ICE presented an all-Davidovsky concert last Friday at the Americas Society in New York, and the program covered a remarkable span of time. The earliest piece was the Chacona for piano trio dating from 1971, and the newest was from this year, a premiere for flute, clarinet, piano, percussion, and four strings called Divertimento No. 8, “Ambiguous Symmetries”. This was Mario’s return to composing after a hiatus of several years, and although he described it in an intermission conversation has having an entirely different syntax from his earlier music, it still had the electric crackle, sly wit, and poignant lyricism for which his music is so admired. The program began with soprano Tony Arnold’s vivid rendition of Romancero, a set of four songs on anonymous Spanish texts. Here a mixed quartet of strings and winds frame the voice with alert gestures, or shadow it with plaintive musings. David Bowlin was a brilliant soloist in the Synchronisms No. 9 for violin and electronic sound, with the live and recorded elements merging into a hybrid “super-instrument”. It was beautiful to see the young players of ICE advocating for this music with such passionate commitment, and reassuring to know that the tradition of virtuosity called for by this body of work continues.
Here’s Mario during that intermission talk: