A preview by Center for the Arts Intern and Music Major Lucia Strother ’11
When you enter Crowell Concert Hall this Friday, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will not be performing traditional guitar repertoire. The vast majority of the pieces the Quartet have chosen to perform were not written for the guitar, much less an ensemble of four guitars. The only two pieces on the program originally written for guitar were actually written specifically for the Quartet by living composers! The industrious Quartet writes all their own arrangements, and I look forward to hearing their refashioned renditions of beloved pieces written for other instruments.
The Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will play Windy, one of Piazzolla’s beloved Argentinian tangos. Piazzolla was a virtuoso bandoneon player (an accordion-like instrument popular in Argentina) and developed his own style called “Nuevo tango,” which combined the traditional tango with elements from jazz and classical music. His widely popular music has been arranged for all kinds of ensembles and instrumentation, and Yo-Yo Ma’s wildly successful 1997 album Soul of the Tango brought the music of Piazzolla to even wider audiences. It will be interesting to hear such familiar music in an ensemble arrangement that is somewhat unusual and unfamiliar to me.
An equally beloved piece, Debussy’s Petite Suite was written in 1889 for piano, four hands, and rewritten by Henri Busser in 1909 for full orchestra. It was written early in Debussy’s career, and its simple yet expressive melodies contrast much of his other work, which is more impressionistic and harmonically adventurous. The unassuming beauty of the four short movements of this piece appeals to wide audiences, so I look forward to hearing another well-known piece reworked for this unique ensemble.
A thread that runs through Friday’s program is the intersection of folk music and classical tradition. Three Finnish Pieces was written by living composer and accordionist Maria Kalaniemi, who was classically trained but focused her attention on performing and composing music based on Finnish folk music. Three Finnish Pieces will certainly satisfy Wesleyan’s population of world music aficionados.
Additionally, Joaquín Rodrigo’s Cuatro Piezas, originally composed for solo piano, extensively incorporates themes from Spanish folk music. It’s interesting to me that the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet would choose this Rodrigo piece to perform, since he composed so much music for guitar and played such a central role in establishing guitar in classical mainstream repertoire. (Interestingly, his Concierto Andaluz is one of the few pieces actually written for an ensemble of four guitars.)
The program will also feature three Baroque trio sonatas, two by Purcell and one by Corelli, both original arrangements by the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. I am eager to see the Quartet’s interpretation of these pieces. I assume that they will perform them on their modern classical guitars, the dimensions of which weren’t established until the 19th century, but it will be interesting to see whether their other musical choices, especially with regards to voicing, attempt to preserve Baroque performance practice or create an altogether different effect.
Finally, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet will also perform two pieces commissioned specifically for them by living composers. A Scottish Fantasy was written in 1996 by David Crittenden, a classical guitarist (formerly a member of the Quartet) and composer based in St. Paul, MN. Additionally, the Quartet will perform Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Ghetto Strings, written in 2001. Roumain is a Haitian-American composer who combines elements of classical music with features from contemporary black popular music. I am excited to hear these two, and I’m sure they’ll be well received since Wesleyan audiences have such a voracious appetite for new music.
Friday, February 18, 8pm
Crowell Concert Hall
$23 general public; $18 seniors, Wesleyan faculty/staff, non-Wesleyan students; $6 Wesleyan students
Pre-concert talk at 7:15pm by Carver Blanchard, Wesleyan Private Lessons Teacher
Master Class with Minneapolis Guitar Quartet, featuring performance by Wesleyan alum Lu Yang ’10
Daltry Room (Rehearsal Studios 003)
Saturday, February 19, noon