The Magik*Magik Orchestra

Hauschka with The Magik*Magik Orchestra

  * Notes *
Hauschka played a prepared piano concert with members of The Magik*Magik Orchestra last night at the Hotel Utah. The sounds produced by prepared piano can be rather harpsichord-like, which has a certain appeal. The accompaniment of two celli, two violins, and two oboes was also pleasing, the playing was strong, particularly on the part of cellist Lucas Chen. Hilary Hahn, who is in town for the Tchaikovsky concerts this week at SF Symphony, was the guest star of the evening. She played with Hauschka and The Magik*Magik Orchestra for one piece, but also played with Tom Brosseau earlier in the evening. Naturally they did have Ms. Hahn play a bit on her own as well, and she played Schubert's Erlkönig transcribed for solo violin by Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst and a movement from a Eugène Ysaÿe piece. Hahn played Erlkönig with utter ferocity, and at one point near the end she stopped, said "That is not how it ends," and continued to play.

The evening began with Gloria Justen playing three pieces she had written for solo violin. Her "Mothdance" sounded very much like one would expect, quite descriptive. Ross Edwards' Ecstatic Dances written for two flutes was played by oboists instead, and also had an insectile feel. Terry Riley's lush "Francesco en Paraiso" from Cantos Desiertos was played beautifully by guitar and flute.

* Tattling * 
The audience was quiet and attentive. There was some slight noise from the bar. There were no set intermissions and the sold-out show started late, so people would leave and return during the music. I was particularly distracted by a photographer who pushed his way past me during Hilary Hahn's second appearance on stage.

West Coast Premiere of Popcorn Superhet Receiver

 * Notes *
The Wordless Music Series had a sold-out San Francisco debut at Herbst Theatre last night. The concert featured the very solid Magik*Magik Orchestra conducted by Benjamin Shwartz. The evening began with John Adams' Shaker Loops (1978) for string septet, that is, three violins, one viola, two celli, and one bass. The piece is characterized by a good deal of itchy relentlessness in the fast bits and sliding loops in the slower parts. I found the literalness of the piece, the title interpreted as sound, to be quite pleasing. The mania relieved by unison in the last movement was also enjoyable. I was less crazy about Save As (2005) by Fred Frith, the work reminded me of a performance piece for art school. The cellist and percussionist involved both had fun, they got to fling tin cans around and crumple paper. The best gag was when a ping pong ball was thrown, it made a very satisfying noise as it hit the stage.

My favorite piece of the evening was at the beginning of the second half, Arvo Pärt's gut wrenching Cantus in Memoriam Benjamin Britten (1977) for string orchestra and percussion. Icarian Rhapsody (1999-2001) from young Mason Bates made little impression on me, though the music did evoke floating and waves. Radiohead lead guitarist Jonny Greenwood's Popcorn Superhet Receiver (2006) was less pretty. It started off insectile in the high strings, but with this floating over the warm glow of the low strings. The pizzicato parts were charming, especially a percussive flamenco-like section near the end. Overall the piece reminded me of being on an airplane and hearing the white noise in that situation as ethereal music.

The five works went together nicely, unlike how new music is often programmed. I much prefer this sort of concert to being tricked into hearing contemporary pieces because they are paired with famous classics. It was less jarring and there was not the palpable discomfort often felt in the symphony hall when anything 20th century or later is attempted.

* Tattling *
The audience was exceedingly well-behaved, there were absolutely no mobile phone rings, watch alarms, or talking aloud. The young woman next to me did text during the first half of the Frith, and whispered during Pärt. Another young woman behind me giggled at inopportune moments, but for the most part, one could have heard a pin drop during the rests. If only the audience at Davies could be this attentive!

I was in a roped-off section on the ground floor for press and such, and though I was mistakenly stopped before hopping over said rope, I still gleefully made my way to the very middle. Sidney Chen of The Standing Room stopped by to say hello, and noted that I was quite bold, and he sat on the aisle, being more demure or at least, wanting to make a better get-away. At intermission I was happy to see sfmike of Civic Center as well, where you can see both me and the inimitable Monsieur C.

* More *
Hear Popcorn Superhet Receiver on WNYC | Civic Center Review | Not For Fun Only Review | aworks Review | San Francisco Chronicle Review | San Francisco Classical Voice