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Politics

Hey! It’s an election year! Aren’t you just all aquiver with excitement??! Just imagine: months of our elected and wanna-be elected officials blathering on about issues they actually understand but little, nevertheless expounding wonderful (awesome?) solutions to every problem the nation faces. Just imagine!

But if you prefer not to imagine, I have some escape suggestions. To begin with, surely your TV has a “mute” button on it somewhere; use it! When it’s announced that so-and-so is giving an exclusive interview on a major channel, check out what’s on the Food Network. A little vicarious dessert will not expand your waistline nor affect your cardiac function and might even help you retain any vestige of sanity you may have left.

If you find yourself at a gathering, be it Sunday school, a cocktail party or a dinner, and someone says something like, “Can you believe that [fill in the blank}?!  [He/She] said that….”  Well, you get the picture.  After you’ve politely said, “How interesting,” you say, “And did you see that column by Martha Stewart on drying flowers?  Such a talented person.”  At that point your companion’s eyes should begin to glaze and you can continue to a more reasonable topic or just quietly slip away.

Things are a little trickier if The Other happens to be your spouse – but still not impossible.  There’s always the time-honored and always useful, “Huh?  Did you say something?”  And if there’s persistence (as there often is when couples have been together for more than two years), you might try, “Were you talking about the dishwasher?  It is making a funny noise, and I wish you’d have a look at it.  I guess we could just call the appliance repairman.”  I can almost guarantee that statement will change the conversation.

And last but not least, there are those really tricky situations when you find yourself trapped in an elevator or a carpool or across a bridge table, and there’s just no getting away from the venom.  That’s when, with tremendous self-restraint, you just nod your head – just like you’re hanging on every bead and drop – and send your mind off to some other more pleasant place.  With luck, the speaker will be so frothed about his/her subject, he/she won’t ask, “Don’t you agree?”

…we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves…

Of course, we were all taught never, never, never to discuss religion or politics, right?  But some folks just can’t help themselves and I hope the foregoing will help you avoid the pitfalls.  If not, and you find yourself unable to extricate yourself gracefully, try this:

“By the way, I’ve got a couple of extra tickets to the next San Antonio Chamber Music Concert.  Wouldn’t you like to hear beautiful music for a change?” Might work. Try it.

– E Doyle

Crystal Ball

After Concert Dinner with the Dover Quartet
I am now gazing into my crystal ball. Some may call it a computer screen, but just between us, it’s really a crystal ball. And what do I see? A very, very bright future for four remarkable musicians. It’s coming in clearer now: it’s Joel Link, Bryan Lee, Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt and Camden Shaw. It must be the Dover String Quartet!

You really don’t need a crystal ball to see successes after successes for this group. Although they’re so young you’re tempted to ask, “Do your parents know where you are?” they are truly brilliant. If chamber music quartets came with trophies, this group would already have a room full. They have so much sparkle, so much perfection that my crystal ball is in overdrive.

Be sure to remember the name Dover String Quartet. You will certainly see more of it in the years to come. My crystal ball sees them alongside the greats of classical quartets. We are so fortunate to have been able to book them now, because before long, we’ll be booking them years out!

Wanna know what else my crystal ball sees? It’s the 2016-17 season of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society. You will be amazed, giddy with emotion and utterly flabbergasted by the talent that’s coming our way: the Danish String Quartet (Oct. 23), the Brasil Guitar Duo (Nov. 20), the Aeolus Quartet (Jan. 22), Les Amies Trio (Feb. 26) and the Calmus Ensemble (April 23).

My crystal ball sees them alongside the greats of classical quartets.  We are so fortunate to have been able to book them now, because before long, we’ll be booking them years out!

Well, I’m sorry to say my crystal ball has begun to fog over with the steam of pure joy, so I must stop predicting – except for just one little thing:  when you come to the SACMS concerts, you will forget your worries, your heart will be glad and your mind will resound with music.

– E Doyle

Dover String Quartet

Coming to San Antonio on April 3, 2016

Considered one of the most remarkably talented string quartets ever to emerge at such a young age, the Dover Quartet catapulted to international stardom following a stunning sweep of the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition, becoming one of the most in-demand ensembles in the world.

In 2013-14, the Quartet became the first ever Quartet-in-Residence for the venerated Curtis Institute of Music. In the Fall of 2013, the Dover Quartet won not only the Grand Prize but all three Special Prizes at the 2013 Banff International String Quartet Competition.  The Quartet also won top prizes at the Fischoff Competition and the Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition, and has taken part in festivals such as Chamber Music Northwest, Artosphere, La Jolla SummerFest, Bravo! Vail, and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.  They are the most recent recipients of the Cleveland Quartet Award and the Hunt Family Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award.

During the 2013-14 season, the Quartet acted as the Ernst Stiefel String Quartet-in-Residence at the Caramoor Festival. Additionally, members of the Quartet have appeared as soloists with some of the world’s finest orchestras, including the Philadelphia Orchestra and the Tokyo Philharmonic.

The Dover Quartet draws from the musical lineage of the Cleveland, Vermeer, and Guarneri Quartets, having studied at the Curtis Institute and Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music, where they were in residence from 2011-2013.  The Quartet has been mentored extensively by Shmuel Ashkenasi, James Dunham, Norman Fischer, Kenneth Goldsmith, Joseph Silverstein, Arnold Steinhardt, Michael Tree, and Peter Wiley, and is dedicated to sharing their music with underserved communities and is an active member of Music for Food, an initiative to help musicians fight hunger in their home communities.

“The Dover Quartet players have it in them to become the next Guarneri String Quartet — they’re that good. Expert musicianship, razor-sharp ensemble, deep musical feeling and a palpable commitment to communication made their performances satisfying on many levels.”

Chicago Tribune

“These young musicians play with remarkable attentiveness and an astonishingly even tone, as if they were four limbs of one instrument.”

Montreal Gazette

Members:

Joel Link (violin)
Bryan Lee (violin)
Milena Pajaro-van de Stadt (viola)
Camden Shaw (cello)

Program

DVORAK Quartet in F Major, Op.96 “American”

BERG String Quartet Op.3

—Intermission—

SHOSTAKOVICH Quartet No.2

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

Congratulations to the Dover Quartet – the most recent recipient of the Cleveland Quartet Award and the Hunt Family Lincoln Center Emerging Artist Award!

Ugly music?

On this we can agree:  there is music that sounds like melted caramel, and there’s music that sounds like shards of broken glass caught in a meat grinder.  Let’s discuss this a little.

You have your “Moonlight Sonata.”  It’s pure molten caramel crossing your senses and easing  you  into a state of well-being and calm.  You can almost hum along (if you can hit that second note without your voice cracking).  It’s the kind of music you can taste – and, for me, it tastes like something sweet and ineffably good, makes you want more and more.

Then you have your very modern, atonal compositions (some don’t consider them “music” at all).  Mostly recent compositions, they were created to grab the listener, evoke strident emotions,  even cause pain.  Why would anyone write such sounds and subject classical music audiences to them?

I think these compositions are like looking through a kaleidoscope:  the little shards of color constantly changing shape and arrangements as the viewer tries to make some sense of them.

I think these compositions are like looking through a kaleidoscope: the little shards of color constantly changing shape and arrangements as the viewer tries to make some sense of them.

And there’s the major difference.   The great classical composers of the distant past wrote music that was predictable.  The line goes up, the line goes down.  The phrase repeats, then repeats again in a slightly different form.  Always  predictable.  There’s no predictability in atonal compositions.  Keys change abruptly, scales are altered, what goes up may just stay up.  Strings screech sometimes, and you wonder if they will suddenly break.  The audience is uncomfortable, not soothed.  Could it be they’re thinking?  Maybe thinking, “When will this end?”

Think of this as a musical Rorschach test.  Everyone who hears these compositions has a different idea of what the composer is trying to transmit – and it’s worth your time and effort to make your own interpretation.  Remember that some of the most traditional composers, by our modern sensibilities, horrified their contemporaries with their unique turns of musical phrase.

Some of the most traditional composers, by our modern sensibilities, horrified their contemporaries with their unique turns of musical phrase.

Now consider the music of Gershwin:  is it classical?  That can only be the judgment of time.  But is it evocative?  You bet!  You just can’t listen to “Rhapsody in Blue” without seeing New York.  Let’s try something a little more difficult, say “Blue Cathedral,” by Jennifer Higdon.  Okay, they’re both “blue,” but Higdon doesn’t give the listener the same kind of clues as Gershwin.  Her music is abstract, but it grabs the listener’s attention nevertheless.   Up the scale of difficult enjoyment, you might come to Philip Glass.  I grant that some of his music makes your toes curl, but if you uncurl and just focus, you might just find understanding.

So why bother?  It’s all about attention.  You can just stay all comfy with your Beethoven and Mozart; nothing wrong with that.  Or you could reach your musical mind up to, say, Charles Ives, Alban Berg, or Arnold Shoenberg.  The music that crashes and slams against your sensibilities demands attention.  It says, “Sit up and listen to me.  I’ve got something important to say to you.”  It is definitely not “easy-listening” music, would never be background music for an elegant dinner,  but it can be remarkably clear.  This “ugly” music is an exercise for your brain to understand, to learn something new and, believe it or not, eventually, to enjoy.

– E Doyle

Gracias, señor Polo

Muchas gracias, Marco Polo!!!  (Does that count as a mixed metaphor?)  If the great explorer had never made it to China, would we have had to wait a few more centuries to learn about the incredible tradition of Chinese music – or firecrackers, or paper, or gunpowder, for that matter?  But let’s just stick to the music, ok?

If you had the pleasure of attending the concert presented by the Shanghai String Quartet, you heard music I’ll bet you never heard before.  With Wu Man, who is the equivalent of a classical music rock star in Asia, the very polished quartet played evocative, calm music.  Then the quartet launched into Beethoven’s “Serioso” String Quartet in F minor; I suspect they did it just to prove that they are masters of Western music, too.  I think “impeccable” is the word I’m looking for….  Finally, a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

…a modern Chinese composition, Ghost Opera, with its sly asides and rollicking humor, all tied up in a ribbon of marvelous sound.

And let’s discuss this very small Chinese lady with her beautiful Chinese lute.  She is a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement  eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.  And here’s a very good reason to join the SA Chamber Music Society as a Patron:  over dinner, we had the pleasure of making the acquaintance of Honggang Li, the Shanghai Quartet’s magician of the viola.  He spoke about the music, of course, but he also analyzed modern China for us.  He allowed his dinner companions a view of where modern China has come from and where it seems to be headed.
…a ballerina of four strings, each graceful movement eliciting sounds that simply carried the listener to an idealized China.

So muchas gracias, señor Polo!   Not only did we learn about the pipa and the evocative music of China and how these particular musicians came to and mastered Western music, we learned something about China.  I’d call that an afternoon well spent.

– E Doyle

The Shanghai Quartet with Wu Man (Pipa)

Coming to San Antonio on February 28, 2016

Renowned for its passionate musicality, impressive technique and multicultural innovations, the Shanghai Quartet has become one of the world’s foremost chamber ensembles.  Its elegant style melds the delicacy of Eastern music with the emotional breadth of Western repertoire, allowing it to traverse musical genres including traditional Chinese folk music, masterpieces of Western music and cutting-edge contemporary works.

Formed at the Shanghai Conservatory in 1983, the Quartet has worked with the world’s most distinguished artists and regularly tours the major music centers of Europe, North America and Asia. Among innumerable collaborations with noted artists, they have performed with pipa virtuoso Wu Man.

Recognized as the world’s premier pipa virtuoso and leading ambassador of Chinese music, Grammy Award-nominated musician Wu Man has carved out a career as a soloist, educator and composer giving her lute-like instrument—which has a history of over 2,000 years in China—a new role in both traditional and contemporary music. Most recently, she has been featured on the soundtrack of the blockbuster “Kung Fu Panda 3”.

Having been brought up in the Pudong School of pipa playing, one of the most prestigious classical styles of Imperial China, Wu Man is now recognized as an outstanding exponent of the traditional repertoire as well as a leading interpreter of contemporary pipa music by today’s most prominent composers.

During the 2015-16 season, Wu Man embarks on an extensive North American tour with longtime colleagues, the Shanghai Quartet.

“Brilliantly original and inarguably gorgeous.” The Washington Post

“Wu Man is one of the rare musicians who has changed the history of the instrument she plays.” Boston Globe

“A wonderfully ferocious and illuminating performance.” The Washington Post

Members:

Weigang Li (violin)
Yi-Wen Jiang (violin)
Honggang Li (viola)
Nicholas Tzavaras (cello)
Wu Man (pipa)

Program

“Music from Ancient and New China”

YI-WEN JIANG (arr.)
“China Song”

ZHOU LONG
“Song of the Ch’in”
String Quartet

ZHAO LIN
“Red Lantern”, Quintet
for Pipa & String Quartet

-Intermission-

BEETHOVEN
Quartet in f minor, Op.95
“Serioso”

TAN DUN
“Ghost Opera”
Pipa & String Quartet

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

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