I bought tickets for last night's ECM+ Generation 2012 concert, featuring Ensemble Contemporain de Montréal, at the NAC 4th Stage in an 'it'll be interesting' frame of mind, and interesting was just the start. A very full 4th Stage for a very entertaining and intruging evening.
In order of performance, the four new works were: Animaris Currens Ventosa by Marielle Groven; Ninavanjali by Gabriel Dharmoo; Beatitude by Riho Esko Maimets; and Jenny's last rock by Annesley Black. Each performance was preceded by a Q&A with host Nicholas Gilbert, who injected the whole evening with humour.
In terms of immediate response, I most enjoyed Beatitude, a concise, intimate and very beautiful concerto for violin and ensemble. Following on from Maimets' explanation, his references to choral music and music of all different time periods were clear. This piece would easily sit alongside more 'traditional' chamber repertoire in a programme. Maimets also has a Soundcloud page with other works.
Dharmoo's Ninavanjali, dedicated to Dharmoo's late teacher N Govindarajan, clearly showed the influence of Indian melodic and rhythmic traditions, and was also clearly elegiac towards the end. To my ears there was also an interplay between fun and seriousness. Some of his effects (for want of a better word) included interesting piano passages, bullet-like bursts of rhythm and the wind players of ECM doing something akin to beatboxing with their instruments! Dharmoo's Vimeo page (link above) references other performances.
Of the other 2 works, they were both enjoyable but didn't quite pull me in as much. Animaris Currents Ventosa was incredibly atmospheric but also emanated a somewhat anxious vibe; and Jenny's last rock, although a really interesting concept (a musical representation of curling) with a hilarious introduction by Black, was just a little too conceptual. That said, the visual of ECM conductor Véronique Lacroix energetically keeping time for a tape recorder duet mid-piece was hilarous! More from the Citizen here.
Changing tack somewhat, M and I went to see a performance of the play 'Voltaire and Frederick: A Life In Letters' on Sunday evening courtesy of the German Embassy here in Ottawa (plus, I won 2 tickets in an email competition from the Embassy - further thanks, and hopefully someone from the UK High Commission is taking notes on event planning....). From a stage set of just 2 actors and 2 chairs, the audience at the Ottawa Arts Court Theatre were engrossed in a friendly/antagonistic friendship between the older Voltaire and the younger Frederick, later Frederick II. Highly recommended.