Monday, August 26, 2019

Friction Quartet and Sarah Cahill, Together at Last

The marvelous Friction Quartet unveiled Part Two of their world premiere commissioning initiative at San Francisco's Old First Church a couple of Fridays ago. Pictured above are violinist Otis Harriel, violist Lucia Kobza, cellist Douglas Machiz, and violinist Kevin Rogers.

They started with ABACISCUS by Englishman Geoffrey Gordon from 2013, which they also performed at the Center for New Music in the first installment of the commissioning initiative. Having heard the piece twice now, I have to admit that I find Kevin Rogers' introduction to the energetic, fractured, four-movement work more interesting than the actual music.

Joining the quartet in a public performance for the first time was Lucia Kobza, replacing longtime violist Taija Werbelow. Musically, she seemed to blend in without a hitch.

The world premiere of Piers Hallawell's Family Group with Aliens was introduced by the British composer himself. Unlike most of his brethren, he was a wonderful explainer of his own music, and funny besides, explaining that there were three movements to the quartet that were like members of a family wedding party and the "aliens" were the in-laws and cousins commenting on the family. The six movements are written with the instruction that the performers can play them in any order they want, as long as a family movement is paired with an alien. The work is dense, witty and all over the place, and I really enjoyed it. In a 21st century wonder, a YouTube video of the Friction performance has already been posted, and you can hear it yourself by clicking here.

Douglas Machhiz introduced the final commission, The Gila: River, Mesa, and Mountain, a piano quintet by Max Stoffregen featuring guest artist Sarah Cahill. After the rather frenzied intellectual virtuosities of the English Invasion before it, the work was soft, dreamy and delightful, taking you along with the composer on a marathon Southwestern hike. There's a YouTube video of this performance too, which you can hear/see by clicking here.

It was lovely seeing some of my favorite musicians playing together for the first time. Pictured above are violinist Otis Harriel and pianist Sarah Cahill, and Old First Church was a genial concert setting for the group.

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