The piece is based on Bach's fourth cello suite -- see the resemblance?
WHO: Elissa Cassini, violin & Ashley Bathgate, cello
WHAT: WINKELMAN Rondo with a Janus Head; SAARIAHO Aure; NORMAN For Ashley; WINKELMAN Ciaccona; RAVEL Sonata for Violin and Cello
WHERE: National Sawdust
WHEN: June 29, 2019 at 7:00pm
I had a depressing conversation with another music critic friend the other day -- the topic was a syndrome that I like to call "critic brain." After reviewing 30 concerts, I feel jaded and hypercritical, like I never really enjoy anything to its full potential. In other words, I have started to wonder whether anything can really wow me anymore.
But every now and then a concert sets me straight, and makes me realize that my standards (which generally run a little too high) can be met. Can you guess what I'm going to say about Elissa and Ashley?
Yeah, they killed it. Like, jaw-on-the-floor.
Cassini has been spending the past couple years touring as a solo duo, so to speak. She teams up with anyone and everyone -- string players, non-string players, classical, jazz, world music -- to bring the gospel of duo music to her audience. And, what's more, she tries to engage with her audiences -- that's right, more audience participation! (Although this particular performance was not so heavy on the repeat-after-me songs I've been dishing on throughout the summer.)
Her partner this time was Ashley Bathgate, current cellist of the Bang on a Can All-Stars (one of NYC's first and foremost new music ensembles). Bathgate has always been a force of nature; critics went crazy for her first album, a 2016 recording of six new works for solo cello by Australian composer Kate Moore. She was actually what drew me to this concert in the first place, quite frankly.
The two performers each channeled Bach through a pairing of solo movements; the first was a Bathgate-commissioned piece by LA native Andrew Norman, the second, another NY Premiere by Helena Winkelman. The Norman was particularly cool, taking one rhythmic module and modifying it by microtones throughout. The concert finished with the Ravel duo which is sort of proto-modernist -- it uses a lot of the same harmonic language as did Andrew Norman or Kaija Saariaho.
I don't know. I feel like I'm not saying anything particularly inspiring about this concert. But I have to emphasize that it was truly fantastic. Maybe I just remember that it was fantastic and don't remember a ton of the details. But it was amazing. Trust me.