Review: Roomful of Teeth Stretches for a Piano Premiere

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Roomful of Teeth at Zankel Hall. coming from left, Estelí Gomez, Martha Cluver, Caroline Shaw, Virginia Warnken Kelsey, Eric Dudley, Thann Scoggin, Dashon Burton in addition to Cameron Beauchamp.

Credit
Hiroyuki Ito for The brand-new York Times

A musical week which began on Monday with displays of extended instrumental techniques, within the brand-new York Philharmonic’s Contact! concert at National Sawdust in Brooklyn, wound down on Thursday using a show of extended vocal techniques, by the ensemble Roomful of Teeth at Zankel Hall.

Roomful, an a cappella octet founded in 2009, will be a veritable repository of such practices, using amplification in addition to close miking to artistic effect. Its guiding philosophy was summed up by its artistic director, Brad Wells, in a preconcert discussion at Zankel: “Voices can do so much more.”

More of what? The sky may be a limit, maybe not.

Roomful’s great showpiece will be the Partita for 8 Voices, a four-movement work by one of its members, the alto Caroline Shaw, which won the 2013 Pulitzer Prize for music. The Pulitzer citation aptly described some of the techniques involved: “speech, whispers, sighs, murmurs, wordless melodies in addition to novel vocal effects.” the item could have added grunts, rasps, throat singing in addition to even a sort of winding twang suggesting a jaw harp.

The Partita appropriately opened the program, in addition to the presentation was thoroughly polished in addition to utterly winning. The work “was written with in addition to for my dear friends in Roomful of Teeth,” Ms. Shaw has written, in addition to the item was evident here which every singer had a major stake within the performance.

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The pianist in addition to composer Tigran Hamasyans performing “Ser Aravote” with Caroline Shaw, left, in addition to Virginia Warnken Kelsey.

Credit
Hiroyuki Ito for The brand-new York Times

in addition to every performance. Two of them were brand-new York premieres: Ambrose Akinmusire’s “a promise within the stillness” (2016), with an earthy vocalise by the soprano Estelí Gomez, in addition to Tigran Hamasyan’s “Ser Aravote” (2017). Both were complex enough to require Mr. Wells’s presence as conductor.

“Ser Aravote” was particularly rich in addition to varied, with Mr. Hamasyan on hand as pianist. The work will be based on an ancient Armenian chant for which the text survives, nevertheless not the music. in addition to the text will be a puzzler, with verses falling into groups of 17 syllables, divided a few, a few in addition to seven. Mr. Hamasyan met This kind of rhythmic challenge using a melody which seemed, in its many metamorphoses, sometimes to limp momentarily, sometimes to skip.

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