With ICE, Claire Chase performs Louis Andriessen's epic "De Materie" at the Park Avenue Armory.
Louis Andriessen is one of Europe’s most eminent and influential composers, whose music is marked by the combination of forward propulsion, sparseness, and clarity from large blocks of sound to minimalism. But there is nothing minimal about De Materie, starting with its all-encompassing theme: the relationship between matter and spirit. Like four voluminous chapters of a book or movements of a symphony, this exceptional music theater masterwork is better thought of as a series of visions, as much choreographic as it is operatic.
Visionary director Heiner Goebbels stages this monumental work in a highly-imaginative production that infuses the work’s journey through a sequence of non-narrative tableaus with stunning visual imagery to help convey its meaning, with references to Mondrian and Madame Curie as well as floating zeppelins and a flock of sheep. The International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE) under the direction of Peter Rundel takes on the sonically varied score, which serves as its own journey through eras and styles of music history from early Renaissance, to the jazz-tinged roaring 20s, to contemporary music of today. The vastness of the Wade Thompson Drill Hall is the perfect setting to fully realize this rarely-performed work, which premiered more than 25 years ago and only now makes its highly-anticipated North American stage premiere.