If there is such a thing as “reverse deconstruction,” that’s what happened Thursday night in a program of new and recent works, including a world premiere, performed by the Daedalus Quartet with clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois.
At the start of the concert, presented by the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in its Rose Rehearsal Studio, the string quartet genre seemed to be lying around in pieces as composer Anna Weesner explored ideas of fragmentation and separation in her 2015 piece The Space Between.
Then Vivian Fung’s Clarinet Quintet: Frenetic Memories, a CMS co-commission heard here for the first time, not only bridged the space between a rural Chinese village and an urbane Canadian composer but also pulled the string instruments together to deal with a rambunctious clarinet.
Vivian Fung was also present to describe her “a bit overwhelming” experience as a musical tourist in rural southern China. The struggle to process “many new sights, sounds, and experiences” came through vividly in her one-movement quintet, led by the clarinet in a frenetic dash from blinding staccato runs to foggy pianissimo to whistling multiphonics.
Except for an occasional phrase in the pentatonic scale, Fung kept obvious chinoiseries to a minimum until near the end, when she incorporated the haunting sound of a recording of a Yi woman singing a folk song in an otherworldly nasal voice, as a tribute to the composer’s local hosts.
With strange instrumental sounds, sudden drama, and even a touch of humor here and there, the players evoked the shifting psychic states of the overwhelmed traveler. Tales of good pieces having bad, ill-rehearsed premieres are rife in music history, so it was gratifying to hear a new work introduced to the world with such flair.
by David Wright
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