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Vibrant & Mellow

Vibrant:  full of energy and enthusiasm, bright and striking

So says Google, and the definition certainly applies to this young quintet.  Okay, I admit to confusion, even bafflement when the five musicians launched into “Splinter,” but by the time they got to the fourth movement, “Cherry,” understanding was starting to seep into my brain.  I could admire the precision with which they played and their connections both to the score and to one another was remarkable.  I admired the difficulty of performing dissonance in perfect meter – selections such as theirs, very modern, sometimes atonal and often bouncing among the instruments seemingly without rhyme or reason – elicits admiration (even among the most diehard Brahms/Beethoven set).

Did you notice that the second selection ended with a movement titled,  “A Field of Reeds?”  Would that be clarinets and bassoons, was that a serendipitous selection, or was it just a reference to the Egyptian concept of paradise as a field of reeds (saxophones and oboes)?  The music certainly brought to mind the beautiful reeds bending in the wind (aided by the subtle sound effects produced by the bass clarinet).

Mellow:  pleasantly smooth or soft, free from harshness, pleasing

Sorry Google, this was not my impression of “mellow” in the context of the concert performed by Akropolis.  Their version of “mellow” is the sonorous sounds of reed instruments:  totally unexpected, surprising even.   When they performed the Nina Simone, “For All We Know,” I thought of her mellow voice singing the words.  The next time I hear it, I will think of the sounds of reeds scaling the heights and exploring the valleys of that mellow sonority.

“Sprocket,” for all its devil-may-care ‘tude, was a masterpiece of timing.  The audience enjoyed the antics (as they were meant to), but I thought that, just like really good comedy, the secret of success is timing – and they never missed a beat.  I would love to hear it performed as it was written (for bicycle, of all things).  The final selection, “Homage to Paradise Valley,” had some passages of aching loss and remembrance.  We all have a paradise valley in our lives, and we miss its vibrancy and the memories it spawned.  The quintet captured this memory of a unique place in their home town.

Finally, members of the quintet did a great job of explaining what they were about.  Since the music was unfamiliar, their introductions were helpful and appreciated by the audience.

Bravo, Akropolis!  You are golden.

– E Doyle