The Parker Quartet came to our home in Jamaica Plain to celebrate the release of “Capriccio” on May 5, presenting a 19-minute long suite from the work to a group of about 25 friends and chamber music fans in the Boston area. The official release of the CD is still a month out (the end of June), but we had advance copies for sale, and were lucky to have perfect weather — our first chance this season to use the deck (post-performance, of course)!
The Latest Update
Release Party and premiere of Suite
CDs have arrived!
Pre-release copies of “Capriccio” arrived earlier this week. They look and sound fabulous, and are already live in innova’s shopping cart system for immediate order.
The Parker Quartet is one of the busier quartets around, but we managed to get together on March 6 — upon their return to Boston from Istanbul and just before they headed down to Columbia, SC — so they could hear the takes I had compiled with editor Frank Cunningham into “Rev1.” Feuled by bourbon, bancha, and hot toddies, they reviewed Capriccio and recommended a few changes: a sharper attack here, a longer descrescendo there. In the ensuing weeks, Frank and I made a Rev2, then 3, 4, and finally 5, and by the end of March I was able to submit the final sound to innova Recordings. This past week, I proofread the liner notes and reviewed Philip Blackburn’s design for the cover and booklet — he’s done amazing work — and now we have but to wait for the physical production of the disc, which will take another month or so.
Compiling the Edits
This winter has been brutal in the Boston area, but it didn’t stop me from traveling north to Arlington, MA to sit down with sound engineer and editor Frank Cunningham and compile my chosen takes of Capriccio. Two days and about 8 working hours later we had a rough cut of Capriccio, which we’ll share with the Parker Quartet in early March. Once the quartet has had their say, we’ll make the final cut and master the recording before sending the finished sound to innova Recordings.
The Parker Quartet and I had our recording session for Capriccio on December 8, 2014 at Mechanics Hall in downtown Worcester, MA. The Great Hall lived up to its stellar reputation, and the support staff couldn’t have been more accommodating or professional. Along with engineer Frank Cunningham, we worked from 10AM until 6PM, with only a short break for lunch from a local favorite: Spoodles Deli.
In addition to world-class performers, the members of the Parker Quartet are a dream to work with: they are consistently calm, cool, and collected! Above is a brief clip from about 3.5 hours into our session: after one false start, the group lays down a perfect take of one of the shortest movements from Capriccio (the 12th, titled “Pressure”).
I composed Capriccio, an hour-long work commissioned by Chamber Music America, with an intimate knowledge of the Parker Quartet, having worked with and listened to them for eight years. They are one of the great quartets currently on the world’s stage, and their artistry will be captured under ideal circumstances: we will record in Mechanics Hall in Worcester, MA–widely regarded as an acoustical masterpiece–on December 8, 2014. This will be the first Parker Quartet recording that exclusively features music commissioned and composed for them.
The recording will be released by innova Recordings, distributed by Naxos, in the spring of 2015. It will be promoted through innova Recordings’ network of media contacts, reviewers, blogs, radio stations, and will be licensed to film/TV and for dance. Promotional copies–200 physical and 900+ digital–will be sent to targeted contacts (including overseas). The Parker Quartet and I will promote the CD through our invidual mailing lists and via Facebook and Twitter, and host a CD-release party in Boston, where the Quartet is currently the Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University.
Capriccio, like much of my recent work, is suffused with historical references. It explores the capriccio as a form and idea, from its first use as a title in 1561 (a madrigal cycle by Jacquet de Berchem), through its sometimes wild transformations (the Capriccio stravagante of 1627 by Carlo Farina, with depictions of barking dogs and mewing cats that necessitated major developments in string technique), through its various meanings (Capriccio on the Departure of the Beloved Brother by J.S. Bach, which mixes the abstract and the programmatic), and through its more modern associations with brilliant technique (Paganini’s Caprices) and stormy character pieces (Brahms’s keyboard capricci).
The historical frame of the capriccio allowed me to create a kaleidoscopic array of wildly varying movements that explore all of the technical, expressive, and textural possibilities of the string quartet medium. The didactic nature of Capriccio makes it ideal for educational concerts, allowing young listeners to experience the various techniques that string players employ. The Parker Quartet has already excerpted the work for several such events around the country.
From The Washington Post: “A movement in which the strings wandered around in high silvery harmonics followed one in which the three high strings plucked a guitarlike accompaniment to the cello’s tenor song. In another, a broadly bowed legato morphed into the pins and needles of a sharply detached spiccato. A movement titled “Open Strings,” which gave off a whiff of orchestral tuning, seemed as at home in here as the movements where the quartet slithered around in microtones. Scattered among the movements, the four interludes with their echoes of the Renaissance and the baroque paid homage to the music’s forebears. The total effect of these distilled slices of musical stuff was intriguing. The Parker ensemble seemed to revel in its challenges, and the hour flew by.”
Capriccio was the featured work in the Summer 2014 issue of Chamber Music Magazine. Its premiere in Minnesota in 2013 was profiled in The Strad and on Classical Minnesota Public Radio.
3 sample movements from Capricco: Arsis (beginning at 0:00), the opening movement of this hour-long work, is all implication and expectation. La chitarra (the 4th movement, beginning at 1:52) treats the upper strings as a guitar, in technique and tuning, and the cello as a solo singer. On the string — off the string (the 23rd movement, beginning at 3:23) deals with the effect of speed on the action of the bow on the string, causing it to bounce as it accelerates. Recorded in the Minnesota Public Radio studios on March 7, 2013.
Capriccio is organized into 2 parts and 27 movements. It can be performed in its entirety, as presented here, or in myriad arrangements of all or some movements, or even single movements. Included among them are one solo movement for each of the players (7, 9, 25, opening of 26), and all possible trios (14, 15, and 19). These and the remaining movements deconstruct string technique by focusing on the bow (B1, B2, etc.), strings (S1, etc.), and fingers (F1, etc.); musical textures (the interludes); and the “uses” of music (2, 10, 20, and 26).
Start and End Dates
12/08/2014 — 04/08/2015