The Queer Urban Orchestra (QUO) devoted its St. Patrick’s Day concert, at Church of the Holy Apostles, in Chelsea, to chamber music and, in this 12th QUOtets program, orchestra members and guests gave us a diverse selection of works.
QUOtets XII began on a most unusual note with John Cage’s “Living Room Music,” played, host Brent Reno told us, on “a quartet of unspecified instruments.” On a living room set, with assorted food packages and reading matter, Andrew Berman, Alvaro Rodas, Mark Saccomano, and Christian Smythe, in casual attire, played the percussion ‘instruments’ tabletop, book banged on table, chopsticks, spoon striking knee, rolled up magazines, a pizza box, a Chinese food container, and a bottle, with Berman also playing melodica, a wind instrument with a keyboard. Words that the quartet intoned came from Gertrude Stein’s “The Word Is Round.”
Violinist Andrew Holland, cellist Bjorn Berkhout, and pianist Ligia Sakurai gave us a propulsive, refreshing, and thoroughly Romantic second movement Scherzo from Johannes Brahms’ Trio Opus Eight, in its revised version. The 13th Street WindsSamantha Marshall on flute, Chammi Kim on oboe, Jeremiah Adriano on clarinet, Alejandro Salaverry on horn, and Tylor Thomas on bassoonplayed Eun-Chul Oh’s “Arirang Fantasy,” and Kim explained that Arirang is a traditional Korean folksong form and that we would have heard an example during the recent Winter Olympics opening ceremonies. The lively Fantasy could not help but bring images from the Olympics to mind.
The Ainslie WindsMarquis Bias on flute, Rishi Magia on oboe, Allison Heim on clarinet, Fran Piccone on bassoon, and Kyle Walker on hornplayed a mellifluously flowing third movement Vivace, from French flautist, composer, conductor, and teacher Paul Taffanel’s Quintet for Winds, with drive. QUO Artistic Director Julie Desbordes, on flugenhorn, and Berman, on vibraphone, offered a pensive first of Erik Satie’s “Trois Gymnopédies,” marked Lent et douloureux, and segued into Chick Corea’s playful “Children’s Songs.” Brian Shaw and Nolan Dresden, assisted by pianist Marie Blair, sang two songs from Berkhout’s new musical “Push,” concerning, said Reno, “a family who pushes back against the pressures of modern life.” In “It’s a Mess,” Shaw and Dresden, playing a couple, gave us their fight song, with a cheerful side, and in “Pitter Patter,” discussed when and if they’ll become dads. Violinists Holland and William Jones, violist Nick Singletary, and cellist Todd Porter played the first movement of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s String Quartet Number 19 in C Major, Köchel 465, some of the Adagio characterized by the relative “Dissonance” of the work’s designation, then resolving in a fleet and harmonious Allegro.
Oboists Matthew Hadley and Shaw and English horn player Smythe gave us Ludwig van Beethoven’s Variations of a Theme from Mozart’s “Don Juan” (“Don Giovanni”), the seduction duet “Là ci darem la mano,” consisting of the opening Andante statement of the theme; a bouncy Allegretto dance; in L’istesso tempo, the melody ornamented somewhat floridly; an Andante akin to a courtly dance; an Allegro Moderato, replete with ascending figures; a Moderato, fully floridly embellished; a Lento Espressivo, foretelling that an unhappy ending is in store; a jokey Allegretto Scherzando; an Allegretto Giocoso, with a swirling melodic line against that of the duet; culminating in a Coda and a final Andante statement.
Violinist Suzanne Lipkin and pianist Sakurai played QUO alumnus Seth Bedford’s Aria da Capo, angular and dramatic, with an abrupt ending. Aaron Patterson, on alto saxophone, delivered French composer, conductor, and arranger Paul Bonneau’s Caprice en forme de valse, whimsically more waltz-like than actual waltz, with runs and trills in a cadenza near the end. Closing the concert was Keiichi Kurokawa’s reimagining of Claude Debussy’s Suite Bergamasque, the Prelude followed by the familiar Clair de Lune, haunting in this unusual arrangement as well.
On May 5, at Holy Apostles, QUO will play Mozart’s 39th Symphony and a new work by QUO’s own Ron Nahass, and present a performance by the QUO Composition Contest winner. On June 16, QUO celebrates LGBTQ Pride with its third annual Pride Gay-La. Visit www.QueerUrbanOrchestra.org
for further information. Church of the Holy Apostles is located at 296 Ninth Avenue, at West 28th Street.