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Aizuri String Quartet

A new perspective on chamber music

Well!  I hate to admit it, but I think I’m at a loss for words – but I’ll do my best.  The Aizuri String Quartet is four very accomplished musicians, and they accomplished what they intended:  to connect the very distant musical past with the contemporary music of our own era.  With tremendous energy and elan, the Aizuri were able to demonstrate the commonalities of Medieval plain chant with the modern painful chant of slaves being sold.  That is simply amazing.  The musicians said that they hoped with their concert to express a “new perspective on chamber music.”  That they did.

The tonality, the rhythm and the musical concept (translating the music to a string quartet) was thought-provoking…

Violinists Emma Frucht and Miho Saegusa, violist Ayane Kozasa and cellist Karen Ouzounian:  four talented women on a mission.  Titling the concert, “What’s Past Is Prologue,” a very apt title, the Aizuri began the journey with an interesting and true-to-its time plain chant by a 12th Century nun.  The tonality, the rhythm and the musical concept (translating the music to a string quartet) was thought-provoking, making me think of this woman, Hildegard von Blingen, expressing the flavor of her times.  Four centuries later, we met the unusually “modern” music of the 17th Century, thanks to Barbara Strozzi’s madrigals.  Meant for vocalists but cleverly arranged for the string quartet, the music was once again reminiscent of castles and cathedrals.

Interspersed with these three ancient compositions were two works that could be interpreted as deriving from them – Momento mori, Phase I, by Nina C. Young and the curiously named Carrot Revolution by Gabriella Smith.  For reasons I can’t explain, Young’s composition brought the complications of hand-made lace to mind.  Perhaps it was the intricacy of the instrumental voices.  Smith’s work was more of a patch work quilt of dissonance and harmony overlaid (much like the construction of a patchwork quilt) with the conversation among the instruments.

In part conversational, in part just music, the composition was masterfully performed by the Aizuri.

The final two compositions, At the Purchaser’s Option, by Rhiannon Giddens, and String Quartet No. 1, by Eleanor Alberga, were very much of our own times but harkening back to those earlier composers in their ability to bring an era to life.  The Giddens composition featured the sweet, plaintive fiddle playing the rhythm of a slow trudge to the auction block.  The music was evocative and terribly sad.  In contrast, the Alberga was a tribute to stardust (not Hoagy Carmichael’s version!), the stuff of life and wonder.  In part conversational, in part just music, the composition was masterfully performed by the Aizuri.

Please note:  for someone who is at a loss for words, I found a few in the old memory bank.  I am glad to have heard the Aizuri and while I didn’t understand everything the quartet accomplished, I greatly appreciated the skill, the emotion and, for want of a better word, sparkle with which they performed.

– E Doyle