The International Contemporary Ensemble, ICE, one of the world’s most successful and high profile new music groups, was presented by Lincoln Center's Mostly Mozart Festival at Merkin Hall on August 23rd. Featuring five concerto premieres by four composers (the eldest just 42), there was palpable excitement among this sold-out event peopled with aficionados and successful musicians from the new and old guards, the experimental young and the adventurous reactionaries. American composer Anthony Cheung summed up the evening in a program quote: "The ensemble and soloist assume each other's roles, and a listener's assumptions about these roles are questioned, confirmed, and thwarted." Despite excellent participation from the soloists, ensemble, and conductor Karina Canellakis making her Mostly Mozart debut as an assured and selfless director of this impossibly squiggly-jiggly music, the two-and-a-half hour evening proved stultifying.
The two concertos of Japanese/English composer Dai Fujikura, the longest works on the program, tilled the most familiar territory. In his work for cello, soloist Katinka Kleijn shone in a vehicle that demanded her to be a heroic protagonist. She brilliantly mediated her quasi-pentatonic folkish material with the dialogue and support of the ensemble of the expected 21st century trappings’ spectral blooms and glissandied trills. Ms. Kleijn's gracious and irrepressible integrity showcased her as the night's outstanding performer.