Over the past deacade, Metropolis Ensemble has made a name for themselves by performing almost anywhere other than in a concert hall: they've played at bandshells, in brownstones, and in Upper East and West Side apartments. More often than not, food and drinks are served, and the atmosphere is loose, almost clubby. Which, in fact, was how classical music was originally intended to be heard.
So, it was only fitting that for their 10th Anniversary this past Tuesday, Metropolis took over the Angel Orensanz Center on the Lower East Side for an ambitious party that offered free flowing wine and dozens of works, some performed simultaneously. The evening was inspired by John Cage's notorious 1967 Musicircus, where players are invited "to perform simultaneously anything or in any way they desire." Sign holders stood next to each performing ensemble with a large easel pad, on which the names of the performers and what they were playing were scrawled in black marker. Light projections filled the decayed gothic interior. Waiters walked through with seemingly bottomless trays of booze. There was even some random guy playing a cactus.
Many of the selections heard Tuesday night were selected from the 110+ works that Metropolis has commissioned over the years, such as Timo Andres' brilliant recomposition of Mozart's "Coronation" concerto, which Timo played from the middle of the floor while Metropolis players filled the stage and balcony above. (Timo and Metropolis premiered this recomposed concerto here in 2011.) It was one of the rare moments where everyone was able to stop and focus on a single performance, without any ambient chatter or far-off cymbal crash.