Thursday, October 02, 2014
California Culture 6: SFMusic Day
This is the final installment of the the Cali Kultur series detailing events that happened over the span of five days. This brings me to the conclusion that there are very few places in the world right now offering the breadth of homegrown cultural activities that are happening in the Bay Area, particularly in the musical realm. It's a golden moment for audiences, performers, and composers that is arriving at some kind of critical mass. On the same Sunday as the Arts in Nature Festival, the San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music presented their day-long, free roster of performing groups at the San Francisco Conservatory in three separate concert halls. I caught the last 90 minutes of the ambitious three-ring circus, starting with a pleasant performance by Trio 180 above (Ann Miller on violin, Nina Flyer on viola, Sonia Leong on piano) playing a Dvorak piece.
Then we ran upstairs to hear Nonsemble 6 (Amy Foote, vocalist; Annie Phillips, bass clarinet; Crystal Pascucci, cello; Kevin Rogers, violin; Sasha Launer, flute; Andy Meyerson, vibraphone) play a Frederic Rzewski piece but they swapped it out for a world premiere by Brent Miller, one of the two founders of the Center for New Music. Together with Adam Fong, Miller has created one of the most important nodes in this golden age, subletting space on Taylor Street in the heart of the Tenderloin to arts organizations such as SF Friends of Chamber Music. In other words, a network is being created in front of our eyes.
The Miller piece was an improvisatory work for everyone but vocalist Amy Foote who conducted the timing for the next musical cell to commence, anchored by a clarion announcement on the vibraphone. In a wonderful coup de theatre, Foote sang for the last five minutes of the 20-minute piece, sounding vaguely, pleasingly like a Middle Eastern soloist which fit with the accompanying music. In fact, it would have been wonderful to hear this music being performed during the dancing girl scenes of Son of the Sheik at the Castro Theater the day before.
The consistently brilliant violinist Kevin Rogers above played like a man possessed and it was quite a performance topped only by his appearance in a concert hall down a flight of stairs in a new shirt ten minutes later.
He was appearing as a member of the Friction Quartet with Taija Warvelow on viola, Otis Harriel on violin, and Doug Machis on cello.
They kept their chatting to a minimum because they were performing the 28-minute John Adams String Quartet in a 30-minute window.
The piece was composed by Adams for the St. Lawrence String Quartet in 2008 after he heard them performing John's Book of Alleged Dances, a brilliantly amusing set of tunes for string quartet and an electronic click track that features a paean to the N Judah Muni train.
I heard the St. Lawrence String Quartet perform the String Quartet in 2010 at Davies Symphony Hall and found it impenetrable. Maybe because the Friction Quartet was playing in a small concert hall where the music belongs, but this was a superior performance in every way imaginable. The Friction Quartet is seriously great, and if they stick together, are on their way to an interesting professional career.