The doors opened at 7:30, allowing members of the audience to soak in the current exhibition, mingle with the other patrons and musicians, and grab a quick bite to eat from the café in the rez-de-chaussée. It was a packed room, but always comfortable and intimate.
At 8:00, after a few brief words from executive director and clarinetist Mark Bradley, the ensemble sat down to perform the world première of Brian Harman's Inter/Contra for mixed quintet. The première was followed immediately by a performance of Stravinsky's Three Pieces for Clarinet Solo.
As the ensemble proceeded to change the set for the next piece, emcee Isak Goldschneider took the 'stage' (actually, just an open area in front of the window) to discuss music with Brian Harman: Inter/Contra's take on how music can intermingle with architectural concepts, along with a few thoughts on Stravinsky.
Zosha Di Castri's La forma dello spazio for mixed quintet literally filled the gallery, with musicians spread out across the room as if one giant musical mobile. The piece received its world première this past summer at the Banff Arts Centre, while Portmantô performed a new version that replaces the piano part with harp.
Ludwig van Beethoven's Serenade in D, for flute, violin, and viola provided a jarring contrast with the ephemeral, improvisatory close of the Di Castri. In the hands of Laura Bates, John Corban, and Pemi Paull, this rendition of the Serenade set the mood for the following short pause, allowing the audience and musicians to mingle, relax, and discuss.
The lights dimmed and attentions re-focused centre stage. Violinist Mira Benjamin gave a stunning rendition of Taylor Brook's award winning Vocalise, with other string players interspersed throughout the gallery to provide a drone. This was followed immediately by the evocative Syrinx by Claude Debussy, performed 'offstage' (in the back of the gallery) by solo flutist Laura Bates.
The evening finished with Ravel's energetic Introduction et Allegro, with all seven musicians from the concert participating, and featuring harpist Robin Best as soloist.
Portmantô presents Concerto Primo again on Thursday, September 23rd 2010 at Galerie Maison Kasini. Check out the website for more information on programs and tickets.