Published May 19, 2018"Who gave this possessed woman a viola and set her loose in this 150-year-old church?" Not a question I literally heard, but surely one on the minds of a few gathered to watch Swiss artist Charlotte Hug creep out past the chancel into the apse, pausing to click, chirp and whisper, testing the echoes. Hug is a beguiling and theatrical performer, using the space not only for its reverberant possibilities, but also as a setting to help suggest a transgressive element in her play that would not be as possible in a neutral black box setting.
And the instrumental part of that play, on a viola nearly 100 years older than the church we are in, is one of perpetual motion: A blend of sharp notes, plucks and long drones that segue seamlessly, accompanied by her wide range of vocalizations from birdsong to guttural complaint. Her notes and harmonics are almost always clean and clear, seldom employing chopping or collé to slur the strings. The prevalent and somewhat signature technique employed by Hug is to detach the hairs from the bow and draw them over the strings, holding the bow itself under the instrument. This produces a rich and resonant drone for a cantabile quality, matching her voice.
All of these engaging elements served to produce an hour of transfixing music to start the second day of the festival with a bang and a chirp.