Mark Engebretson | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Mark Engebretson 

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After the havoc modernists and postmodernists have wreaked on the human voice, most composers in their 20s and 30s have stayed away from the lyric art song. Now, however, there are signs of resurgent interest, like "Say a Prayer, but the Sea Wind Blows Them Out" (a tune for soprano, string quartet, and tape, set to a text by local poet Dina Elenbogen) by Mark Engebretson, a Northwestern-trained composer who's also an ace baritone saxist. As might be expected with a member of the MTV generation, Engebretson's work betrays pop culture influences, especially the creepy, suspenseful string wails that bring to mind Bernard Herrmann. And his treatment of the soprano voice, with its breathy, high-pitched declamations, no doubt owes something to his working knowledge of the sax. This is the Chicago debut of "Say a Prayer." Also on the bill is Engebretson's "Es Kann Ihnen...," a skilled rehash of au courant European gestures for amplified flute and electronic harpsichord, to be performed by Alexander Wagendristel and Jeffrey Kowalkowski, the other two composers featured in this Chicago-Vienna summit. Engebretson met Wagendristel through the highly regarded Vienna Saxophone Quartet, of which he's been a member since 1992; Wagendristel, a leading young Austrian composer (and a flutist), had been commissioned by the VSQ. Engebretson and VSQ soprano saxist Susan Fancher will introduce Wagendristel's "Bonus Tracks," a loopy score that also has vibraphonist Carrie Biolo-Thompson (Kowalkowski's performance partner) joining in the virtuosic one-upmanship. And Kowalkowski weighs in with "Five for Four," performed by the Ad Hoc String Quartet, and "Blick," an improv piece for Kowalkowski and Katharina Roessner (the soloist on Engebretson's song). Sunday, 3 PM, Green Mill, 4802 N. Broadway; 773-878-5552. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo by Nathan Mandell.

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