chimaeraLast night the Happenstancers presented another intriguing concert of chamber music titled Chimaera.  This time it was in the excellent hall at 918 Bathurst.  It was a clever conceit.  There were three “sets” with each consisting of two contrasting works that were combined in different ways.

The pieces in the first set were played straightforwardly consecutively but consisted of the least familiar music; Julia Wolfe’s Reeling and the premiere of Nahre Sol’s Chunhyang.  Wolfe is one of those young American composers who combine a conservatory training with a taste for minimalism and hard driving rock and, in the case of this piece, folk music.  It’s scored for nine instrumentalists including electric guitar and drum kit plus lots of electronics.  It’s really cool and reminds me of the most drunk ceilidhs I’ve ever been to.  And that may be why I remember almost nothing about the second piece except that the composer (keyboards) was playing it.

The second set involved two works for oboe and string trio; Mozart’s K370 and Ollie Knussen’s Cantata.  Here the Knussen piece was bookended by the Mozart to intriguing effect.  Both pieces require considerable obotic virtuosity which Aleh Remezau provided in full.  He was ably backed up by Hee-Soo Yoon (violin), Madlen Breckbill (viola) and Sarah Gans (cello).

The final set took the idea even further.  Passages from György Kurtág’s Signs, Games and Messages for oboe and bass clarinet (Brad Cherwin) were intermixed with passages from Kaija Saariaho’s Cloud Trio for string trio.  The twist here is that the two groups of musicians were at opposite ends of the hall giving a distinct call and response effect reinforced by the rather ethereal Saariaho contrasting with the more robust Kurtág.  Fascinating to experience.

Musicians not otherwise mentioned were Ben Finley (double bass), Joyce To (percussion), Andrew Noseworthy (electric guitar) and Hilary Jean Young (electronics).

Every Happenstancers concert I have attended has been different in intriguing ways.  Give them a try!