Music Review: IonSound's new music generates some sparks
Monday November 9th, 2007
By Andrew Druckenbrod, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette

With only two-thirds of the precincts in, we can declare IonSound a winner. This recently formed ensemble focusing on contemporary music -- yes, a new, new music group -- performed Friday night at Pitt's Bellefield Hall with four of its six members. But it had able substitutes and gave a flavor of what we can expect in the future. The hope is that it, along with other emerging groups, can help fill the void in contemporary art music performances created when the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble moved its season to the summer.

IonSound comprises Peggy Yoo (flute), Kathleen Costello (clarinet), Laura Motchalov (violin), Elisa Kohanski (cello), Rob Frankenberry (piano) and Eliseo Rael (percussion). Last night flutist Katie Schott and violinist Ken Johnston filled in. But far more conspicuous was Jeff Davis, of Attack Theatre, who performed interpretive dance, lending the already heady night an artsy air you don't get much in Pittsburgh.

The concert was something of a showcase for Frankenberry, who navigated the formidable "Regard de l'esprit de joie" movement from Messiaen's "Vingt Regards sur l'Enfant-Jesus," with strong command of form.

But programming defines a contemporary ensemble, and this one's taste is exemplary. It opened with Jeffrey Nytch's "...and the wind spoke," a contemplative piece for piano, flute, cello and percussion in which the flute gives gentle voice to the composer's emotions in a trip to the Rockies. It was a connection to PNME, which premiered it in 2005. The tempo was too slow at the beginning and also in a contrasting section in which the talented Rael offered almost jazzy beats on toms. But the return of the flute led to a jam session of joy by Schott, conducted fluidly by Roger Zahab.

Kevin Puts' "Four Airs" is an outstanding collection of duets for piano with flute, cello, clarinet and violin -- all rhapsodic and deeply felt in the hands of these performers (intriguingly broken up by the Messiaen, with two airs before and two after). The full ensemble then took the stage for Joseph Koykkar's pulsing "Out Front."

Post-Gazette classical music critic Andrew Druckenbrod can be reached at or 412-263-1750. He blogs at
First published on November 19, 2007 at 12:00 am

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