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Cornelius Dufallo runs into plenty of composers


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As a member of the enterprising new-music ensembles Ne(x)tworks and Ethel, the violinist Cornelius Dufallo runs into plenty of composers. He has coaxed new solo works from some and taken up older scores by others. He is also a composer himself: «Dream Streets», his new CD (for Innova), is devoted to his own imaginative works for violin and electronics.

Cornelius DufalloJournaling, a concert series devoted to violin music of the 21st century, is Mr. Dufallo’s way of bringing all this music into the spotlight. As the title suggests, the programs are, in effect, a journal of Mr. Dufallo’s travels in the new-music world rather than a scholarly overview. In the first installment, on Sunday evening at the Stone in the East Village, Mr. Dufallo played works by six composers (including himself), mostly for electric violin and electronic sound.

Electronic sound was broadly defined. Sometimes it involved live electronic processing: the heavy reverb in Anna Clyne’s «blue hour» or the sampling and looping in Corey Dargel’s «Every Day Is the Same Day». But mostly it was a matter of computer sound, including recorded violins, with the composers on hand to operate their laptops.

The sole unplugged exception was Huang Ruo’s set of ruminative pieces for unamplified violin, «Four Fragments». Mr. Huang writes that the “fragments,” which are played almost continuously (with only one break), are reminiscences of his travels, but he leaves the specifics to listeners’ imaginations. As in many of his scores, Chinese articulation styles — sliding notes and gracefully bending tones — mingle freely with Western moves and diatonic harmonies.

In Mr. Huang’s piece, Mr. Dufallo demonstrated the rich sound he produces on an unmodified fiddle. But his playing is no less alluring on the electric violin, and in his performances of Annie Gosfield’s «Lost Signals and Drifting Satellites», Alexandra Gardner’s «electric blue pantsuit» and two virtuosic movements from his own Suite for Electric Violin, he showed how much amplification can expand the instrument’s palette. Far from robbing the violin of its beauty, electronics add textural elements and gradations of timbre that the acoustic instrument cannot approximate. (Guitarists have understood this for decades.)

These expanded textures and colors are necessary if, like Ms. Gosfield, you are casting the violin as a lonely voice adrift in a sea of radio noise. In Ms. Gardner’s piece the violin darts through bursts of light percussive noises, some created by a recorded violin. Ms. Clyne wrote for two live players (Mr. Dufallo and Amy Kauffman) and 17 recorded violin lines, all drenched in densely atmospheric echo that made her passing references to Bach and other composers seem almost dreamlike.

Mr. Dufallo closed his concert with Mr. Dargel’s work, a group of three quirky songs for violin and voice, sung plaintively by the composer.

Allan Kozinn, TY Times

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