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Leonore Overture

collects the music and arts criticism of Keith Powers

Nth Degree Chamber Series closes, at Warp speed

 Warp Trio: Josh Henderson, Mikael Darmanie, Ju Young Lee

Warp Trio: Josh Henderson, Mikael Darmanie, Ju Young Lee

Expect anything at a chamber music concert. 

Brahms and Haydn—that much you might assume. Duke Ellington, some improv, a piece called “Spitroast”—not so much.

This concert of curiosities marked the final Nth Degree program of the season. It was curated by Cape Symphony Orchestra concertmaster Jae Cosmos Lee, who was joined by the Warp Trio Sunday afternoon at the Federated Church of East Orleans. 

In the first half of the program, Warp provided the “Spitroast,” the improv, the Ellington—and the Haydn. Lee joined the trio for the Brahms A major quartet, which closed the performance.

Every chamber music program needs this kind of energy. While the beginning and ending compositions by Haydn and Brahms provided expected pleasures, it was the Warp Trio’s own jazz/tango/classical works that gave the concert a kick in the pants.

The trio—Mikael Darmanie on piano, Ju Young Lee on cello, and Josh Henderson alternating between violin and viola—seemed just as comfortable with Haydn’s lyric Adagio movement and Brahms’ symphonic quartet, as they were with Ellington’s uptown style.

But it wasn’t just about different composers; it was about different performing styles as well. “Spitroast”—a Warp Trio original—set a pair of string solos against a roundhouse piano feel. A mash-up of Bach (a movement from the cello suites, nicely intro’d by Lee), some snippets from American jazz composer Craig Taborn, and the trio’s own ideas characterized the precipitous “21st Street,” its overlapping figures turning simplicity into complexity.

Ellington’s “Black and Tan Fantasy” is a classic from a different genre. Henderson lit into the piece, in a spontaneous solo violin arrangement that mirrored the original Bubber Miley trumpet solo. And just to prove that crossing genres didn’t begin recently, the Duke quotes Chopin’s “Funeral March” along the way. 

The trio’s set concluded with “Tang,” another original. Darmanie asked the audience to imagine the “o” at the end of “Tang”—and not, as he put it, “the delicious orange drink.”

A sturdy, Piazzolla-like nuevo tango—including a long quote from the Argentinian composer as an outro—“Tang” had style and substance. A middle section cello line, woven over an infectious violin ostinato, had Lee playing a gentle lyric melody, while Henderson kept a different energy burning underneath.

The Brahms quartet was hardly anti-climactic. Cosmos Lee joined the trio, and Henderson switched over to viola. Nearly an hour long, there was much to enjoy. There were many Brahmsian—read, enthralling—moments, right from the opening, heroic chords. 

The middle trio section in the scherzo—about the only minor key moment in the whole work—sent a jolt through everyone. Darmanie stood out, for his command of the material, and riveting shifts of dynamics. The playing was risky and alert throughout, taking full advantage of the generous ideas in the quartet.

This was the final performance of the Nth Degree concert season. For 2018–19 program details, visit www.capesymphony.org or call 508-362-1111.

Amit Peled performs Bach Cellos Suites. Casals listens

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