When two violinists get together to perform with orchestra, it's usually a friendly celebration; a chance for colleagues who value each other's talent and skills to enjoy making music together. It doesn't happen very often, and there isn't a lot of literature to choose from. So, I began to think... if I were one of the players, I would want the piece to be grateful and warm, with lyricism and a sense of playfulness. This is what I have attempted to write.
The opening movement, after a slow introduction, focuses on two ideas; in the first the strings (or the piano), led by the soloists echoing and chasing each other, build a cluster of sounds by adding on notes above and below. In the second the soloists answer back and forth with arpeggiated chords. The rest of the movement grows out of these ideas with a harmonic and rhythmic debt to jazz.
The second movement contains an extended lyric duet for the soloists, accompanied by a muted countermelody and plucked bass notes. The third is more virtuosic with a driving, uneven theme in the solo violins propelled forward by the bass. It also contains a cadenza for two.
Parnassus PACD 96019,
Night Skies: Orchestral Music of Katherine Hoover.
It delighted our soloists, orchestra, and audience alike.
After intermission the second highlight was presented; the premiere of a new work by Katherine Hoover...The composer...said she wanted the piece to present two fine violinists who value each other's talents and friendship, playing with lyricism and a sense of playfulness. This intention was delightfully fulfilled. Of particular beauty is the second movement, the adagio - a sustained, singing duet for the violins with a rather Schubertian accompaniment in the violas, the cellos, and the sonorous pizzicato of the basses. The composition is a most interesting wedding of atonality and more traditional sounds, and was very well received by the audience. .
A tribute to the great sitar player Shankar, composed shortly after his passing.
The music uses Shankar's concept of additive rhythms. Hoover's homage to Shankar is comprised of the additive rhythms he introduced to the West decades ago. Hoover describes them as “addictive rhythms,” which she has used many times. In Memoriam moves from slow to fast, slow to fast, with both of the faster sections based upon these additive rhythms.
This string quartet combines both simple and abstract elements, a process that has fascinated me over the years. After a short introduction, the first movement presents a melody that resembles some of the Native American music I have become familiar with over the last several years. These melodies are often improvisatory, and this one moves rather freely above its accompaniment. During the writing of this movement I was haunted by the image of a swiftly running deer. This influence can be heard in the rushing, wind-like area that fills the center of the movement. I have no explanation for this; the deer simply came to visit and I did not send it away.
The second movement is a scherzo marked vivace. It contains, among other sections, areas where the rhythm and/or the intervals get smaller and smaller.
Movement three begins with quiet, nocturnal sounds, which introduce a Hopi lullaby.
The fourth movement encompasses extremes of motion and dynamic. Driving parts are interrupted by soft sections, and toward the end are transformed into an accompaniment for a melody from the beginning of the piece. The movement ends quietly.
Colorado String Quartet impressive in series opener.
The UW International Chamber Music Series kicked off its new season this week with an extraordinary group of musicians. The Colorado String Quartet, while not as famous as some quartets, are the musical equals of any string quartet in the world. Having established its classical credentials, the quartet was ready to dive into something new, a string quartet written only two years ago by American composer Katherine Hoover. In reading the program notes about Hoover's use of Native American themes, one may take to eye-rolling. After all, who isn't influenced by such things these days? But hearing the music is another matter; there is no cliche involved in it whatsoever. It is an admirable, very visual piece filled with drama and originality. Most memorable were the "Hopi Lullaby" in the Adagio, a gorgeously peaceful section, and its manic opposite, the ensemble sextuplet runs, which showed off the precise coordination and just sheer dazzle this group is capable of.
The quartet opens with a slow, rather austere movement. That is followed by a fast movement, whose more lyrical sections are combined with a constant undercurrent of motion. The third movement is an experiment; nearly all of it is played on open strings, and its feeling is expansive. (This is partly because the previous movements use very close intervals.) In the last, a rather intense movement, we return to the first two movements' material. It moves forward precipitously until he gets caught in a knot; then, there is a fairly graphic depiction of shaking and pulling at strings to undo the knot. Later it gets caught again, and the second knot is untied in a different way as the music refers to earlier material that resolves it in another manner. The piece ends with reference to the third, more peaceful movement.