Mobtown Modern continues to make Baltimore cooler with concert by Victoire, Sirota
I finally caught up with Mobtown Modern's new season the other night (schedule conflicts of every kind have been plentiful lately). I'm not crazy about the organization's new home at Windup Space, mainly because that place has such an unwelcoming exterior on such an unwelcoming corner of Baltimore. But what counts is the scene inside, I know, and there was much to savor Wednesday as Mobtown continued its effort to make Baltimore a musically cooler city.
The program started with a solo set by violist Nadia Sirota, who brought a sterling technique and vividly communicative style to an intriguing sampling of early 21st century works (she's got the ideal DNA for this fare -- her father is composer Robert Sirota, former director of the Peabody Institute).
Among her selections were
Nico Muhly's "Period Instrument," with its gentle motor rhythms and increasingly lyrical streak; Missy Mazzoli's work-in-progress, "Tooth and Nail," a vibrantly pulsating, multi-colored work; and Caleb Burhans' "Unspeakable Truths," a sort of neo-baroque/new age fusion.
Mazzoli was the focus for the rest of the evening, performing her works with her well-matched ensemble Victoire. The composer's distinctive sound reveals a nod to what might called traditional minimalism and another nod to rock. There's energy and occasional grit, but, more than anything else, a beguiling subtlety and beauty.
Part of the appeal is in the instrumentation of Victoire -- violin (Olivia de Prato), clarinet (Eileen Mack), double bass (Eleonore Oppenheim) and electronic keyboards (Mazzoli and Lorna Krier). It's rather Brahmsian at heart, which may be one reason why the music is so damn hypnotic. Highlights included "Cathedral City," with its sampled sound bites of James Joyce, and the gently propulsive "A Song for Arthur Russell."
Victoire's debut album is just out on New Amsterdam Records. I want to get a copy -- I think you'd like it, too. Here's a live performance of the title cut, "Cathedral City":