Performance Friday, May 3, 2013 | 9 PM

Kronos Quartet

Zankel Hall
“I’ve always wanted the string quartet to be vital and energetic and alive and cool,” says Kronos Quartet founder and artistic director David Harrington. “It has to be expressive of life—to tell the story with grace and humor and depth.” The wildly successful group lives up to Harrington’s vision on this program, offering a world premiere by Missy Mazzoli and a New York premiere by Aleksandra Vrebalov.

This concert is part of Late Nights at Zankel Hall and My Time, My Music.
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The Program

You Know Me From Here

Missy Mazzoli has had her music performed all over the world by the Minnesota Orchestra, eighth blackbird, Kronos Quartet, Britten Sinfonia, violinist Jennifer Koh, and many others. She is currently composer-in-residence with the Opera Company of Philadelphia, Gotham Chamber Opera, and Music Theatre Group. In February 2012, her  chamber opera Song from the Uproar  had a sold-out premiere run at New York venue The Kitchen. October 2012 saw the premiere of SALT, Mazzoli's collaboration with cellist Maya Beiser and writer Erin Cressida Wilson at the Brooklyn Academy of Music's Next Wave Festival. The 2013-2014 season includes premieres by pianist Emanuel Ax and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Mazzoli is an active pianist and keyboardist, and has performed around the world with her ensemble Victoire. Her music is published by G. Schirmer.

In the Composer's Own Words

You Know Me From Here  was commissioned for Kronos by Carol Magnus Cole in celebration of her husband Tim's 75th birthday. When she asked me to write this piece, I immediately imagined a 20-minute musical journey homeward, a trek through chaos ("Lift Your Fists") and loneliness ("Everything That Rises Must Converge"), to a place of security and companionship ("You Know Me From Here"). This is, at its core, music about loss, but in the most positive sense; it speaks of the loss of our old selves, the jumps into the unknown, the leaps of faith we all must make, and the beautiful moments when we find solace in a person, in an idea, or in music itself. The music shifts constantly from earthy, gritty gestures to soaring, leaping melodies that rarely land where we expect. 

Missy Mazzoli's You Know Me From Here was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by Carol Magnus Cole in celebration of her husband Tim's 75th birthday. Additional support was provided by Duke Performances / Duke University. The composer wishes to thank Carol and Tim, the Kronos Quartet, Janet Cowperthwaite, Katy Tucker, and poet Farnoosh Fathi (for the title).

Flow (arr. Jacob Garchik)

Laurie Anderson is one of America's most renowned—and daring—creative pioneers. Known primarily for her multimedia presentations, she has cast herself in roles as varied as visual artist, composer, poet, photographer, filmmaker, electronics whiz, vocalist, and instrumentalist.

O Superman launched Anderson's recording career in 1980, rising to number two on the British pop charts and subsequently appearing on Big Science, the first of her seven albums on the Warner Bros. label. In 2001, she released her first record for Nonesuch, entitled Life on a String, which was followed by Live in New York, recorded at New York City's Town Hall in September 2001. The original version of Flow is the final track on her 2010 Nonesuch album Homeland, nominated for a Grammy for Best Pop Instrumental.

Anderson has toured internationally with shows that range from simple spoken-word performances to elaborate multimedia events. She has published six books; text from her solo performances appears in the book Extreme Exposure, edited by Jo Bonney. Anderson has also written the entry for New York for the Encyclopedia Britannica. Her visual work has been presented in major museums throughout the US and Europe. In 2003, the Musée d'art contemporain de Lyon produced a touring retrospective of her work, entitled The Record of the Time: Sound in the Work of Laurie Anderson.

As a composer, Anderson has contributed music to films by Wim Wenders and Jonathan Demme; dance pieces by Bill T. Jones, Trisha Brown, and Molissa Fenley; and a score for Robert Lepage's theater production Far Side of the Moon. Her most recent orchestral work, Songs for Amelia Earhart, was premiered at Carnegie Hall in 2000 by the American Composers Orchestra.

Recognized worldwide as a groundbreaking leader in the use of technology in the arts, Anderson collaborated with Interval Research Corporation, a research and development laboratory founded by Paul Allen and David Liddle, in the exploration of new creative tools. In 2002, she was appointed the first artist-in-residence of NASA, out of which she developed her solo performance "The End of the Moon." Anderson was also part of the team that created the opening ceremony for the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens. In 2007, she received the prestigious Dorothy and Lillian Gish Prize for her outstanding contribution to the arts.

Jacob Garchik's arrangement of Flow by Laurie Anderson was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the David Harrington Research and Development Fund.

String Quartet No. 3

When Valentin Silvestrov presented one of his early efforts—a set of dodecaphonic, pointillistic piano pieces that reflected his immersion in the music of Schoenberg and Webern—to the professors of the Kiev Conservatory in 1961, one of them, Konstantyn Dankevych, offered some friendly advice: "Don't forget the queen: melody!" As Silvestrov later recalled, "Today I can say that Dankevych was right. The kind of melody he had in mind, well, that's another question. But in principle, he was right." 

Like other composers of his generation—such as Alfred Schnittke, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Arvo Pärt—Silvestrov identified with the ultramodern music that was flowing into the Soviet Union from the West. Though Silvestrov (by virtue of working in the Ukrainian capital and in the periphery of the Soviet Union) was allowed certain licenses and opportunities denied to colleagues in Moscow and Leningrad, he nevertheless endured various forms of official and unofficial censure during the 1960s and '70s.

By the mid-1970s, Silvestrov had rejected the complexity of much contemporary music. After a process of simplification, he sought out a "lyrical avant-garde," where form is primarily constituted through a single melody or two. 

As in many of Silvestrov's mature works, a fundamental musical dualism underlies the String Quartet No. 3. The opening Präludium displays one type of his musical modes: blocks of drifting, atonal chords whose outlines are illuminated by twinkling, quicksilver arpeggios. Once sounded, Silvestrov allows the aura of each arpeggio to trail off, recreating in the string quartet the effect of a piano pedal or the sound of bells. Breezes of lingering vibrations are made palpable through exquisitely notated dynamic swells and subtle tempo rubato. Like an Impressionist painting en plein air, Silvestrov uses small musical gestures "raised to the level of natural philosophy" to create what he calls "a cosmic pastoral."

The shepherd piping of the work's second movement, Pastorale, gives a human dimension to this ethereal Arcadia. It exhibits the traditional, elegiac, even nostalgic dimension of Silvestrov's musical personality. Silvestrov wants melody in his music to awake in listeners a sense of welcome, of discovering something already half-known or somehow intuited. Melodic fragments drift slowly downwards on cushions of mysterious harmonies. ("Melody cannot exist without sequences," Silvestrov argues. "Melody flies on the wings of sequences.") Always marked dolce, leggiero ("sweetly, lightly"), and perforated with pauses and ellipses, Silvestrov's melodies are documents of human intimacy and vulnerability. Only the rising song of the fifth movement, Serenade, imparts a modicum of confidence.

The two poles of Silvestrov's musical personality alternate throughout the quartet. Despite their superficial differences, both the unsettling labyrinth of atonal harmonies and the hesitations of the tonal melodies embody the composer's sense of human fragility. The three Intermezzo movements also hint at a violence that, Caliban-like, threaten to rip apart the "cosmic pastoral." 

The Postlude is not a summing-up or a climax, but the distant echo of everything that preceded it. "Music should be born of silence," Silvestrov states. "That's the most important thing: the dimension
of silence."

—Greg Dubinsky

Valentin Silvestrov’s String Quartet No. 3 was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet by the Columbia Foundation and the Kronos Performing Arts Association, and premiered by Kronos at Wilton’s Music Hall (London) on January 27, 2012. The composer expresses his gratitude to Eamonn Quinn, Artistic Director of Louth Contemporary Music Society in Ireland, for his empathy, appreciation, and interest in his music.

Babylon, Our Own

Aleksandra Vrebalov, a native of the former Yugoslavia, left Serbia in 1995 and continued her education in the United States. She holds a bachelor's degree in composition from the University of Novi Sad in Serbia, a master's from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, and a doctorate in composition from the University of Michigan. She now lives in New York City.

Vrebalov, named 2011 Composer of the Year by Muzika klasika (for her opera Mileva, commissioned by the Serbian National Theatre for its 150th anniversary season), has received awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, Vienna Modern Masters, ASCAP, Meet the Composer, Douglas Moore Foundation, and two Mokranjac Awards (given by the Serbian Association of Composers).

Vrebalov has had her works performed by the Kronos Quartet, David Krakauer, ETHEL, Jorge Caballero, Serbian National Theatre, and Belgrade Philharmonic, among others. She has been commissioned by Carnegie Hall, the Brooklyn Youth Chorus, Barlow Endowment, Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, Merkin Hall, San Francisco Conservatory, and Louth Contemporary Music Society (Ireland). Her works have been choreographed by Dusan Tynek Dance Theatre (NYC), Rambert Dance Company (UK), Take Dance (NYC), and Festival Ballet Providence. Her music has been used in two films that deal with atrocities of war: Soul Murmur directed by Helen Doyle (Canada) and Slučaj Kepiro by Natasa Krstic (Serbia).

Vrebalov's string quartet … hold me, neighbor, in this storm … was written for and recorded by Kronos for the album Floodplain. Her string quartet Pannonia Boundless,  also for Kronos, was published by Boosey & Hawkes as part of the Kronos Collection, and recorded for the album Kronos Caravan.

In the Composer's Own Words

Babylon, Our Own was written for the Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer, inspired by their passionate and masterful playing of diverse styles of music. I wrote the piece having in mind their individual characteristics as performers: Krakauer's ecstatic high register, David Harrington's uncanny responsiveness in dialogue-like sections, John Sherba's rare ability to carve the shortest phrase into a precise musical statement, Hank Dutt's most soulful solos, and Jeffrey Zeigler's powerful triple-stops and superhuman rhythmic precision. The result is a piece in which times, places, and cultures intersect to celebrate music as the language with which I feel most comfortable—a language that has brought all of us together.

I imagine the single-movement form of Babylon, Our Own unfolding like a ritual, carrying one through a vast range of memories and visions triggered by pre-recorded documentary audio materials. Filtered and manipulated to different levels of abstraction, pre-recorded sounds include snippets of friends' voices speaking their names; New York City street noise; the Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer rehearsing the piece; gatherings of groups in religious fervor; the prayers of the Pope, the Dalai Lama, and the Orthodox Patriarch; Morse code; as well as my grandmother reciting the poetry she had learned as a child in the 1930s.

The acoustic material—the interplay between clarinet and the individual instruments of the quartet—is a celebration of human relationships and interconnectedness of us all. Each individual part is like a thread in an intricate web, responding to or triggering immediate and distant events throughout the piece.

In non-musical terms and very much inspired by my long relationship with Kronos, I wanted to create something I've always hoped to experience in reality: a moment of high sonic complexity in which all of us—from "everyman" to powerful spiritual leaders—simultaneously join voices in declaring that we all are equal, that to each other we are holy. Invoking names at the end of the piece is a way to acknowledge the presence of each of us in this moment, so that Thy Name becomes a name of a friend, a sibling, a parent, a child—in its simple beauty, it becomes your name.

Aleksandra Vrebalov's Babylon, Our Own was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet and David Krakauer by the Clarice Smith Performing Arts Center, University of Maryland, College Park.

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The Fast Forward series of concerts is sponsored by Ernst & Young LLP
This tour of Kronos Quartet is made possible by a grant from Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation with support from the National Endowment for the Arts.
This performance is part of Fast Forward.

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