Sunday, June 2, 2013

A brief, rough draft of music history

World premiere event

Posted by Jeffrey Day on Sun, Jun 2, 2013 at 4:27 PM

It's been said that journalism is a rough draft of history. This conjures up images of mud-covered writers scribbling out dispatches on paper to be carried to the telegraph office behind the front lines.

This shall be a very brief, rough draft of music history written on an iPhone in the lobby of the Dock Street Theatre. On this day at the Dock Street Theatre, the St. Lawrence String Quartet gave the world premiere of a quirky and witty quartet by Samuel Carl Adams.

Written in five short movements, it was still a substantial work clocking in at about 20 minutes. The movements all connect to other composers (much older than the 27-year-old Adams), the first expanding on a fragment from Couperin, breaking it up and reorganizing it. The second, "Quiet Rocking with Sad Cello Solo" (the movement titles are long), is spare and mournful even before the cello arrives. The movement also has some skittering of bow on strings, setting up a more nervous, jumpy, and at times relentless quality that carries through the other movements. The third and fourth both reference Haydn.

The first thing Adams said in introducing the piece portrays the composer as a rascal — hearing it, one would say a very naughty rascal. The minuet and trio following got a little lost and seemed to go directly into the final movement, "Hymn Vanishing," which did just that in a haunting way.

This work shows the young Adams, son of well-known composer John Adams, has something to say and says it well. It's a challenging, intellectually engaging piece that's also entertaining.

It will be performed again Monday at 11 a.m. and 1 p.m.

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