Photo by Stephen J Cardinale for Unsound Festival New York
Uniformly dressed in black, Sinfonietta Cracovia’s core group of 20 string players began with three pieces by Polish composer Krzysztof Penderecki. His work was marked with a sense of sinister foreboding—urgent stabs and minor keys swelled into discordant phrasing, all highlighted visually by images that changed from work-to-work. A Hitchcock-like scene of birds appeared slowly at first but then built to a large flapping mass silhouetted in black. A slow-moving roll seemed to capture a mosaic ceiling (it was hard to tell what the object actually was, perhaps purposely leaving it open) through a rose-colored lens, and flowers and young branches in Hipstamatic hues comprised the last of the trio. The visuals colored the music, adjusting the filter through which we understood the compositions.
Sinfonietta Cracovia pared back as it moved into works by Steve Reich. His 1995 piece “Duet For Two Violins And String Ensemble” contrasted with Penderecki’s ominous tone, more openly joyous and highlighted by a red light that emanated from a flower mandala on the screen behind and flowed onto the stage. “Triple Quartet” followed, performed by three string quartets accompanied by pre-recorded tape.