It’s a terrifically busy week at Penn. In addition to the Marilyn Nonken recital on Wednesday, Jan. 27 that begins the series of three “Eighty-Eight Lately” programs of contemporary piano music, there is a big array of events around this coming Sunday’s Curtis Institute performance of the Berio Sinfonia, led by Ludovic Morlot. Jamuna Samuel has organized talks and concerts that will look at Berio from many different points on the curve, so to speak. Click here for a detailed listing. The events include two talks by Christoph Neidhöfer; Tom Kraines playing the cello Sequenza, with Jim Sykes offering commentary; and a panel (in which I will participate) before a concert of Berio’s chamber music at Curtis on Saturday night.
In clear connection with the title, this quartet opens with the sound of all four players in unison, a sound that is then quickly juxtaposed with the sound of one voice alone. A basic notion concerning the many and the one, or the one and the many, informs much of this piece. This expressive notion probably has a few different points of origin for me. For one, I have long loved the sound of strings playing in unison in the register represented by the lowest octave of the violin. There is something about the less-is-more timbral mix that occurs when violins, viola and cello play together in this range that has always sounded potentially gutsy and sort of heart-rending at the same time. There is also a textural concern that I think has to do with wanting to explore questions about the role, or the “sounding meaning”, so to speak, of melody. In addition to playing in actual unison, the quartet often plays in rhythmic unison, which may set off as meaningful other textural situations, such as when there is clear melody and accompaniment, or when there is one voice alone. I also hope that there will be a sense of space in play, so that the louds and softs in the music might translate somehow as being equally concerned with feelings of near and far. I imagine, for example, someone who is far away calling out loudly in contrast to a softly murmuring crowd nearby. Or perhaps it’s a single person murmuring nearby and a crowd far away, roaring.
We’ve got the program order figured out for the concert, here’s the lineup:
– intermission –
The time and place again: 8:00 pm, Wednesday, March 28, in Rose Recital Hall in Fisher-Bennett Hall on the University of Pennsylvania campus. Fisher-Bennett is at 34th and Walnut. There will be a pre-concert chat with the composers, moderated by Penn grad student Delia Casadei, at 7:00 pm. An article by Delia about George Crumb here. More on the concert here and here and in future posts.