When: Sun., Nov. 3, 7:30 p.m. and Thu., Nov. 7, 7:30 p.m. 2013
Few new-music groups have done as much to promote forward-looking contemporary classical work as Germany’s Ensemble Recherche, which since forming in 1985 has given more than 500 world premieres. The ensemble’s skill with extended techniques and microtonal systems has made it a magnet for daring composers, and the first concert of its weeklong residency at Northwestern University demonstrates its visionary ethos. I first heard Recherche in the late 90s, playing key Helmut Lachenmann works, and his late-80s chamber trio Allegro Sostenuto is the oldest piece on the program—it’s sustained, as its title suggests, with prickly little jabs and abstract gestures that sound closer to free improvisation than to classical, but it lacks the bright tempos associated with the word “allegro.” The bill also includes the U.S. premiere of Liber Scintillarum, a 2012 piece by New Complexity titan Brian Ferneyhough, but I’m most excited about Nach-Ruf . . . Ent-gleitend, a 1999 sextet by Austrian composer Georg Friedrich Haas that maintains a live-wire state of flux, its subtly warping microtonal shapes articulated at the discretion of the performers. A dissonant, mournful melody dissolves into astringent long tones, then reappears; the harmonies seem to electrify the air, much as they do more dramatically in his classic In Vain, so that the dark atmosphere lingers even in the silence after the final notes. —Peter Margasak Ensemble Recherche also performs a program of student works on Thu 11/7, and that show is free.
Price: $8, $5 for students, 11/7 is free