REVIEW: Sybarite5 makes us sit up and wonder

REVIEW: Sybarite5 makes us sit up and wonderBy Richard Storm, Herald-Tribune THE SHUFFLE EFFECT. Sybarite5. Reviewed May 1 at Holley Hall.

If Webster’s Unabridged is to be believed, a Sybarite is one who is dedicated to a life of luxury and sensuous pleasure. Not what one would expect from a contemporary string quintet, but it is worth bearing in mind that the excellent musicians who make up this astonishing ensemble (Sarah Whitney and Sami Merdinian, violins; Angela Pickett, viola; Laura Metcalf, cello; and Louis Levitt, bass) have devoted their formidable talents to making us the lucky Sybarites, luxuriating in pleasure.

The fortunate audience in Holley Hall Sunday afternoon heard music ranging from the sexy slithering lyricism of Astor Piazzolla’s tangos to Aaron Copland’s “Hoedown,” an intoxicating celebration of American folk culture; from Mozart and Dvorak, played with both delicacy and intense energy, to Dave Brubeck’s glittering and challenging “Rondo a la Turque.”

Turkish influence turned up again in a Gypsy piece arranged by Mark Van Brink; edgy contemporary technique was heard in three arrangements from the iconic rock band, Radiohead. Sharp textures were heard in the introduction to the concert, Piotr Szewczyk’s “The Rebel,” which has become something of a theme song for the group.

This unusual mix of music was produced by another contemporary phenomenon: the iPod shuffle program, which selected the program at random from the quintet’s repertoire.

Sensuous pleasure and riotous wit permeate “Cannibal Caliban,” written for the Sybarites by Sarasota-based and internationally renowned composer Francis Schwartz, in which cellist Metcalf was put to work screaming and vocalizing while the rest of the ensemble did, well, mostly musical things.

On Friday evening, the Sybarites had produced a fascinating “New Music Idol” competition at The HuB, in which nine student composers submitted one-minute compositions, judged by local experts (including Schwartz) and the dynamic young audience. The winner was played again on Sunday.

Surprisingly the hip hotties in the audience chose the least adventurous, least innovative, most conservative and tonal piece, Sussana Payne-Passmore’s “Starry Night” by a wide margin. Go figure.

NewsSybAdmin