PROGRAM #1: American Voices
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Earthy yet refined, and drawing on many of the traditions that define this country's music, the Corigliano Quartet's American Voices concerts plumb the roots of American music as viewed through a classical lens. The composers of these works range from America's most celebrated to its freshest talent, all presenting invigorating and authentic views on folk traditions.
As a trumpeter and bandleader, and one of the world's most renowned musicians, Wynton Marsalis has heeded no obstacles, lending his unmistakable stamp to works from throughout the history of jazz and the classical eras. In 1995, he entered the arena of classical composition as well, composing his string quartet "At the Octoroon Balls." Inspired by the music and culture of Marsalis' native New Orleans, this quartet is saturated with blues, untamed energy, and soulful ebullience.
Ben Johnston's "Amazing Grace" places one of America's most cherished melodies at the core of a set of kaleidoscopic variations, ranging between extremes of delicacy through modernist invention. Johnston is a maverick of modern music, best known for his exploration of novel scales based on music's most "natural" harmonies, harmonies that were stunted by the temperament of modern pianos at the time of Beethoven. In "Amazing Grace," he pushes a familiar tune into unexplored territory, bringing listeners on a journey of potent intensity and transcendent clarity.
In "Corrie Q's Jigs and Reels," composer Adam Silverman, whose music is most often marked by vocal lyricism, minimalist invention, and driving pulsation, turns his pen to exploring music that serves as a source for much American folk music: the fiddle music of the Celtic isles. The lively vigor inherent in traditional Irish music is found throughout Silverman's composition, which was created expressly for the Corigliano Quartet and has been an audience favorite since its 2005 premiere.
Dan Visconti turns to the American vernacular in "Black Bend," a work that explores Visconti’s infatuation with blues and early rock music. His piece transforms the string quartet into a distorted blues band, with distant, mournful sounds giving way to a slow blues, and accelerating to a wailing frenzy, only to dissolve into nothing as quickly as it materialized. The imagery of the piece was inspired by legends surrounding the collapse of a railroad bridge over a meandering stretch of the Cuyahoga river, and the thought of the victims' eerie moans rising up from the river is given voice in Visconti's transformation of the voice of a blues singer.