Anaphora Warms up Cool Night in Heaven

At Heaven Gallery Wednesday night, Anaphora continued this season's sonorous exploration exploration of color, leaving behind Cool Sounds for Warm Tones. Weaving colors together like a tapestry, the theme helps give a subtle structure to an otherwise eclectic succession of works - like a rug really tying a room together.

Bathed in a red hue, the concert started with some ambient piano etudes by Augusta Read Thomas. The pianist, George Lepauw (luh - po), gave a precise and committed account of 3 of her 6 etudes, which were more an exploration of time and rhythm than vertiginous technique. The first two seemed meticulously notated but the resulting effect was almost entirely arhythmic - almost atonal but not quite.

Next, Anaphora violinist, Aurelien Pederzoli gave the world premiere of a violin sonata by Anaphora founding composer Sarah J Ritch. For as much as Thomas' piano etudes were tonal and arhythmic, Ritch's sonata was the opposite: mostly tonal with regular rhythm - so much regularity in fact, that it even involved a sort of passacaglia over which variations unfolded. The second movement, for me, was more interesting. A short rhythmic cell repeats obstinately and is interrupted by other cells with variations of length, pitch, and pretty much everything else except rhythm and tempo. This sounds like minimalism but it wasn't: similar methods but to a much denser, more playful effect.
The first two pieces shared elements of minimalism - distended time and rhythmic regularity, respectively - but the 3rd piece drove the point home: Philip Glass' Company. Probably my favorite of his works, the 4 movements of the string quartet give a good introduction to his language without overstaying its welcome. And more than many of his works it goes somewhere. The quartet was played by the up-and-coming Spektral Quartet, which some may argue have already up and come.
The quartet, consisting of Pederzoli and J Austin Wulliman on violins, Doyle Armbrust on viola, and Russell Rolen on cello, played the brief quartet with lush richness, exemplifying the warmth of the concert's theme, achieving an exquisite blend of timbre and balance of volume in spite of the challenges of the room: the small, reverberant room left nothing to the imagination - like a soccer mom wearing yoga pants in public. While much of the evening's music felt slightly too loud or abrasive, the Spektral Quartet gently enveloped the listener, drawing a warm bath for the audience.
The final work proved the limitations of the room, forcing the audience into close proximity with the performers. The work, "Centos" by Virko Baley, seemed to have something very dramatic to express, which it did in stentorian tones. Like at sea in a perfect storm, one wave of climaxes was supplanted by another, each continually trying (and failing) to convey something very serious. But perhaps my generation's ears have been too overwhelmed by this modernist drama, needing instead something more nuanced, subtle, and ironic. It's a tricky balance, for sure, but one that Baley had no desire to strike. The second movement started with more subtlety but then quickly fell back into melodrama - like the one drink that pushes the alcoholic off the wagon. Finally, in the third movement, he maintained a sense of calm throughout, threatening to climax but showing great restraint. After 2 movements of cold and dark, the 3rd movement brought it back to the theme of warmth.
Afterwards, I found out the piece was written for a deceased friend.
Rich red and sweet white wines accompanied the concert, which was followed by drinks at Rodan to see New Millennium Orchestra director Dominic Johnson spin an eclectic mix of electronica. Whatever sour beer they have on tap is highly recommended - something Belgian.

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