Yvonne Troxler in Performance at St. Bede Chapel
The cozy Saint Bede Chapel on the University of Miami campus provided the acoustic and spiritual ambience for pianist Yvonne Troxler’s intimate, but powerful piano concert. Swiss-born and Brooklyn-based, Troxler curated and performed a distinctive program of bold contemporary work at the invitation of the Foundation for Emerging Technologies and Arts (FETA).
Troxler selected a key composition that provided “magnetic“ links to those that would precede or follow it. FETA director Juraj Kojs’s 2015 piece “In the Mist,” presented in the middle of the program, served that role.
The evening began with Paula Matthusen’s “between charm and the constant law of motion,” performed jointly with Troxler’s finesse on the keyboard and Kojs working “under the hood,” bowing and plucking strings and operating mini electronics to generate the provocative vocal lyric. It established the program’s experimental orientation.
Troxler included a few electronics, but she did not emphasize digital technologies; rather, her sensitivity, concentration, abundant chops and extensive consultation with the composers – most of whom are contemporary colleagues – kept the performance mostly analog.
Kojs’s composition is loosely based on a poem he wrote and began with a leisurely passage of wide intervals. It then wound through strikingly different moods and techniques – virtuously managing to maintain coherence. There were dense, rapid tangles of notes, and insistent rhythms that Troxler drummed – sometimes gently, sometimes aggressively – on the keyboard, pedals, floor and rim of the instrument. Then, standing, she folded down the music desk and reached inside to strum and buzz the low strings in soft, spacious drones.
Troxler played a miniature “toy piano” (wood, not plastic) in two works. Julia Wolfe’s “East Broadway” evoked a playfully jangly, staccato pinball game effect. Later, playing Louis Andriessen’s composition “The Memory of Roses” – sometimes synchronous, sometimes alternating with the grand piano – she achieved a quiet, gamelan-like mood.
This wasn’t an evening of the “Gee whiz“ technology that FETA sometimes showcases. Indeed, the piano’s role as a percussion instrument was striking, and Troxler’s forté strokes rocked the house.
An accomplished composer for diverse instruments and respected performer of others’ piano works, Troxler had long hesitated to tackle composing for her own instrument. “It’s a big mountain,” she said.
But the premiere of her 2018, “Zwischenraum” demonstrated that her arduous “climb” up that mountain was worth it. The piece exudes intelligence, confidence and pleasure, featuring jaunty, rolling, wave-like arpeggios, brightly ringing percussive sections and numerous suspended passages of slowly fading harmonics. The title translates to The Space Between, possibly alluding to her memory of alpine meadows and the echoes of distant church, goat and cow bells?
Troxler is unhesitating about her affection for the piano, “I love that instrument. That’s my instrument. I think it’s the best instrument there is.” Bold assertion, which Troxler backs up beautifully.