by Hayley Douglas
(Photo by The Juilliard School)
Last Saturday was a perfect fall day to visit The Met's Cloisters, situated within Fort Tryon Park on the northern end of Manhattan. A beautiful walk above the Hudson River brought me to the complex of reconstructed medieval buildings, where I picked up my tickets and had time to walk around the galleries prior to an afternoon concert by the PUBLIQuartet in the Fuentidueña Chapel.
The PUBLIQuartet are serving as The Met's Quartet-in-Residence this season, during which they will perform seven concerts throughout the Met's various spaces. Their program at the Cloisters was part of their ongoing MIND|THE|GAP series, which seeks to build connections between traditional, modern and contemporary music. Here, the starting off point was the music of J.S. Bach, interspersed with contemporary works by Eugene Birman and Alfred Schnittke, as well as group improvisations that incorporated elements of rock and jazz.
It seemed that many of the audience members were confused by what they were listening to - a few even chose to leave at intermission - but the novelty of what the PUBLIQuartet was doing left most of us wanting more. Prior to each piece, a member spoke about the music and what it meant to them, providing valuable insight for this experimental format.
Among the new works PUBLIQuartet performed was Jihyun Kim's Extempore Anamnesis (2013) which was developed as part of their Emerging Composer program, through which they select a composer each season with whom to collaborate and help develop for the future. They ended with a Franz Haydn re-interpretation called "Haydn’s Time Machine, Op 50, No. 1.
As a classical violinist who was always striving to find something new and fresh to play, I highly recommend the PUBLIQuartet for a different sort of concert experience that brings this music back to its roots in improvisation. Baroque music, after all, was never supposed to sound crisp and clean: it comes from the word barroco, meaning "odd shaped pearl" in Portuguese.
The PUBLIQuartet's next concert will be a holiday-themed program on December 23rd at The Met's Vélez Blanco Patio. Go check them out, and give me your take afterwards!