Osvaldo Golijov
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Ayre (2004): Reviews
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From: Masslive.com (Clifton J. Noble, Jr.)

Dawn Upshaw delivers golden performance

The mutual inspiration of soprano Dawn Upshaw and composer Osvaldo Golijov scored another gold-medal-worthy performance at Tanglewood Wednesday evening, with "Ayre" for voice, nine players, and computer sound design.

Last summer, while preparing Golijov's one-act opera "Ainadamar," Upshaw described "a real direct, honest, personal, passionate quality" that she cherishes in the Argentine-born composer's music. "It's immediately meaningful and beautiful," she said.

"Ayre," commissioned by the Carnegie Hall Corporation for the opening season of Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall and premiered in March of this year, lived up to that description.

Based on or patterned after folk music, according to the composer's program note, the piece unfolded in 11 movements (a 12th was dropped after the premiere), drawing upon a hearty brew of Sephardic music, Christian Arab traditions, a tune from 18th-century Sardinia, music by guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla (a member of the ensemble) and Golijov's lightning imagination.

Upshaw explored the farthest reaches of her adventurous voice, from keening wails to amplified sassy contralto growls, gruff barks and cries to glorious, floating highs. Largely melancholy in text and tone, the music alternated between tender, vulnerable textures (guitar and voice; harp, strings and voice) reminiscent of Mahler and driving, computer-sample-driven ostinatos into which the instrumentalists interjected their sound.

Boston Symphony Chamber Players Steven Ansell, Jules Eskin, Edwin Barker and James Sommerville were joined by clarinetist David Krakauer, accordionist Michalel Ward-Bergeman, guitarist Gustavo Santaolalla, Boston Symphony flutist Elizabeth Ostling, and principal harpist Ann Hobson Pilot.

Electronic musician Jeremy Flower sculpted the sound in fascinating ways, bending and distorting the sonorities of the accordion like a fun-house mirror, playing a legitimate, not suspect, role in the chamber music process. He wove samples of Upshaw's own voice into an accompaniment for her live performance, and even conducted the strings surreptitiously in the lop-sided but sinuous two-plus-two-plus-two-plus-three groove late in the piece.

The ensemble flowed organically without apparent leadership, moving seamlessly from texture to texture, mood to mood, stepping forward into the acoustic spotlight where appropriate (Krakauer blew a wild klezmer chorus early in the piece), feeding on Upshaw's intensity and emotion, and feeding her sound and power.

Golijov's one-world vision of contemporary composition proved once again convincing and intriguing, urging the Ozawa Hall audience to its feet.

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