Sunday, June 26, 2011

Ethel - Zarvos, Dufallo, Lawson, Farris, Cage, Felsenfeld, Riley, Ruo & Stewart - 06/21/11

Marcel Zarvos: "Arrival"
Cornelius Dufallo: "Lighthouse"
Dorothy Lawson: "Chai"
Ralph Farris: "2fer"
John Cage: "4’33”"
Daniel Felsenfeld: "You. Have. No. Idea."
Terry Riley: "Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector"
Huang Ruo: String Quartet No 2 (The Flag Project)
Mark Stewart: "To Whom It May Concern: Thank You"

What better way to celebrate the longest day of the year, June 21st, by making it all music, everywhere, all the time, free for all. That is more or less the laudable ambition of the “Make Music New York” project, which on the big day allowed for all sorts of concerts to spring up at many street corners of the city for the fifth year in a row. Since it was regrettably a weekday, I was not able to partake in the festivities until early evening, but it only made appreciate the occasion even more, especially since I benefited from my friend Nicole's effortless navigating skills that got us there right in time.
Last Tuesday night was also the last Carnegie Hall Neighborhood Concert of the season, and to wrap things up with a virtuosic bang, the ensemble at hand was no less than the string quartet Ethel, whose fearless Juilliard-trained musicians have been steadily pushing the limits of musical possibilities with infectious energy for the past 11 years now. In line with the “Make Music New York” tradition, the exterior location was the outside amphitheater of the Abron Arts Center at the Henry Street Settlement, where the non-stop hustle and bustle of the Lower East Side indiscriminatingly mixed with the wide-ranging musical sounds of an unabashedly eclectic program.

Things started off with a decidedly racing pulse courtesy of Brazilian composer Marcel Zarvos and its fiddling-happy "Arrival".
Ethel members are not only accomplished musicans, but they compose as well. So next came Ethel violinist Cornelius Dufallo’s "Lighthouse", which kept the mood upbeat with its Gypsy-inspired rhythms.
Not to be outdone, Ethel cellist Dorothy Lawson also presented her own piece, "Chai", whose funkiness was perfectly in tune with the beverage it got its name from.
Then we moved on to Ethel violist Ralph Farris’s "2fer", its mean double-bass lines and wide assortment of whimsical sounds.
Neighborhood Concerts are typically performed without intermission, but the instrumental music did stop for John Cage’s famously Zen "4”33”", thus encouraging everybody to focus on the multitude of noises endlessly interacting at the restless street corner that was their environment at that time.
Back to more conventional musical compositions, we heard the first two movements of Daniel Felsenfeld’s "You. Have. No. Idea", which were by turn soulful and dramatic.
Terry Riley’s modular quartet "Sunrise of the Planetary Dream Collector" was predictable repetitive, but the wild conversation it created among the musicians kept everybody hooked until the very end.
The second movement of Huang Ruo’s String Quartet No 2 (The Flag Project) opened with Tibetan prayer bells played with bows, which created as much of an ethereal atmosphere as one can get in downtown New York City.
To finish up our unusual musical journey, we had Mark Stewart’s playful "To Whom It May Concern: Thank You", which is an atheist prayer he got from his God-denying mother, who had unpredictably married his God-fearing father. Another proof, if need be, that opposites do attract, and even sometimes end up inspiring beautiful music together.

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