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“Perfection may be an impossible goal in art, as in life, but the Brentano comes close.” —Cleveland Plain Dealer

“By now, there can be no doubt that pianist-composer Iyer stands among the most daringly original jazz artists of [his] generation.” —Chicago Tribune

JUST ADDED! Join us for a pre-concert conversation about music and the brain at 7 pm with Vijay Iyer, violinist Mark Steinberg of the Brentano String Quartet and Ian Quinn of Yale University, moderated by Hanna Arie-Gaifman of 92nd Street Y.

Exclusive New York engagement
Brentano String Quartet
       Mark Steinberg, violin
       Serena Canin, violin
       Misha Amory, viola
       Nina Lee, cello
Vijay Iyer, piano

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in D major, Op. 18, No. 3
IYER: Time, Place, Action for Piano and Strings (New York premiere, 92Y co-commission)
BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2

The concert is approximately 1 hour and 40 minutes.

Tonight’s concert is being webcast live on 92YOnDemand.org.

 

92Y Concerts Presents New Music by Vijay Iyer was supported by New Music USA, made possible by annual program support and/or endowment gifts from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, Rockefeller Brothers Fund, William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, Francis Goelet Charitable Lead Trusts, Anonymous.

This event is part of the 7 Days of Genius series.

7 Days of Genius receives generous support from individuals and organizations, including the John Templeton Foundation.

Brentano String Quartet plays Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 130, IV, Alla danza tedesca at Princeton University, April 2012.

WQXR Café Concert: Brentano String Quartet performing Schubert’s Quartettstatz in C minor, D. 703.

A visualization of the Brentano String Quartet’s “Fragments” Project, in which active composers are invited to write works related to fragmentary works by earlier composers, done in a drawing class at Dartmouth University.

Vijay Iyer’s own YouTube Channel.

The MacArthur Foundation presents a video interview with Vijay Iyer after naming him a 2013 MacArthur Fellow (aka the “genius” grant).

Vijay Iyer discusses his commission for a piano quintet which he will perform with the Brentano String Quartet at 92Y in its New York premiere.

#tweetngreet—Vijay Iyer answers 3 questions from Twitter fans at the 2013 Vancouver International Jazz Festival.

Behind-the-scenes video by the Asia Society on Vijay Iyer and his trio Tirtha (with Prasanna on guitar/vocals and Nitin Mitta on tabla) and his efforts to connect with his South Asian heritage.

Vijay Iyer Trio (with Stephan Crump on bass, Marcus Gilmore on drums) Iyer’s Segment for Sentiment/Galang at ECHO Jazz 2010 in Bochum, Germany, May 4, 2010.

On the Blog

(Click the names below to expand info)

From 92Y.Tumblr.com:



The Brentano String Quartet and Vijay Iyer give the world premiere of Time, Place, Action for Da Camera of Houston, Feb 15, 2014. Picture from Twitter user @theeastenders.

A new piece takes flight at 92Y

Grammy-nominated composer-pianist Vijay Iyer comes to 92Y this Saturday to give the New York premiere of his new work, Time, Place, Action, for Piano and Strings, with the Brentano String Quartet. The music is inspired in part by the improvisation dance form, “flocking,” where a group takes its collective cue from a leader, like birds in migration.

Yet throughout the piece, Iyer notes that performers may add their own dynamic, rhythm and energy through interpretation, making each performance thoroughly unique. Check out this exclusive preview of the score of Time, Space, Action, and be sure to join us Saturday to see and hear what “flocking” is all about!

Click the image below to view a gallery of the score.

 

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From dfw.com:


Tune in for much more from the Brentano String Quartet”—Interview with Brentano violinist Serena Canin by Punch Shaw for Dallas-Ft. Worth lifestyle website, as the resident ensemble of the Van Cliburn Competition and on the area screening of A Late Quartet. Here is an excerpt:

How did the affiliation with Cliburn come about?

It was pretty much out of the blue. We didn't expect it. But we were thrilled at the idea of being part of something so important. And it will be so interesting to meet all these different pianists and deal with all those different styles. It's going to be a very interesting challenge. No two pianists will be the same. But I'm looking forward to that aspect of it. I think I will need a different colored pencil [for marking scores] for each one.

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From nytimes.com:


New York Times review by Allan Kozinn of the Brentano String Quartet’s concert at Carnegie Hall on March 22, 2012, which featured its “Fragments” project. Here is an excerpt:

The Brentano players closed the program with Bartók’s String Quartet No. 1. The work has come down to us complete and was offered here in a passionate account that thrived on the tight interplay and rich hues that are among this ensemble’s trademarks.

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From opusonereview.com:


Review by Stanley Fefferman of the Brentano String Quartet’s concert during this summer’s Toronto Summer Music Festival. The program included Beethoven’s String Quartet in D major, Op.18. No. 3, which will be heard on the Brentano’s second 92Y concert, on Mar 1, 2014. Here is an excerpt:

The musical lilt that distinguishes the Brentano’s insight into this particular Beethoven returned in the finale, animated their tight unison work, and moved the audience to shout out their pleasure.

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From nytimes.com:


“A Jazz Pianist who Specializes in Disorientation”—The New York Times review by Nate Chinen of Vijay Iyer’s concert in Zenkel Hall on April 27, 2013. Here’s an excerpt:

Disorientation, precise and knowing, is a proven method of engagement for Mr. Iyer, 41, who has recently made the transition from a highly regarded jazz outlier to one of its ascendant pacesetters. But his approach to “Body and Soul,” once the theme emerged, wasn’t scrambled so much as gently reframed.

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From mprnews.org:


“Vijay Iyer, An American Treasure”—Minnesota Public Radio News review of Mr. Iyer’s concerts at the Walker Art Center; includes video interview with Mr. Iyer, Mar 2, 2012. Here’s an excerpt:

Iyer delivered a master class in improvisation on solo piano, introducing fragments of melody and engaging listeners emotionally before exploring his themes with artful repetition and variations. His playing on the Monk tune “Work” was a nod not just to history and his musical hero, but also to the master’s enduring legacy.

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From vijay-iyer.com:


Writings by Vijay Iyer on a wide range of topics, including an article on Thelonius Monk for Jazz Times, Jan/Feb 2010. Here’s an excerpt:

Monk was an architect of feeling. His tunes were slick, inhabitable little rooms that warmed the heart with their odd angles and bright colors. Somehow he knew exactly how to make you feel good—and I mean exactly, as if it were medicine, or gastronomy, or massage, or feng shui.

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Explore the Music

(Click the names below to expand info.)

BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in D major, Op. 18, No. 3

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN

Born Bonn, baptized December 17, 1770; died Vienna, March 26, 1827
String Quartet in D major, Op. 18, No. 3
Composed in 1798–1800; 24 minutes

Beethoven’s 16 string quartets, written between 1798–1827, constitute a kind of musical Mount Everest, a towering achievement that has inspired and intimidated composers for more than two centuries. Robert Schumann, whose Op. 41 Quartets of 1842 are deeply indebted to Beethoven’s, declared that the genre had “come to a standstill” since Beethoven’s death; the “immortal freshness” of his quartets, along with those of Mozart and Haydn, continued to “gladden the hearts of everyone.” Unfortunately, Schumann lamented, the younger generation had proven incapable of producing anything of comparable quality. Indeed, with the possible exception of Dmitri Shostakovich in the 20th century, no other composer has so consistently used the string quartet as a vehicle for working out musical ideas in their most concentrated and intensely personal form.

From the moment he arrived in Vienna in late 1792, shortly before his 22nd birthday, Beethoven set out to prove that he was a force to be reckoned with. Probably hoping to curry favor with his well-heeled patrons, he chose three mild-mannered piano trios as his first published works. Meanwhile, he copied out several of Haydn’s and Mozart’s string quartets, studying their methods of composition and biding his time until he felt prepared to enter the field. Both the six Op. 18 Quartets and the “Harp” Quartet, Op. 74, were dedicated to Prince Joseph Lobkowitz, Vienna’s foremost patron of the arts in the early 19th century. Beethoven began sketching the Op. 18 set in 1798 and presented the manuscript to Lobkowitz two years later; he told a friend that he had “only just learned to write quartets properly.” What the prince made of Beethoven’s music is not recorded, but one contemporary reviewer characterized the Op. 18 Quartets as “very difficult to perform and not at all popular,” a judgment to which history has given the lie.

The D-major Quartet came first in order of composition and set a high bar for Beethoven’s initial foray into the genre. Although he acknowledges his debt to Mozart and Haydn—most transparently in the suave symmetry of the opening sonata-form Allegro and the rambunctious high spirits of the final Presto—it’s clear from the outset that Beethoven is determined to blaze an independent trail. The first violin starts the journey off with a languorous leap of a seventh, A to G, soon to be echoed in the lower voices. This expansive gesture ushers in a cascade of rippling 8th notes that grows increasingly animated and rhythmically defined. Stabbing accents are transformed into gently nudging syncopations in the movement’s bouncy second theme, and Beethoven proceeds to weave these contrasting ideas into a multistranded sonic tapestry that is alternately dreamy and crisply athletic.

Like the Allegro, the second movement rests on a simple foundation—in this case, a tenderly swelling melody in B-flat major. First heard in the sultry contralto register of the second violin, the ubiquitous four-note figure and its inversion, or mirror image, infuse the Andante con moto with an aura of longing and mystery that anticipates Beethoven’s later slow movements. In the scherzo-like third movement, again marked Allegro, a sense of urgency lurks behind the music’s lilting triple-time insouciance. It comes to the fore in the restless minor-mode middle section, when the violins take turns spinning gossamer webs of 8th notes on a sturdy framework of steadily descending thirds. The scintillating finale takes off lickety-split, with the first violin introducing a zesty 6/8 theme whose metrical ambiguity playfully masks the downbeat. Even after the music finally settles into a more or less regular gait, Beethoven continues to keep the listener off balance with angular leaps, sharp accents and sudden changes of dynamics.

© 2013 Harry Haskell

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IYER: Time, Place, Action for Piano and Strings (New York premiere, 92Y co-commission)

VIJAY IYER

Born in Albany, New York, October 26, 1971
Time, Place, Action for Piano and Strings (New York premiere, 92Y co-commission)
Composed in 2013–2014; 30 minutes

Although he is best known as a jazz pianist and composer, Vijay Iyer defies easy categorization. He once described the saxophonist Roscoe Mitchell, a founding member of the avant-garde Art Ensemble of Chicago—in terms that apply equally to himself—as “an intrepid sonic explorer in poignant performative dialogue with his instrument, creating music out of the experiential process of making sound.” In Iyer’s view, the experience of sound in time is as fundamental to the improvisatory tradition of jazz as to the more meticulously codified forms and procedures of Western and Indian classical music.

The son of Tamil immigrants to the US, Iyer was pursuing a doctorate in physics at the University of California at Berkeley when he made the decision to devote his life to music instead. Since then, what he calls the “aliveness” of jazz as a communicative art form has been the driving force behind a diverse body of work that ranges from the multimedia work Holding It Down, based on the dreams of veterans of color from America’s wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, to the jazz trio album Historicity, and the classically inspired Mozart Effects, written for the Brentano String Quartet in 2011. His first classical recording, Mutations for string quartet, piano and electronics, will be released on ECM Records (his first for that label) on March 4.

Iyer’s new multi-movement piano quintet, Time, Place, Action—which is dedicated to the memory of poet Amiri Baraka, who died this past January 9—characteristically blends elements of improvisation and written-out music. As Iyer explains in a note, he aimed to put “the spirit of real-time invention in dialogue with the meticulous interpretative art of the string quartet.” Both the skeletal piano part and the strings’ more precisely notated music allow the players considerable freedom of expression. He goes on to write:

What the two approaches have in common is a focus on the experience of sound in time; the priority in both cases is not only the articulation of form, but also a heightened attention to moment-to-moment interaction and the flow of aural sensation.

That zone (between score and experience, let’s say) is where this piece is meant to dwell. In the best cases, composed material offers an opportunity for the performers’ own dynamic, interpersonal expressions of tone, texture, rhythm and energy, which are then put to use to highlight aspects of the compositional shape. These embodied realities of music—the human actions in time and place, which we as listeners hear, react to and empathize with “from the inside,” as one neuroscientist put it—make performers more than mere interchangeable conduits for a composer’s intent. As a composer, I embrace those human realities; for me, composition is meant to serve performance, not vice versa. By highlighting the intentionality of the sound-making process, I strive to embrace each performer’s selfhood.

In this piece, notated sections open up and transform through various real–time decision processes. The piano part is specified mostly in a skeletal form; as in much of the music I play, my role here consists of choices made and executed in the moment, in dialogue with the details of the composition. The harmonic language, derived from various overtone and undertone series related to the open strings, seeks to maximize resonance; this alternates with a more gestural vocabulary derived from my improvisational language. The overall shape is a mix-tape: a series of juxtaposed episodes through which a larger story emerges.

Time, Place, Action was commissioned jointly by Da Camera of Houston, 92nd Street Y, Chamber Music Society of Detroit and San Francisco Performances for the Brentano String Quartet and Vijay Iyer. The world premiere was given this past February 15 in Houston.

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BEETHOVEN: String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2

LUDWIG VON BEETHOVEN

String Quartet in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2
Composed in 1806; 33 minutes

Beethoven’s biographer Lewis Lockwood describes the three “Razumovsky” Quartets, Op. 59, as a “continental divide” in the history of the string quartet. Behind them stood the towering peaks of the Viennese Classical school, epitomized by Haydn and Mozart; ahead lay the as-yet-uncharted territory of Mendelssohn, Schumann and Brahms. The Op. 59 set—commissioned by Count Andreas Razumovsky, Russia’s ambassador to the court of Vienna, and speedily completed within a few months in 1806—marked a watershed in Beethoven’s artistic development as well. Like the “Eroica” Symphony, the “Appassionata” Sonata and the opera Fidelio, the “Razumovskys” exemplify the “heroic” and boldly unconventional style of Beethoven’s so-called middle period. The Mozartean classicism of his six Op. 18 Quartets belonged to a different world, and the introspective, convoluted language of his late quartets lay just around the corner.

An intense, brooding mood is evident from the outset of the E-minor Quartet. The Allegro opens with a sinuous two-bar motif that is immediately repeated one step higher, then flowers into a profusion of 16th notes. After the elaborate development section, in which material from the exposition recurs in various guises, a searching coda brings the movement to a quiet E-minor cadence. The Molto adagio, which Beethoven indicates is to be played “with much feeling,” cloaks us in the warmth of E major, its long-breathed melodic lines juxtaposed with crisply dotted rhythms. (Beethoven is said to have conceived this beautiful slow movement while gazing at the stars and ruminating on the “music of the spheres.”) The scherzo-like Allegretto starts in the minor mode and switches to major in mid-course, with a perky Russian folk tune darting in and out of the musical fabric. (Mussorgsky later used this theme in the Coronation Scene of Boris Godunov.) The exuberant Finale explores two contrasting ideas: a swaggering, dancelike melody, set against chugging rhythms in the lower strings, and a smoother, rising motif.

Predictably, reaction to Beethoven’s “Razumovsky” Quartets ranged from bemusement to outright hostility. According to the pianist Carl Czerny, when the illustrious ensemble led by violinist Ignaz Schuppanzigh read through the first piece in the set, the four players “laughed and were convinced that Beethoven was playing a joke and that it was not the quartet which had been promised.” The great Russian cellist Bernhard Romberg, upon discovering that he had nothing to play at the beginning of a certain movement but repeated B-flats, reportedly flung the music on the floor and trampled on it. Beethoven was not unduly perturbed by such displays of incomprehension. The Op. 59 Quartets, he informed one of his critics, “are not for you, but for another age.”

© 2013 Harry Haskell

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Artist Bios

Brentano String Quartet

Since its inception in 1992, the Brentano String Quartet has appeared throughout the world to popular and critical acclaim. Beginning in July, the Quartet (Mark Steinberg, violin; Serena Canin, violin; Misha Amory, viola; Nina Lee, cello) will succeed the Tokyo String Quartet as artists in residence at Yale University, following a 14-year residency at Princeton University. The Quartet also currently serves as the collaborative ensemble for the Van Cliburn International Piano Competition.

The Quartet has traveled widely around the world, appearing in the most prestigious venues, including New York’s Carnegie and Alice Tully halls; Washington, DC’s Library of Congress; Amsterdam’s Concertgebouw; Vienna’s Konzerthaus; Tokyo’s Suntory Hall; and the Sydney Opera House. The Quartet has participated in summer festivals such as Aspen, the Music Academy of the West in Santa Barbara, the Edinburgh Festival, the Kuhmo Festival in Finland and the Caramoor Festival, as well as the Taos School of Music Festival.

In addition to performing the entire standard quartet repertoire, the Brentano String Quartet has a strong interest in both very old and very new music. It has performed many musical works pre-dating the string quartet as a medium, among them madrigals of Gesualdo, fantasias of Purcell, and secular vocal works of Josquin. At the same time, the Quartet has worked closely with some of the most important composers of our time, among them Elliott Carter, Charles Wuorinen and György Kurtág.

Last spring Aeon Records released the second in a set of three Brentano CDs of the late Beethoven Quartets. Other Brentano recordings include a Mozart album, also for Aeon, and the Op. 71 Quartets of Haydn. In the area of newer music, the Quartet has released an all-Steven Mackey disc on Albany Records, and has recorded music by Wuorinen, Bruce Adolphe and Chou Wen-chung. In 2012 the Quartet was heard providing the central music of Beethoven’s String Quartet in C-sharp minor, Op. 131, for the acclaimed 2012 independent film, A Late Quartet.

Within a few years of its formation, the Brentano String Quartet garnered the first Cleveland Quartet Award and the Naumburg Chamber Music Award. The Quartet is named for Antonie Brentano, whom many scholars consider to be Beethoven’s “Immortal Beloved.” Its website is brentanoquartet.com.

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Vijay Iyer, piano

Grammy-nominated composer–pianist Vijay Iyer (pronounced “VID-jay EYE-yer”) has been hailed around the world as one of the most interesting, innovative and talented young figures in jazz today. His most recent honors include a 2013 MacArthur “genius” fellowship, an unprecedented “quintuple crown” in the 2012 Down Beat International Critics Poll (winning Jazz Artist of the Year, Pianist of the Year, Jazz Album of the Year, Jazz Group of the Year and Rising Star Composer categories), a “quadruple crown” in the JazzTimes extended critics poll (winning Artist of the Year, Acoustic/Mainstream Group of the Year, Pianist of the Year and Album of the Year), the Pianist of the Year Awards for both 2012 and 2013 from the Jazz Journalists Association, the 2013 ECHO Award (the “German Grammy”) for best international pianist, the Doris Duke Performing Artist Award, the Greenfield Prize, a spot on GQ India’s list of “50 most influential global Indians,” and cover features in Down Beat and JazzTimes magazines.

A polymath whose career has spanned the sciences, the humanities and the arts, Mr. Iyer received an interdisciplinary Ph.D. in the cognitive science of music from the University of California at Berkeley. A committed mentor to emerging artists, Mr. Iyer has joined the Faculty of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University as the first Franklin D. and Florence Rosenblatt Professor of the Arts, and he directs the Banff Centre's International Workshop in Jazz and Creative Music.

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