Well, no, the French word really means "noises" — often the kind of sound that warns of trouble ahead. It is also the title of the Sextet in Five Movements for Wind Quintet and Piano by Vijay Iyer which was given its world premiere at the La Musica concert Thursday evening.
Commissioned by the Greenfield Prize at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in 2012, this suite of mostly angry, partly improvised, music expresses the young composer's deep concern about race relations, in particular the controversy surrounding the "stand your ground" laws in Florida.
Iyer employs excerpts from legal opinions on the effect and consequences of these laws in both musical and dramatic terms, using the voices of the musicians to read these quotes, often accompanied by percussive sounds produced by striking their instruments, to build the tension to extraordinary levels.
However, the composed music, while always expert, does not equal the impact of these spoken and improvised episodes. For those in the audience who expected (dreaded?) atonal outbursts of grinding dissonance, there must have been relief to hear the classically-influenced instrumental interludes, beautifully sustained by the piano. For those seeking challenge, it was heard as much in the words as in the music.
Great credit must be given to the Imani Winds (Valerie Coleman, flute, Toyin Spellman Diaz, oboe, Marian Adam, clarinet, Jeff Scott, French horn, and Monica Ellis, bassoon) and the superb pianist Cory Smythe for a daring performance.
The evening began with a beguiling performance of Luigi Boccherini's charming lightweight Quintet for Two Violins, Viola and Two Cellos in E Major, in an elegant performance by Federico Agostini and Laura Zarina, violins, Rebecca Albers, viola, Julie Albers and Dmitri Atapine, cello.
An appropriate closing was found in a collegial rendition of Franz Schubert's iconic and repetitive "Trout" Quintet in a relaxed version by Massimo Quarta, violin, Bruno Giuranna, viola, Antonio Meneses, cello, Scott Faulkner, double bass, and the superbly agile Derek Han, piano.
Genial music and a serious message — what more can we ask?