Philip Glass: Three Selections from "Suite from Bent"
Caroline Shaw: Cant voi l'aube
Colin Jacobsen: For Sixty Cents
John Adams: "Am I In Your Light?" from Doctor Atomic (arr. Evan Ziporyn)
Tyondai Braxton: Arp Rec 1
Nico Muhly: So Many Things
Leos Janacek: String Quartet No. 1 (Kreutzer Sonata)
Bjork: Cover Me (arr. Erik Arvinder)
Bjork: Hunter (arr. Vince Mendoza)
Anders Hillborg: Kvall
Elvis Costello: Speak darkly, my Angel (arr. Rob Mathes)
Kate Bush: Pi (arr. Kyle Sanna)
My Carnegie Hall season may have started with the fabulous splash that is Messiaen's Turangalila-symphonie, but things considerable scaled down last Thursday night in Zankel Hall where the unstoppable Brooklyn Rider and long-established Swedish mezzo-soprano Anne Sofie von Otter were giving a concert whose program, which included Janacek, Philip Glass, Nico Muhly, Bjork and Elvis Costello among many others, was too intriguing to resist. It sounded like an unusual collaboration at first, but come to think of it, their versatility and her spirit of adventure are not that far apart after all, so I went.
The concert started with what turned out to be one of its high points: A resolutely sleek version of three selections from Philip Glass' "Suite from Bent", which not only pointed out the brilliance of the composition but also the tremendous talents of the musicians.
After intermission, a confidently virtuosic "Kreutzer Sonata" quickly confirmed that the Brooklyn Rider could handle pretty much anything. Inspired by Leo Tolstoy's jealousy-driven novella The Kreutzer Sonata, which itself features Beethoven's "Kreutzer Sonata", Janacek's amazing combination of beautiful melodies and dramatic outbursts rightfully turned out to be another high point of Thursday's concert.
Those two instrumental works – plus Tyondai Braxton's attractively intricate Arp Rec 1 – aside, the evening was mostly dedicated to the quartet's collaboration with Anne Sofie von Otter, who for the occasion definitely looked more like a Brooklyn hipster than an opera singer. Caroline Shaw's take on the medieval French ballad "Cant voi l'aube" and Brooklyn rider member Colin Jacobsen's bittersweet lament on inflation with "for Sixty Cents" were both mellow chansons that nicely went by.
More substantial pieces included a streamlined version of "Am I in your Light?" from John Adams' Doctor Atomic, which allowed the dramatically charged opera aria to be subtly conveyed by the four string musicians and the singer, and Nico Muhly's So Many Things, in which a long poem by Joyce Carol Oates was bookended by two short ones by Cavafy for an end result full of wistful longing and delicate lyricism.
The pop portion of the evening was engaging and stimulating with new arrangements of songs by Bjork, Elvis Costello, Kate Bush and Anders Hillborg, all artists whose creative credentials have long been validated and praised. With her crystal-clear voice, a killer band of musicians behind her and some exciting compositions to tackle, Anne Sofie von Otter was totally game to become the ultimate deluxe pop star for the evening and seemed to relish every second of it, just like we did.
We stayed in the pop realm for the encores, which consisted in Sting's soulful "Practical Arrangement" from his Broadway endeavor The Lost Ship, before everybody let their hair down for a rousing version of Abba's monster hit "Gimme! Gimme! Gimme!" complete with bouts of comical dancing by von Otter and uplifted spirits all around. Needless to say, disco had never sounded so good.