Paulo Alvarez | Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Paulo Alvarez 

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PAULO ALVAREZ

When clarinetist Gene Coleman, leader of the local experimental-music collective Ensemble Noamnesia, first met Brazilian pianist Paulo Alvarez in Cologne, he knew he'd found a kindred spirit, a musician just as fascinated with continental Europe's avant-garde scene as he was. Pretty soon the two started jamming together, and went on to forge a long-distance artistic partnership whose latest fruits are two recitals sponsored by the Renaissance Society this weekend. The 37-year-old Alvarez, who studied both piano and composition while in Germany, is a keen interpreter of the 20th-century Austro-Germanic chamber repertoire that ranges from Webern to Alvarez's buddy Gerhard Stabler, as we know from his Chicago debut last fall. But his interests also extend southward--to Paris, with its gaggle of Boulez disciples, and to Italy and the influence of Bruno Maderna, Boulez's comrade-in-arms against the remnants of the prewar establishment. Indeed, these two programs consist almost entirely of solos, duets, and small-ensemble works from three generations of Italy's most radical composers; they're meant to complement the society's current granite-and-pigment installation by Giovanni Anselmo. Included among Alvarez's solo turns are Franco Donatoni's Rima (on Saturday) and Luciano Berio's Sequenza IV, a compendium of modernist keyboard techniques, and Luigi Nono's Sofferte onde serene, a fine example of coordination between piano and its taped playback (both Sunday). Alvarez knows how to treat the piano--from keys to strings--as a sound generator of infinite variety, a trove of expressive possibilities; his split-second timing, feel for dynamic contrasts, and thorough understanding of post-Schoenbergian idioms mean he'll have no trouble with the 12-note foundation all these pieces are built on. He'll also team up with Coleman and his group in two of the reedist's own improv-motivated compositions. The other guest soloists are no slouches: mezzo-soprano Julia Bently gets to sing Berio's Sequenza III, my favorite of the series, and double bassist Michael Cameron takes on the Zen-inspired Le reveil profond, by eccentric patrician Giacinto Scelsi. Saturday, 8 PM, and Sunday, 3 PM, Bergman Gallery, Cobb Hall, University of Chicago, 5811 S. Ellis; 773-702-8670. TED SHEN

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): Jan Kornstaedt.

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