Max Richter brought his Infra work from 2010 to life for an evening that was at times exhilarating. Originally planned for the 20th of March at St Ann in Brooklyn Heights, I’m always thankful for not having to go to a church, so welcomed the switch to Le Poisson Rouge.
The opening set was a performance of The Leftovers, the latest show on HBO from Damon Lindelof of Lost fame, which I believe just got picked up for a second season. To be honest, the set needed a ruthless edit, some of the music was exuberant, but too many short pieces (of what is presumably incidental music in the show) and by-the-numbers passages of music got in the way. It wouldn’t have been so noticeable if the whole thing was played without pause, but a 45-second piano ditty followed by silence doesn’t add anything to proceedings. If anything, the audience seemed confused at times whether or not to clap; the enthusiasm that met some of the longer, more effective pieces, should serve as feedback.
After a brief intermission, the players returned to perform Infra, and the contrast between the two sets could scarcely have been more different. Where The Leftovers came across as uneven, Infra really is a work of the utmost quality, making every second count. Backed by the American Contemporary Music Ensemble (ACME, for short), their 5-piece setup produced an incredibly clean and concise sound, the clarity of each instrument cut through with astounding nuance. My favourite track from the work is probably Infra 5 and the roar of applause after it was performed seemed to suggest I’m not the only one.
After the final notes of Infra 8 rang to a close, the group took their bows and made an exit. At this point I’m reminded once again of New Yorkers pathetic disdain for encores, something I just don’t understand, especially if that means denying oneself the pleasure of hearing something like On the Nature of Daylight.
Having been at the same venue the night before to see A Winged Victory for the Sullen, it was interesting to see what appears like two methods of work at play. A Winged Victory seem to feel their way around their compositions, the pieces are more emotive, whereas Max’s style comes across as more studied and thought out. That’s not to say one is better than the other. If anything, the two nights showed the importance of appreciating those differences.