A Day in the Life of a Freelance String Quartet

July 20, 2017, 10:34 AM · Many people seem interested in the unvarnished, day-to-day lives of Classical musicians lately (note that Mozart in the Jungle was just recently approved for a fourth season), and that's what inspired me to write the music for an album that depicts A Day in the Life of a Freelance String Quartet.

Beginning before any of our quartet members has awakened, there is the Series of Nightmares After a (the previous) Day of Gigs including traditional gig fare such as Pachelbel's Canon (which in the minor key sounds like the opening of Mahler #1), Handel's Hornpipe from the Water Music, Bach's Jesu Joy of Man's Desiring, and Massenet's Meditation from Thais, as well as remnants from the previous day's bar mitzvah and subsequent party, all of which conspire at the end to crash a cocktail party.

quartet

The conscious day starts with playing one funeral and ends with playing another. In between are two in-school demonstrations with one four-movement piece that introduces each performer with his/her own movement and cadenza (of course to show off the instruments as well) and another one which acquaints the school audience with the different eras of western concert music from the Renaissance to the 20th Century. And since the Wistaria String Quartet and I are based in Hampshire County, Mass., there's even a piece about driving across the county from gig to gig. The album ends with the quartet enjoying a well-deserved and Well-Tempered Beer at the local pub.

Many thanks to the Wistaria String Quartet for doing an excellent job with the music! They were really great to work with. They give a lot of premiere performances of new music, and over the next months they'll be playing some of this music on their concerts (the majority of which was written for them.)

While writing this album, violist and friend Bernie Zaslav (1926-2016) found he was terminally ill. Bernie had a long and distinguished career in all areas of our Classical Music World, beginning in the Cleveland Orchestra under Szell, and ranging from playing the premieres of well-known Broadway shows to a long collaboration with his wife, the excellent pianist Naomi Zaslav, enriching the repertoire available for viola and piano. But Bernie spent most of his career playing string quartets. He was a member of (in alphabetical order) the Carnegie Quartet, the Composers Quartet, the Fine Arts String Quartet, the Kohon String Quartet, the Stanford String Quartet, and the Vermeer String Quartet. I was able to let him know that I would be dedicating this album of quartets to him, the idea of which he liked. With his interest in quartets and great sense of humor, I hope he would have enjoyed the resulting album as well.

As I hope you might! Here are a few links:

This is a link to the album itself at CDBaby

This is a link to the sheet music at Violacentric Publications

Replies

July 21, 2017 at 06:16 AM · Thanks for that article Scott. Given those long lines of tenuous connections that musicians seem to love so much (6 degrees of separation aint got nuthin' on us), and having both your Bach Sonatas and Partitas CD and the Zaslavs' Viola Sonatas CD, I'll have to add the Wistaria String Quartet's CD to my wish list. Besides, string quartets are probably my favourite musical form.

Neil

July 21, 2017 at 05:49 PM · Thanks, Neil, I hope you enjoy the album! It was fun to write, having grown up playing a lot of such gigs. I tried to make most of the music functional--- while I realize that not too many quartets will have much use to play the first and last pieces (about nightmares and beer!), all the ones in the middle are fairly serious and would work quite well as they are used on the album, as in-school demonstrations or music to play at a funeral, etc. Thanks for listening!

July 25, 2017 at 02:02 AM · I don't think Mahler #1 was meant to evoke a funeral: Whilst Frère Jacques is in the major key, my father told me that traditionally Bruder Martin (presumably as sung in Austria and Bohemia where he grew up) is in the minor key. And then, the second subject sounds suspiciously like "Come to the Cookhouse Door, Boys".

So it may really, genuinely only be about getting up in the morning.

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