Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

The Chiara String Quartet Scheme for the Future

It’s hard to imagine a more ambitious advocate for new music than the Chiara String Quartet. They may have made a name for themselves playing Brahms and Beethoven – last time we caught them, they played a brilliantly insightful survey of Beethoven quartets from early to late – but they have their sights set on blazing trails for newer composers. They call their latest project Creator/Curator: the concept is to commission a work and have its composer pick the accompanying pieces on the program, debut it in a small venue and then move it to “more traditional classical venues” next season around. You can see the wheels turning: tonight le Poisson Rouge, tomorrow Lincoln Center. If Sunday night’s performance at LPR is any indication, they have their fingers on an important vein.

This particular program was chosen by Gabriela Lena Frank, an important and eclectic voice who, for what it’s worth, won a latin Grammy last year. The first piece on the bill was Alberto Ginastera’s String Quartet No. 1, Op. 20, which the Quartet tackled with equal parts passion and rigor. Cellist Gregory Beaver propelled the fiery staccato of its “allegro violento e agitato” first movement with relish. Violinist Rebecca Fischer’s gentle, fluidly meticulous glissandos lit up its more ambient, delicate second movement. Artfully playing off the open notes in standard guitar tuning (E-A-D-G-B-E), the third movement was delivered with a steely suspense behind Beaver’s incisive pizzicato work and Jonah Sirota’s plaintive viola lines. They wound up the “allegramente rustico” final movement spiritedly with the flavor of a Nordic hardanger dance.

Chou Wen-chung, composer of the following work, Clouds, was present. But rather than establishing a nebulous atmosphere, these clouds take specific shapes. How they morph into other configurations is what makes the piece compelling, from the understated, Asian-inflected drama of the pizzicato opening and closing motifs, to its constantly shapeshifting series of rondo-lets, simple and memorable circular themes bouncing off each other nimbly and playfully to a surprisingly intense, brooding conclusion.

Sirota explained that Frank’s eight-part suite, Milagritos (making its New York premiere) was an exposition of mestizaje, a recurrent theme which for her means celebrating an individual identity drawing from diverse sources – which makes perfect sense in light of her Peruvian-Jewish heritage. Her program notes explained the pieces as illustrations of Peruvian cultural iconography that might seem mundane to others but to her, they’re small miracles. Shrines to accident victims along serpentine mountain roads were portrayed by Julie Yoon’s surprisingly blithe violin against fluttery disquiet, while a stroll alongside Lake Titicaca became a delightfully macabre Bernard Herrmann-esque stalker tableau. Eerie cello cadenzas punctuated stillness in a depiction of pre-Inca panpipe ceremonies; likewise, the jungles were portrayed as impenetrable but with considerable activity lurking just out of range. The suite concluded on a richly haunting, practically stygian note, another roadside shrine scene, Fischer’s long, surgically precise solo passage a vivid contrast with the murky tritone ending. The standing-room-only crowd roared their approval boisterously: if this bill is any indication, the Chiaras’ upcoming concerts in this series will be a treat for the lucky crowds who catch them the first time around in cozy, comfortable confines like these.

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October 20, 2010 - Posted by | avant garde music, classical music, concert, Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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