Oboe Quartet (2011)
A NOTE FROM THE COMPOSER:
Many of my richest and most memorable musical experiences have occurred not in the concert hall or the opera house but rather in smaller performance spaces (or even in a large living room), watching a few people in an advanced mode of non-verbal communication convey and interpret this or that profound musical utterance. Chamber music can be pure magic, and the human scale of the medium and the environment have often made—for me, in the best cases—an experience bordering on the ecstatic. Composers who seem to shine with similar brilliance in both micro and macro theatres occur with astounding rarity (to me, anyway); perhaps as composers, we each come with a differently-sized internal megaphone. Someone whom I have always admired for his inspired (and seemingly intuitive) answers to the problem of musical scope, W.A. Mozart, had no problems getting his music to fit the room.
The ideas that grew out of my conversations with Marc Neikrug and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival began as a tabula rasa—a great but tough commission to start work on (if I can really do anything, what do I really want to do?). I began to settle on one of my personal favorite sounds in chamber music: the solo oboe (I couldn’t tell anyone why), and my mind went toward Mozart’s Oboe Quartet, K. 370. I adore the work’s subtle, intimate choreography and have often pondered the chameleonic role of the oboe, whose responsibilities as soloist are by definition more conciliatory than if it were paired with orchestra. I can’t say that I intend to (or would dare to) replicate anything about his work in a specific way, but as has been the case with Mozart’s music before, I found that revisiting K. 370 has been a natural way to unlock the vault of my ideas about subtle choreographies, conciliation, and the flexibility that great chamber musicians possess. And along the way it’s occurred to me all over again that writing chamber music—and finding the best way to express those intimate musical thoughts—is hard. Or more accurately, that writing compelling chamber music is really hard.
- Sean Shepherd
Quartet La Jolla (2011)
A NOTE FROM THE COMPOSER:
The idea for the La Jolla Quartet resulted from a conversation that I had with Cho-Liang Lin at Tanglewood, after we had performed a Mozart concerto together. Cho-Liang, familiar to me for many years as a magnificent artist, delighted me when he told me of his music festival in beautiful La Jolla, California, and when he graciously asked if I would contribute a piece for his festival there. I was gratified and even flattered by his suggestion, and given the usual constraints of my work in film, I was especially grateful for the freedom that he offered in saying… “write for any combination of instruments you wish”… and so, I agreed to contribute what I could. The concept of a quartet comprised of violin, cello, clarinet and harp intrigued me, and so I set out to do a piece that would explore some of the interesting sonorities available in this seldom-heard instrumentation.
The work is in five movements, beginning with an Introduction, which presents declamatory gestures framing some of the contextual parameters of volume, texture and color that we’re about to hear. The second movement, Aubade, explores the harp’s very unique role as the spiritual center and life-enhancing force of the entire piece. The Scherzo is a brief and gossamer flight where the quartet defies gravity as it dips, dives and soars... hopefully without ever touching the ground! The fourth movement, Cantando, gives the clarinet the opportunity to reflect and ruminate to the accompaniment of a steady cello pizzicato, and leads the journey of exploration, finishing with a brief cadenza. And finally in the fifth movement, Finale, the entire group… con brio… collects and gathers its energy to produce a forceful and uplifting finale.
Without the constraints of any programmatic scheme, numerical formulations or procedures, writing this piece was a joy for me. I simply relished the pleasure of exploring the instrumental possibilities that would allow four magnificent artists to display their art.
I have dedicated the entire work to my friend Cho-Liang Lin. However… for the second movement, I wish to acknowledge my debt to harpist Ann Hobson Pilot, who was the inspiration for my Harp Concerto, and who was something of a spiritual guide as I worked on the Aubade movement, which reflects some of my research and preparatory work on the concerto.
Also I have to mention the great clarinetist John Bruce Yeh, whose work in the Chicago Symphony I’ve greatly admired. When John learned that I was writing this piece, he encouraged me to finish it, and when I was told that he was a frequent guest at SummerFest I decided to write the fourth movement, Cantando, expressly for him. Of course, my greatest thanks and deepest indebtedness go to Cho-Liang Lin for having conceived this project, which I hope in some small measure, might reward listeners and players alike.
- John Williams
White Granite (2010)
A NOTE FROM THE COMPOSER:
White Granite (Piano Quartet) was commssioned by St. Timothy’s Festival Summer Music Festival (in Montana), Bravo! Vail Valley Music Festival (in Colorado) and La Jolla Music Society for SummerFest (in California) and was given its world premiere in Georgetown Lake, Montana, on July 11th, 2010 by violinist Peter Zazofsky, violist William Fekenheuer, cellist Michael Reynolds, and pianist Michele Levin.
The 17-minute work is a piece that I enjoyed writing. As a pianist, having the piano present always gives me comfort. The piano, in fact, probably generates most of the background action in the piece - starting with the harmony in the first few measures and continuing with the different motoric ideas that are introduced gradually throughout the piece. In between, there are solos for the other instruments that involve either a falling line (which eventually becomes a rising line) or a “held in place” idea.
Sometimes, all three string instruments are working together to enhance the two kinds of different “actions.” Register and color are also being either generated or enhanced by the presence of the piano. It provides a wonderful environment to the three strings in its ability to provide an “orchestral” type of amplified sound.
- Joan Tower