Friday, February 20, 2009

Reviews: John Adams' String Quartet

Earlier this month the Avery Ensemble performed John Adams' first string quartet. His second quartet officially received its World Premiere on 29 January with the St. Lawrence String Quartet at The Juilliard School's Peter Jay Sharp Theater. Yesterday's news reports suggested in was premiering last night, but a review in the New York Times on the 30th of January suggests yesterday's report was wrong. Not sure whether yesterdays news report was off, but never mind. What is the music like???

Here's a review of the Avery Ensemble performing on 13 February:

"The quartet played the Adams with attitude, a pulsing thicket of layered meters that fell into rock and blues and even funk. The string playing would excite anyone, and the amplification really worked (definitely not a classical concert). A tape loop for a rhythm track would be familiar stuff to lots of music lovers who’ve never heard of a string quartet.

"The concert was fast and fun. A beautiful voice followed by The Lark Ascending to Mars …"

Interesting! Although my own string quartet doesn't have a tape loop or drum effects and, as much as I wanted to have the quartet amplified, that just didn't happen with all the other requirements of the concert, the concept was a blending of rock, jazz and classical. I don't know that I'd so far as to include funk with it, but certainly funk grew out of the music of the 80's which is what my quartet was referencing. You can listen to my own quartet, performed by the Edinburgh Quartet, in the player on the right.

You can also listen snippets of John's Book of Alleged Dances on Amazon.

Allan Kozinn gave this review of the new quartet:

The real draw was the concert’s closing work, John Adams’s String Quartet (2008) in its premiere performance. This 30-minute work, Mr. Adams’s first full-length quartet without an electronic track, is a stylistically fluid extended fantasy, with the players moving seamlessly through a colorful sequence of episodes. It begins with a touch of Minimalist chugging but moves far afield, with scampering chase figures as well as hushed, introspective moments and solo passages for each player.

John's second string quartet doesn't use electronics, so we get the pure sound of the quartet. As it's just been premiered there aren't recordings of it yet available. However, the following list is where you can hear it live:

17 March 2009
Adams, John: String Quartet (German premiere)
St. Lawrence String Quartet
Konzerthaus, Dortmund, Germany

26 March 2009
Adams, John: String Quartet (Swiss premiere)
St. Lawrence String Quartet
Bern, Switzerland

5 April 2009
Adams, John: String Quartet (US West Coast premiere)
St. Lawrence String Quartet
Stanford Lively Arts, Stanford, CA, @ 2:30pm

25 April 2009
Adams, John: String Quartet
St. Lawrence String Quartet
Chamber Music Monterey Bay, Carmel, CA, USA

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