We hope you spent last night whisked away in the arms of an admirer and thinking of nothing else. However, in case you woke in the middle of the night, shuddering: "How can I sleep when I don't know what A Far Cry is up to?" never fear, darling. This one's for you.
JORDAN HALL SHOW! "HEARTBEATS" Yes, our next show will be in Jordan Hall, and will feature the power of the human heart - seat of empathy, fervent devotion, sentimental swooning, and strongest muscle in our body. Check out an emotionally rich program featuring John Adams' modern classic "Shaker Loops," Shostakovich's Quartet No. 8 (arranged for string orchestra), and a concerto for fiddle and bass by Kip Jones, featuring Kip and Crier bassist Karl Doty.
Here are the program notes by our fabulous resident musicoloist, Kathryn Bacasmot and composer Kip Jones:
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) :: Chamber Symphony, op. 110a Dmitri Shostakovich’s work gained unfettered interpretational freedom through the sequestering of its truthful origin. Secrets and whispers lie at the heart of his music. He kept no diary, save what he revealed in his scores. Suffering habitual manipulation at the hands of the government, he did what he needed to do in order to survive. Fear drove him to protect himself and his family and friends from bans on performances of his music, and public verbal lashings (such as the one he sustained during the Stalinist regime against his opera Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District). In some ways it could appear he was numb to his reality, agreeing to join the Communist Party, allowing himself to be paraded around on a visit to the United States as the prize of government sanctioned artists—the compliant jewel in the Party’s crown. But what would you do if the alternative option meant divorcing yourself from the country you love—your homeland? His non-verbal outlet was “...inner liberation, by means of the power of creative thought,” as David Fanning observed. The inner life of Shostakovich is so shrouded in mystery that even the book, Testimony by Solomon Vokov, that claims to be his memoirs has been questioned as to authenticity. Thus, the truth of his music lies far beyond our reach, because as Michael Mishra has wisely cautioned, “any answers, as obvious as some of them may appear to be, remain speculative.” Not surprisingly then, opinions regarding the String Quartet no. 8 run rampant, stretching across the board from extremely sentimental to blandly pragmatic. According to them he was either writing his own eulogy with suicide as the ultimate conclusion (a widely disclaimed theory, yet it has been suggested), simply throwing together a pastiche of past works that meant something to him at some time or another, or sending a concealed message regarding his true feelings of involvement with the Party. Where is the truth? We can start with what Shostakovich wrote in a letter Isaak Glickman, dated July 19, 1960, five days after finishing the Quartet (written between July 12-14) in Dresden during a research trip for Five Days, Five Nights, a film for which he was composing the score: Instead [of Five Days, Five Nights] I wrote this ideologically flawed quartet which is of no use to anybody. I started thinking that if some day I die, nobody is likely to write a work in memory of me, so I had better write one myself. The title page could carry the dedication: ‘To the memory of the composer of this quartet.’ He continued, armed with his typically sardonic sense of humor: It is a pseudo-tragic quartet, so much so that while I was composing it I shed the same amount of tears as I would have to pee after half-a-dozen beers. When I got home, I tried a couple of times to play it through, but always ended up in tears. This was of course a response not so much to the pseudo-tragedy as to my own wonder at its superlative unity of form. But here you may detect a touch of self glorification, which no doubt will soon pass and leave in its place the usual self-critical hangover. The “superlative unity of form” is a result of seamlessly weaving together quotes of his own material including the Symphony no. 1 (I. Largo), the Piano Trio no. 2 (II. Allegro molto), the Cello Concerto no. 1 (III. Allegretto), the revolutionary song Zamuchen tyazholoy nevoley (literally, “Tortured by grievous unfreedom”) and themes from Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District (IV. Largo), and a return to the Symphony no. 1 in the finale (V. Largo). Bonding them together are his initials D-S-C-H (the Germanized spelling with “Sch”) musically represented through the notes D, E-flat, C, B. Famously dedicated “To the Victims of Fascism and War,” the title was not written on the manuscript by the composer, nor did it appear in the first publication of the piece, though it eventually made its way into print. Rather, the composer reportedly uttered the phrase the week before its premiere during a discussion of the work. It stuck. Shostakovich biographer Ian MacDonald eloquently observed that the composer “Committed to producing an art of honesty in a culture of lies,” and had “long ago made the decision that what people thought of him was less important than ensuring they had the chance of being emotionally confronted by his music.” Perhaps that is the key to this controversial music. Shostakovich is telling us everything we need to know, and all we have to do is listen. Rudolf Barhsai arranged this version of the quartet expanded for string orchestra, “and approved by Shostakovich.” -Kathryn J Allwine Bacasmot
Kip Jones: Three Views of a Mountain - Concerto for Violin, Double Bass, and String Orchestra Three Views of a Mountain is a concerto in three movements, arranged fast-slow-fast, that highlights the common ground between the two most disparate members of the string instrument family. It opens with the soloists, together as a speeding train, dodging large blocks of harmony from the orchestra. The entire first movement is a study of permutations, twisting and manipulating its stark themes in an overt and simple way. For me, it is childlike anticipation. The second movement is based on a twenty-two beat clave, ticking away silently in the musicians’ minds underneath a folk song, played against its own skeleton; the effect is a many- layered, untrustworthy environment: fearing no evil but still, after all, walking through the valley of the shadow of death. Whereas the first movement is anxiety and expectation, this is the experience itself, skipping a beat every so often to remind the consciousness: This Is Really Happening. The third movement, to be symmetrical, is the hike down from the summit. Retrospect, not necessarily accurate, creates an emotional framework through which we understand and redefine past experience. It opens with the soloists, both pizzicato, commenting on a new theme played pianissimo by the violas. Back at the tempo of the opening, multiple metric puzzle-pieces are fit together to foreshadow the final hocketing relationship between the soloists and orchestra. Ultimately, our present self is hurled forward out of the past, against our will, contrary to the famous last sentence of The Great Gatsby. It’s a real joy to present this work with A Far Cry, whose integrity, dedication, and sound are a great inspiration to me. It’s another joy to perform it with Karl Doty, who in addition to being a superlative double-bassist is also a true friend. A hearty thank-you goes to both of them, as well as to you, listener, for your time and attention. -Kip Jones
John Adams (b. 1947) :: Shaker Loops Shaker Loops had two previous lives. In 1976 John Adams presented a work titled Wavemaker for three violins. He was absorbed by the principle of waveforms both “acoustical waves” and “even the formal structures, with their repeated patterns and periodic modulations.” Two years later, in 1978, Adams revisited Wavemaker in a version for string quartet that “crashed and burned” (in the composer’s words) at its premiere. Nevertheless, the obsession with waveforms persisted. Later that year the work was expanded further, and renamed as Shaker Loops, first for string septet (3 violins, 1 viola, 2 celli, 1 bass) and then eventually for string orchestra in 1983. Adams notes that the title is something of a double entendre, referring both to the physical manufacture of the sound, “’Shake’ in string-player parlance means to move the bow rapidly across the string, thus causing a tremolo, or fast buzzing sound,” and also to his personal memories of a New Hampshire childhood growing up by a disbanded Shaker colony. In his 2008 book, Hallelujah Junction, Adams recalls: “As a child I’d heard stories, probably exaggerated, of the ‘shaking’ ceremonies. ‘Shaker’ had originally been a term of mockery. In fact, these church members called themselves the United Society of Believers. But the image of their shaking dance caught my attentions. The idea of reaching a similar state of ecstatic revelation through music was certainly in my mind as I composed Shaker Loops.” The compositional style with which Adams is associated, Minimalism, provided the “loops” from “the era of tape music where small lengths of prerecorded tape attached end to end could repeat melodic or rhythmic figures ad infinitum.” In the preface to the score, Adams elaborates on the mechanics of the loops as well as the overall structure: The “loops” are melodic material assigned to the seven instruments, each of a different length and which, when heard together, result in a constantly shifting play among the parts. Thus, while one instrument might have a melody with a period of seven beats, another will be playing one with eleven while yet another will repeat its figure every thirteen beats, and so one. (This is most easily perceived if one counts the beats between the various plucked notes in Hymning Slews.) The four sections, although they meld together evenly, are really quite distinct, each being characterized by a particular style of string playing. The outside movements are devoted to “shaking,” the fast, tightly rhythmicized motion of the bow across the strings. The “slews” of Part II are slow, languid glissandi heard floating within an almost motionless pool of stationary sound (played senza vibrato). Part III is essentially melodic, with the cellos playing long, lyrical lines (which are nevertheless loops themselves) against a background of muted violins, an activity that gradually takes on speed and mass until it culminates in the wild push-pull section that is the emotional high point of the piece. The floating harmonics, a kind of disembodied ghost of the push-pull figures in Part III, signal the start of Part IV, a final dance of the bows across the strings that concludes with the four upper voices lightly rocking away on the natural overtones of their strings while the cellos and bass provide a quiet pedal point beneath. -KJAB