Seattle Chamber Players | Kafka Fragments Mar 1, 2010
by Stuart McLeod
For Icebreaker V, the normally augmented quartet of The Seattle Chamber Players was comprised of just Mikhail Shmidt on violin and guest soprano Agata Zubel. The piece was Gyorgy Kurtag's "Kafka Fragments" and fragmentation was the key to the evening. It was a kind of stripped down oratorio or set of songs based on notes and letters of Franz Kafka. The 40 miniature movements averaged about 60 seconds each. Each song was based on a 1 or 2 sentence fragment projected on supratitles above. The minimal black staging of mic stands, music stands, video screen and blocks for the 3 violins served the existentialist nature of Kafka'a text. As did Kurtag's writing for voice and violin: scraping, glissandi, pizzicato, wide interval leaps, etc. I liked best "The True Path" which stood alone as all of Part II. Mikhail Shmidt bows a very slow double stop where the two pitches take turns sliding up and down while Agata Zubel's voice so beautifully blends in that I had to watch carefully to see what was her and what were overtones from the violin. Shmidt and Zubel played masterfully. I'd be very interested to hear what the other evenings in the series sound like.