Brooklyn Rider gets us high at Angel Orensanz

Brooklyn Rider
Time Out NY

By Olivia Giovetti

By virtue of its name alone, it would be easy to dub Brooklyn Rider a hipster string quartet. For their most recent New York appearance, violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and cellist Eric Jacobsen chose as a recital venue the synagogue-repurposed-as-art-gallery Angel Orensanz Foundation for the Arts. They dressed in varying affected shades of Williamsburg dandy; their guests swilled bottles of Brooklyn lager and cheap cups of red wine, and browsed works by visual artists linked with the ensemble (part of the roving Brooklyn Rider Art Gallery). Indeed, the group’s members  may well be classical music’s four greatest walking embodiments of hipster.

You know what? We don’t care. Brooklyn Rider is a damn fine quartet. And it had plenty to be proud of last night with a concert celebrating its latest album, Dominant Curve.

Using Debussy as a wellspring for several new works, Dominant Curve pays homage to the sensory expressionism ubiquitous in that French composer’s music. Colin Jacobsen’s own Achille’s Heel began the evening auspiciously, incorporating cues from Debussy’s oeuvre along with those of Paul Simon, Tartini and Copland. Writing for one’s own ensemble definitely has its advantages: Both Jacobsen’s work and an encore by Gandelsman played into each individual player’s strengths and showed off the foursome’s soul.

No less potent were Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky’s …al niente and Kojiro Umezaki’s (Cycles) what falls must rise, multitextured and atmospheric pieces that contrasted Eastern and Western idioms (the mixture of which was an endless source of fascination for Debussy). His shadow having fallen over the first half of the program, it was unsurprising that Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor was the highlight of the second half, played as freshly and spontaneously as the newer works on the program (which also included a lovely arrangement of John Cage’s In a Landscape by Justin Messina).

Perhaps it was the refurbished temple, or the harmonic convergence of friends and family of Brooklyn Rider, but the evening had the overall feeling of a wedding—the unification of six ideal and idyllic works. Like any wedding, there were nerves, to be sure. “But what are nerves but chemicals in your body getting you high?” Eric Jacobsen posited to the audience, adding, “Thank you for getting us high tonight.” We’ll considered the favor returned.