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Kati Agocs

Naturally with any collection of new work, there were misses as well as hits, but they opened with a stunner, Hyacinth Curl by Kati Agócs, who visited Portland last summer when her piano trio Queen of Hearts was performed at Chamber Music Northwest. Agócs put the lyrics together from Sufi devotional poetry (possibly written around 1830) by early 19th century Iranian noblewoman and mystic Bibi Hayati. As with claims that the Song of Solomon expresses religious devotion, you could have fooled me. Myers’s and Thoreson’s sinuous lines wrapped around each other, aptly expressing the lyrics’ barely concealed eroticism, with only an occasional handbell for punctuation. At the most charged moments, the women’s duet trailed off into silence, and after almost unbearable anticipation, the next stroke of the handbell was perfectly placed (that is, pitched) for maximum (aural) pleasure.

- OREGON ARTSWATCH, Northwest Art Song Review, October 30, 2017 (Jeff Winslow)

Two voices, soprano and mezzo-soprano sing a text that Agócs derived from a Farsi ghazal (a sonnet-like poem), punctuated here and there by handbells played by the vocalists themselves. With only two voices the piece cannot engage in the dense layering that characterizes Agócs textures elsewhere. Instead we hear a constant intertwining of melodies recognizable as Agócs’s singing lines that are rich and occasionally angular. Subtle expression thus comes to a heated text that describes a “night of Power”, filled with “Beauty’s divan” and “ambrosial perfume” and “a chalice of the red wine of dawn-tide,” ending with the poet turning to worship the face of his beloved as the bells ring over and over. Arditti and Emily Harmon (another guest joining Hub for this concert) blended beautifully, achieving a restrained but effective aesthetic seduction.

- THE BOSTON MUSICAL INTELLIGENCER, Hub New Music Debuts with “Strength in Fragility”, January 24, 2016 (Brian Schuth)

The world premiere of “Hyacinth Curl” was exceptionally transporting. The voices of Arditi and mezzo-soprano Emily Harmon swooned in the sinuous but sparse lines of a Sufi devotional poem, overlapping and swelling into rapturous harmony before joining at last in unison. Occasional arresting peals from the singers’ handbells provided the only accompaniment.

- THE BOSTON GLOBE, Hub New Music Transports with all-Kati Agócs program, January 27, 2016 (Zoë Madonna)