreise, which roughly translates to "most badass ensemble prize". Wednesday night, they were at the Mayne Stage, giving me my second opportunity to scope out the venue in as many weeks. I approve. Having seen post-Classical experimental Art Music in bars before, I knew it could fail. I was skeptical Wednesday when I didn't see a massive amount of microphones to combat the sound-dampening fixtures. But there was no need; the sound throughout the evening was ample, not D.O.A.--a neutral space with little added resonance or reverb.
review: dal niente - part I
The evening was broken up into two sets, the first skewing more American, the second more Euro. Musically, the ensemble was fantastic in every piece, though the expressive quality was often hampered by the head-down effort at precision. [Not that most of the pieces required much expression.]
The standout loser of the evening was Nico Muhly (MYU-lee), whose piece How About Now was rescued from the trash bin of history and given a second chance. Muhly wrote the piece in 2006, when he was a fresh 25 years old; he may be a boy wonder now, but this piece sounded young, like he had just discovered Steve Reich, like he had sketched out a couple Reich-esque ideas, ate them for lunch, and then threw them up on the page. The ideas weren't terrible, but the whole was flimsy. His work often verges on falling apart, but this one never got put together. It alluded that it had somewhere to go but then never fulfilled its promise; its fits and starts made it both too unpredictable and predictable at the same time. No one should ever program this. Ever. [...but I'm sure if we heard him talk about it, we'd find him charming and endearing and therefore über-talented.]
[And now it's late; stay tuned for Part II--the winners and runners-up.]