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November 2013

Calder Quartet and Iva Bittová Complete Bartók Cycle at Metropolitan Museum of Art

by Robert Leeper

Iva Bittová

In the years before the World War I, Béla Bartók traveled the countryside in his native Hungary and the surrounding areas collecting, cataloging, and even primitively recording folk music of the native peoples, traveling to Transylvania, Bulgaria, and even North Africa in pursuit of his ethnomusicological obsession. Not to be deterred by the war—when he was excused from military service for health reasons—the government sent him and his fellow collector, Zoltán Kodály, into military camps to collect folk songs from soldiers.

The Calder Quartet, an adventurous quartet conceived at the Thornton School at the University of Southern California, has been focusing on Bartok's string quartets this season at The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Despite Bartók's small output of vocal works, the group has paid homage to the composer's journeys in search of his native folk music by featuring guests on each program who help the quartet to explore the vocal aspects of his music.

On Friday evening at the Grace Rainey Rogers Auditorium, the ensemble finished their quartet cycle by taking the stage with the entrancing Czech violinist, singer, and composer Iva Bittová, presenting a program including Bartók's Second and Sixth quartets, as well as songs and works by Leoš Janáček and Bittová, and free improvisations.

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White Light Festival: Week Four Recap


The final week of the 2013 White Light Festival brought three extraordinary events to Lincoln Center that served to remind concertgoers of the remarkable breadth and eye-popping wonder of this welcome—and hopefully permanent—addition to the New York concert calendar. As Festival Director Jane Moss explained to me during one of the festival's White Light Lounges, these events are not intended to be overtly spiritual so much as "open up rooms inside of you."  

Last Saturday at Alice Tully Hall, Britain's Tallis Scholars—who appeared during the first White Light Festival in 2010 and are celebrating their 40th anniversary this year—returned with a program centered around British masters from the Tudor era, music which they sing better than anyone. The bulk of the concert consisted of selections from John Taverner's Missa Gloria tibi Trinitas, written sometime in the early 16th century. The Scholars, 12 SATB singers positioned in a semicircle, sang as a seamless whole, with a tone so pure it made the hair stand up on the back of my neck. By the end of the "Agnus Dei," the Scholars were running on all cylinders, soaring in sonic majesty both overwhelming and sublime.

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