Getting Loud
Beach Time

Shining Strings

DSC01525Readers of this site know that I've got a major thing for string quartets: over the years, I've seen everyone from legends like the Emerson, Juilliard, and Kronos, to upstarts like the Calder, Chiara, and ACME (to name only a few.) So, when the opportunity presented itself last night to see a pair of quartets performing non-standard repertoire within a block of each other uptown, I couldn't help myself.

First up was Brooklyn Rider who, given their warm reception last night at the Tully Scope Festival, are clearly the front runners to inherit the mantle of the Great American String Quartet. Like the Emerson, Brooklyn Rider - all in their early 30's - stand while they perform, allowing for maximum movement and expression. Like the Kronos, they are tireless champions of new and world music, with several members splitting their time with the Silk Road Ensemble.

They literally bounced onto the stage, launching straight into Giovanni Sollima's rollickng "Federico II": a short 8-minute piece that swung and snapped like an Appalachian dance. Totally rocking, leaving the whole place whooping and hollering.

"We've been on tour for two months," cellist Eric Jacobsen told us from the stage, "and I can't tell you how great it was tonight to take the F, to the A, to Columbus Circle - where the guy was playing xylophone just like he always does - to beautiful Alice Tully Hall to premiere this new string quartet by Philip Glass."

Funny, that sounds a lot like my commute...

DSC01527Glass's premiere was actually written in 1991 for the film Bent, but had never before been performed in public. It's a close cousin of the five quartets he wrote between 1966 and 1991 (which Brooklyn Rider have recorded): minimalist in pitch and timbre, hypnotic in its overall impact. It ended hauntiingly with Colin Jacobsen's solo violin slowly dying away.

They were then joined by their frequent collaborator, Iranian Kayhan Kalhor, who played a small stringed instrument called the kamancheh on Colin's Beloved, do not let me be discouraged. Awkward title, but the music - inspired by a 2008 visit to Iran - was mysterious and beautiful. Like most Silk Road concerts, the music was amplified to allow for proper blending of all the instruments, but the sound could have used a bit more fidelity. 

DSC01533The second show, an Ecstatic Music Festival program featuring Owen Pallett, Thomas Bartlett and Nadia Sirota, wasn't really a string quartet concert. But, Owen did put together a quartet - featuring himself and Rob Moose on violin, Nadia on viola, and Clarice Jensen on cello - to perform his own arrangements of songs from Heartland. Owen left the looping pedals at home, instead fiddling around with a Nord and some other electronics in between violin playing and singing out like a matinee idol from one of those theaters a few blocks south on Broadway.

Set List:

  1. Oh Heartland, Up Yours!
  2. Red Sun No. 5
  3. E for Estranged
  4. Lewis Takes His Shirt Off
  5. What Do You Think Will Happen Now?
  6. He Poos Clouds

More pics on Flickr.