Glowing reviews of Akropolis Quintet’s performance of Refraction

The Akropolis Reed Quintet‘s recent performance of Refraction at the Flagler Museum Music Series in Palm Beach, Florida garnered two fantastic reviews.

Palm Beach Daily News

The highlight of the program was another recent selection…David Biedenbender’s “Refraction.”…Biedenbender impressed thanks to his mastery of the compositional art in many levels. In the short, three-movement work, he was able to combine ancient chant and counterpoint procedures with heavy metal rhythms and gestures, while maintaining a sense of cohesiveness and stylistic unity. In “Refraction,” each of the Akropolis musicians displayed technical mastery — the higher reeds playing Flatterzunge passages with incredible precision, while the clarinets, playing off stage, brought an eerie sound to the performance. Read more.

Palm Beach ArtsPaper

More interesting was Refraction, a three-part work by David Biedenbender, a professor at Michigan State who wrote the work in 2015, the same year Muhly wrote his. It begins with a short movement called “Death Metal Chicken,” in which the bass clarinet (Andrew Koeppe) and bassoon (Ryan Reynolds) play a repeated chugging modal chord figure much like the E minor guitar warriors of metal might, underneath a quirky series of high-pitched random chords in the other instruments.

The finale, “Goat Rodeo,” which the composer describes as a “strange mashup of dubstep, funk and musical pointillism,” doesn’t suggest any of those things particularly. But it is an effective depiction of something chaotic going on, and the Akropolis made that clear while also maintaining strict control of the proceedings.

But it was the second movement, “Kyrie for Machaut and Pärt,” that made the strongest impression. Koeppe and clarinetist Kari Landry walked behind the curtain at the back of the performance space to play notes like muezzin calls in counterpoint with Gocklin’s oboe. Toward the end of the movement, the music took on the feel of the Flemish and Estonian masters to whom it is dedicated; the frequent appoggiaturas in the movement also evoked the Carnatic music of India that Biedenbender admires and studies. All of this was played with great skill and a wide-open kind of beauty. Read more.