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Archive for the ‘John Adams’ Category

SOUNDTRACK: AUGUSTIN HADELICH-Tiny Desk Concert #973 (May 11, 2020).

This tiny desk is another duet for piano and violin.  This pairing of instruments is always lovely.  This particular pairing is quite beautiful.

Grammy-winning fiddler Augustin Hadelich [brought] his beautiful Guarneri del Gesù, built around 1744.  The violin, once owned by the famed virtuoso Henryk Szeryng, has been called one of the finest concert violins in the world.

Hadelich has been called one of the finest concert violinists in the world. Born in Italy to German parents, he studied at Juilliard in New York. His sweep of the top awards at the International Violin Competition of Indianapolis in 2006 launched his career.

Hadelich plays a piece by contemporary composers and two older pieces.

With his discerning pianist Kuang-Hao, Hadelich put the 276-year-old del Gesù through its paces in the propulsive “40% Swing” from John Adams’ Road Movies.

This piece is fast and propulsive (“it’s all about the joys of driving on a fast highway”) with lots of super fast bowing and lots of bouncy, sometimes discordant chords from the piano.  It’s five minutes long but it seems exhausting.

He made the instrument croon sweetly in Dvořák’s “Humoresque,” a chestnut of old world charm, especially in violinist Fritz Kreisler’s beloved arrangement.

This piece is like a sweet dance.  You can just see people dresses up and dancing around a ballroom to this song.

A burst of energy returned to round out the set with the bustling “Burlesca,” by Czech composer Josef Suk, a favorite pupil of Dvořák who later became his son-in-law.

This piece has the same stately feeling of the Dvořák piece  although it feels less formal, especially with some of the very fast runs that both the piano and the violin perform.

[READ: May 14, 2020] Five Years #2

Issue #2 is very different from Issue #1.

It is narrated by a dead woman.  Although this woman died when she was ten years old, forty-five minutes later she was back.  The doctors said it was a miracle. That’s because they can’t see Malus.

We see a woman named Rachel approaching a man and then speaking in Russian.  She wants names.  When the man resists, a young girl named Zoe does something horrifying with a pair of pruning shears. (more…)

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SOUNDTRACK: THE ATTACCA QUARTET-Tiny Desk Concert #580 (November 18, 2016).

The Attacca Quartet are a fascinating group. The group consists of Amy Schroeder and Keiko Tokunaga (violins), Nathan Schram (viola) and Andrew Yee (cello).  And they play a huge variety of music (and really get into what they are playing).

The first two pieces are modern and a little wild, so I assumed that that was the kind of music they played.  But then they told us about a Haydn quartet that they loved as well.   The blurb says:

They revere the old school, having recently completed a performance cycle of all 68 string quartets by Joseph Haydn, the man who invented the genre. They also hunger for the new, exploring the music of three living composers each year in a project called Recently Added.

The composer of the first two pieces is John Adams, who I know a little because of the Kronos Quartet.  But I like the blurb’s comment:

One contemporary composer the group continues to champion is John Adams. The head-banging pulsations of “Toot Nipple” (titled after a character in an Annie Proulx story) contrast with the slippery and funky episodes in “Alligator Escalator.” Adams has said he imagined such a creature waddling up and down the floors of Macy’s department store. The two movements belong to John’s Book of Alleged Dances from 1994.

I love the beginning of “Toot Nipple” as the cello is sawing away furiously and then passing off that fast sawing to the viola.  The piece is only a minute and 13 seconds long.  The second piece plays with quiet squeaky sounds as the strings progress up and down the fretboard almost randomly.  When things settle down I enjoy watching how aggressively the cellist plays the heavy notes before returning to some smooth notes high up the fretboard.  The violins also show some really fast fingerwork near the end.  This piece is all of 4 and a half minutes long.

Haydn seems really traditional when compared to Adams, there’s still some intensity on his piece:

Next to Adams, Haydn sounds positively genteel, but you needn’t look far to find the composer’s own feisty side. Sunny skies suddenly turn threatening at the turn of a phrase — a trend in Haydn’s time known as Sturm und Drang, or “Storm and Stress” — when moods can swing wildly with impunity.

Of all of the 68 string quartets, this is their favorite part to play.  It is pretty with a lot of really fast fingerwork as well.  I’m most surprised by the note it ends on–it doesn’t go down a note as you might expect.

The concert ends with “Smoke Rings.”

Measured by the cello’s tick-tock pizzicato, the mood of Michael Ippolito’s Smoke Rings is languid, even a little trippy. Inspired by a 14th-century French song about a smoking society, the composer employs long, slow strokes and light bow pressure for a hazy texture. The music heats up dramatically midway through, only to drift back into the smoke.

While the blurb talks about the cello, I was more taken with the pizzicato violin that ends the piece.  But after listening as second time I see that the pizzicato passes around to different musicians, beginning with the cello and the moving from one violin to the next.  But it’s not all pizzicato, there is a an aggressive middle section with notes the gradually ascend and grow more rapid.  It’s when this section ends that the pizzicato violin comes in to bring us home.

[READ: May 6, 2016] Hilo: Book 1

Judd Winick is a cartoonist whom I have liked for a really long time.  He has done a bunch of really funny cartoons and a very serious graphic novel called Pedro and Me.

Winick (and Pedro) and Winick’s wife Pam were all on The Real World San Francsico.  I don’t believe that that has anything to do with Winick’s success as a cartoonist (how could it, really?), but it is fun to remember him from the show.

Anyhow, this story is outstanding.  Winick has an amazing sense of comic timing and pacing.  He uses repetitive jokes to excellent result here.  On top of that, the story is compelling, funny and bittersweet.  It’s a great start to what I hope is a long series. (more…)

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