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When you hear the word 'ecstatic,' chances are classical music isn't exactly the first thing that comes to mind. Even Thomas Bartlett (aka Doveman), one of last night's featured musicians, admitted that his music was "kind of quiet" and snoozy." But a cursory glance at Nadia Sirota's frenzied delivery on the viola, and the classicaly-bent Ecstatic Music Festival's choice adjective doesn't seem like such a misnomer.
The evening was arranged in three parts, one for each of the featured musicians. Of course, the performances were also highly collaborative and often called for all five performers (including violinist Rob Moose and cellist Clarice Jensen) to be on stage. "We're all friends and drinking companions," Bartlett revealed.
As evidenced by the the recent stringof Burgundy Stain Sessions at Le Poisson Rouge, Bartlett is no stranger to performing with a wide range of talented musicians, but after nearly a month of touring solo in Australia, he averred that extra musicians were a welcome addition. "I think I'm hallucinating the quartet," joked the jet-lagged pianist early into the show. Bartlett and company played a selection of Doveman's melodious songs, including a brand new one about lost love that he wrote during his recent trip abroad.
Following Bartlett's portion, Nadia Sirota moved to the center of the stage, her viola tucked safely under her arm. With its measured, gentle introduction, her first piece, 'Drums and Viola' provided a smooth transition from Bartlett's music into her more frenetic contributions. But with each passing movement of the song, the tension rose. To keep up with the heightened pace, Sirota inhaled sharply every few beats, which made her performance even more physical and impassioned. Like Thomas Bartlett, Sirota was also thrilled to present a new piece - Missy Mazzoli's 'Tooth and Nail'.
The final leg of the show featured Owen Pallett's sprightly selections. Though he is best known for his elaborate violin-looping skills, Pallett (who used to be known as Final Fantasy) started on the keyboard, accompanied by Bartlett and the slightly truncated strings section. After a few songs however, he picked up the violin so as not to betray his fans or the event poster. The majority of Palett's songs came from his last album, Heartland, but he also played an older song or two, including "He Poos Clouds."
Besides one odd technical difficulty when the music halted temporarily during the "difficult" song ("Lewis Takes Off His Shirt"), the acoustics were excellent, thanks largely to the carefully-engineered wood paneling in Merkin Concert Hall.
After each musician had the chance to show off a selection of songs from his or her repertoire, the group united on stage once more to conclude the evening with Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart."