I heard SYBARITE5 on 9/19/20, presented by Open Space Music. The concert was co-presented by the Lincoln Friends of Chamber Music in Lincoln, Nebraska. The introductory comments were made by Bob Kuzelka from Lincoln and composer Daniel Roumain from New York.
SYBARITE5 is a string quintet (string quartet plus bass) based in New York. The opened with “Groove Machine” by March Mellits, which had a driving beat and showed off the energy and chemistry of the ensemble.
The next piece was “Allemande pour tout le monde” by Kenji Bunch. One of the violinists did the intro and said it was inspired by Bach - - I didn’t hear that, neither did I think it sounded like an Allemande, but I liked it! I thought the opening groovy section was more successful than the subsequent raucous section. I would have preferred to have heard more grooviness.
The next piece was “Slow Burn” by Jessica Meyer. She had written it for a collaboration they had with a burlesque troupe. Why the hell not! Wish I could have been there! I could imagine the dancing - - the music had a louche vibe. This piece featured a great solo by their violist which led to a frenetic final section which really blew the lid off the joint.
They recorded a whole album of Radiohead arrangements, and the next piece their “Weird Fishes” arranged by Paul Sanho Kim. It was super cool, it had a wonderful mix of textures and different effects for the instruments.
Daniel Roumain introduced his piece, “Kompa for Toussaint.” He dedicated to his biracial and bireligious son, and gave a special shout-out to Ruth Bader Ginsburg (who had died the day before.) It featured another killer viola solo by Angela Pickett, who is clearly a star among stars in the group. The piece was complex and involving with frequent shifts in tempo and mood. One early section had an appealing sloppiness, not something you hear very often, and so rewarding to hear classical musicians take that risk. It was one of the highlights of the program.
They played “Movement and Locations” by The Punch Brothers. Another exciting piece with a driving beat. I was starting to crave something a little mellow! But hey, these are good days to get your heart rate up, right? They must have heard my thoughts because the piece eventually had a long lyrical line playing over a quiet, anxious string pattern.
One of their violinists introduced the next piece, which he said was the oldest piece they were playing tonight. I thought, Schubert? No it was Astor Piazzolla, a piece from way back in 1965. It had that intense, soulful longing that so much of Piazzolla’s music has. Piazzolla seemed to be everywhere in the 90s - - it’s nice that he became less ubiquitous for a while so we can hear him again with fresh ears and be reminded of how delicious his music is. They dedicated the performance to Fernando Suárez Paz, a violinist who had toured with Piazzolla for years and had died a few days before. This was another highlight of the program.
The last piece was “My Desert, My Rose” by Aleksandra Vrebalov. It opened with a fabulous solo by the bassist. I felt like this and the Piazzolla were really turning my crank and giving me the mellow flavor I was craving. But the Vrebalov turned up the heat pretty quickly, and it was thrilling! This piece showed off the virtuosity of each of the five members and their sizzling chemistry. Here they are performing it in 2018: