Saturday, October 31, at 11 am and Sunday, November 8, at 3:00 pm bring us two dance-themed works by contemporary composers and one by an established master that's so energetic you might at least want to tap your toes.
Photo by Jiyang Chen
You can hear that right from the start in the Catalyst Quartet's recording, with Ms. Montgomery herself on second violin. Given her participation, we can probably regard that as the definitive performance. It certainly rocks and sings with virtuosity and spirit.
Up next are three of the six movements of "Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout" for string quartet by Gabriela Lena Frank, Composer-in-Residence with the Philadelphia Orchestra, founder of the Gabriela Lena Frank Creative Academy of Music, and a graduate of my alma mater, Rice University. Ms. Frank's background is one of ethnic diversity, as her biography clearly attests:
Born in Berkeley, California (September, 1972), to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces often reflect and refract her studies of Latin American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own.The Peruvian side of her background is on display in the selections from "Leyendas," described at the composer's web site. The links I have provided with each selection will take you to online performances of them.
|Gabriela Lena Frank|
Photo by Mariah Tauger
The final work on the program needs little in the way of introduction. It's Mendelssohn's Octet, written when the composer was only 16 and nearly half-way through his life (he died at the age of 39). It's popular enough to have almost certainly caught your ear at some point, but if you want a detailed breakdown there's a good one at the San Francisco Symphony web site. For the purposes of this article, I'll just note that every one of its four movements is, as the old Robert Palmer song goes, "simply irresistible." I think you'll find that time flies during its half-hour length as quickly as the music does in the famous Scherzo third movement. There's a peppy performance complete with synchronized score (yes, I'm very partial to those) at YouTube.
Performers for these concerts are violinists Xiaoxiao Qiang, Jessica Cheng, Andrea Jarrett, and Asako Kuboki; violists Jonathan Chu and Andrew Francois; and cellists Jennifer Humphreys and Alvin McCall.
Sunday, November 1, at 3 pm and Saturday, November 7, at 11 am it's a lively, witty, and whimsical program of music for wind quintet by Jacques Ibert, Samuel Barber, György Ligeti, and Valerie Coleman.
Jacques Ibert's "Trois pièces brèves" (Three Short Pieces) kick things off with a bracing dose of joie de vivre (French for the thing Auntie Mame had in abundance). Although originally performed in 1930 as part of Maurice Constantin-Weyer's "Le Stratagème des roués" (a French translation of George Farquhar's Restoration comedy "The Beaux's Stratagem") this is, as Tim Munro writes in the SLSO program notes, "a glass of French champagne... Short, tart, with an edge of sweetness." Treat yourself to a glass whilst listening to this 2014 performance by the Philharmonic Five.
Next, turn the clock back a couple of months for Barber's "Summer Music," op. 81. The result of a 1953 commission from the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, the piece was designed, in the words of the composer, "to be evocative of summer -- summer meaning languid, not killing mosquitoes." Barber worked closely with the musicians who premiered the work in 1956, resulting in music that showcases every one of the five performers at one point or another. Listen to a 2015 performance by the Carl Nielsen Quintet with a cool drink at hand.
"Languid" would not be a word you'd use to describe Ligeti's "Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet." Alexander Carpenter at allmusic.com calls this "cool but insistent music." I'd add "spiky" because of the occasional nose-thumbing bits of dissonance and (with the exception of the Lamentoso second movement) lively and virtuosic, as you can hear in this performance with synchronized score at YouTube.
Performers for these concerts are Ann Choomack on flute, Cally Banham on oboe, Tzuying Huang on clarinet (a change from her usual instrument, the bass clarinet), Andrew Cuneo on bassoon, and Julie Thayer on horn.
Audience size for all these concerts will be limited to 150 for each performance, and tickets can only be purchased by calling the SLSO box office at 314-534-1700. Only two tickets can be purchased per household. Information on the SLSO's COVID-19 safety protocols is available at the orchestra's web site.