by Nick Stubblefield
It's a rare and magical thing to hear great musicians playing great music in a great space, but that's exactly what audiences were treated to this past week when violinist Francesca Anderegg presented selections from Wild Cities, her latest album release, at National Sawdust in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Geometric shapes zig-zagged across the stage backdrop, suggesting a context for new musical ideas -- fitting, because Anderegg's performance offered contemporary, thoughtful, but highly approachable tunes.
If minimalism is, in the words of composer Philip Glass, "music with repetitive structures," then post-minimalism expands on the idea by embracing those structures, but not letting them confine or define the compositions. Anderegg's opening piece, Ryan Anthony Francis' "Remix," established a rocking, hard-grooving repetitive structure, then playfully defied expectations on each repetition by employing odd timings and rhythms.
Pianist Brent Funderburk played a role as vital as Anderegg's. On "Remix," his touch was impeccably light and delicate, his fingers hardly grazing the keys but nevertheless providing crucial counterpoint and a relentless and energetic driving force.
Clint Needham's "On The Road" offered an emotional tenderness that only a solo violin could bring. The violin was often weepy and melancholic, but there were touches of rhythmic playfulness throughout the work, too. Anderegg deftly handled quick changes in mood and texture throughout.
Photo by Dario Acosta
In sharp contrast, Ted Hearne's "Nobody's" offered something very different, but equally fun. Anderegg performed solo, the music suggesting a funked-up hoedown, yet filled with odd time changes demonstrated in part with Anderegg's own stomping foot. Fun uses of violin squeaks and harmonics added to the wackiness.
Hannah Lash's "Adjoining" opened the second half the program. Anderegg's long, legato notes were filled with yearning and often unresolved tension. The harmonic language sometimes delved into a "sounds-wrong but also good" zone, harmonic territory on that fine line between too much tension, or just the perfect amount. It was sonically rich, and Funderburk's tender touch on the piano added just the right contrast to a frequently tearful sounding violin.
Reinaldo Moya's "Imagined Archipelagos" was an action-packed closer to the program, deep yet approachable, fun with a Latin groove in sections.
Audiences naturally seek two things when hearing music for the first time: a sense of groove, and a sense of melody. In contemporary music, finding groove and melody can be a challenge, and it's the performer's job to illuminate both elements for the listener. Anderegg evinced a strong, clear sense of each, which made for a riveting listening experience.