Lachenmann / Nono / Schoenberg

Beth Levin

[March 2012.]

The brilliant young group counter)induction performed a concert of Lachenmann, Nono and Schoenberg at the Italian Academy at Columbia University last night (March 4).

Benjamin Fingland opened the program with Dal Niente (Interieur III) (1970) for clarinet by Helmut Lachenmann. The piece explores the outer limits of the instrument through intake and expulsion of breath, long-held notes growing from silence, fragments in the extreme and in other ways that sidestep melody and harmony. One must leave the idea of Benny Goodman outside and embrace the hollowed insides of the reedy tube.

Mr. Fingland gave a convincing performance that kept a buoyant rhythmic pulse and always entertained. He acted his part well even in the absence of sound, giving shape to ephemera.

Luigi Nono’s Fragmente-Stille, an Diotima (1979) was a commission by the city of Bonn to mark Beethoven’s 210th birthday. Lachenmann’s Dal Niente was good preparation for entering even further into a voiceless landscape. One cannot help but feel Nono’s withholding of melody, harmony and expression, a desire-less, often cold universe on paper. One must rethink one’s idea of music as if entering a restaurant for a meal and being presented with nothing but a glass of grayish tea: a barren menu.

First violinist Miranda Cuckson and the quartet gave a performance of drama, clarity and élan which urged us to live through the many silences, to be a follower and go with Nono’s intent. I think they relayed the mystery of the work and were at ease with its gestalt.

After the intermission the charismatic group was joined by Paula Robison and Yuki Numata, reciter and violinist in Arnold Schoenberg’s Ode to Napoleon Buonaparte, Op. 41. The work, a stand against the tyranny of Hitler, is set to Lord Byron’s poem with the use of inflected speech resembling the Sprechstimme of Pierrot Lunaire. Paula Robison, a national treasure, spoke her part with a perfect blend of the profound and theatrical employing a range of vocal qualities, facial expressions and body language. The interplay of musicians and Ms. Robison was sensitive and dynamic — her voice always an extension of the instruments.

I think Schoenberg would have been pleased.

Schoenberg’s work felt like an exuberant exhale of expression so missing in the first half of the program.

[Beth will be performing Op. 109, 110 and 111 of Beethoven on July 14th at the Portland International Piano Festival, Portland, Oregon. W.M.]


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