Two of the most adventurous ensembles in contemporary American music, The Turtle Island String Quartet and the all-sibling Ying Quartet, will perform selections from their genre-defying collaboration 4 + Four (Telarc Classics) at Washington University’s Edison Theatre.
The special, one-night-only concert begins at 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20, as part of the Edison Theatre OVATIONS! Series. Tickets are $28; $24 for seniors and Washington University faculty and staff; and $18 for students and children.
In addition, Turtle Island will present an all-ages matinee performance of “The Art of the Groove,” a cross-cultural musical journey ranging from Vivaldi to Jimmy Hendrix, as part of the ovations! for young people series at 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21. Tickets are $7.
Edison Theatre is located in the Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd. Tickets are available at the Edison Theatre Box Office and through all MetroTix outlets. For more information, call (314) 935-6543.
4 + Four was recently nominated for a Grammy Award, for Best Crossover Classical Album. The 48th Annual Grammy Awards will be broadcast Wednesday, Feb. 8, 2006, on CBS.
4 + Four explores the intersection of jazz improvisation and string quartet traditions through a variety of classic and original works.
The program opens with the Ying Quartet performing Felix Mendelssohn’s Quartet in E Flat Major, Op. 44, No. 3, a bravura composition whose quick, spontaneous-seeming themes and motifs — particularly the light-hearted scherzo movement — demand an exceptional level of craft. Following individual selections from Turtle Island (to be announced from the stage), the two quartets will join forces for Darius Milhaud’s 1923 ballet The Creation of the World, one of the first concert pieces to combine jazz and classical music, followed by Julie-O, an original work for two cellos by Turtle Island cellist Mark Summer.
The program continues with Mara’s Garden Of False Delights, an original three-part suite by David Balakrishnan, Turtle Island’s violinist and principal composer. Based on an episode from the life of the Buddha — in which Mara, the king of demons, seeks to deflect enlightenment with a parade of pleasures — the piece highlights the diverse strengths of each player through a complex interweaving of jazz, classical and Indian elements.
The program concludes with Variations on an Unoriginal Theme, an original work (despite its title) by Turtle Island violinist Evan Price. The piece functions as both a brief history of the string quartet and as a good-natured “battle of the bands.” Listeners are invited to cheer their favorite group as the opening, Haydnesque theme morphs into an Irish jig, a Mendelssohn scherzo, a gospel shout, a delicate Ravelian tableau, a Cuban mambo and even a bit of James Brown funk.
Turtle Island String Quartet
Founded in 1985, the Turtle Island String Quartet helped pioneer ‘alternative’ chamber music and was the first classically trained string ensemble to make extensive use of jazz improvisation in their recordings and live concerts. The group takes its name from Native American folklore — “Turtle Island” refers to the North American continent — and consists of Balakrishnan, Price and Summer (cello) as well as violist Mads Tolling.
Over the years, Turtle Island has pioneered a unique repertoire that ranges from bebop standards to jazz-inspired “re-compositions” of classical works to American “vernacular” styles such as folk, bluegrass, hip-hop and rock. In addition, the group has developed a large catalog of original compositions and recorded more than a dozen CDs, including Art of the Groove (2000) and Danzon (2002).
No less a contemporary than Yo Yo Ma praises them as “a unified voice that truly breaks new ground – authentic and passionate – a reflection of some of the most creative music-making today.”
Natives of Chicago, the Ying siblings — cellist David, violist Phillip and violinists Janet and Timothy — began their musical career in 1992 in the farm town of Jesup, Iowa (population 2000) as the first artists to participate in the National Endowment for the Arts Chamber Music Rural Residencies Program.
Now Quartet in Residence at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester, the Yings have performed at major festivals and venues around the world and established themselves as one of America’s premiere young ensembles. In 1999, they launched LifeMusic, a commissioning project designed to produce a distinctively American string quartet repertoire, which to date has produced almost a dozen works by contemporary American composers. At the same time, the Yings honor their own heritage through “Musical Dim Sum,” a series of programs featuring short works by Chinese American composers and commissioned works by composers of Chinese background.
Edison Theatre’s OVATIONS! Series serves both Washington University and the St. Louis community by providing the highest caliber national and international artists in music, dance and theater, performing new works as well as innovative interpretations of classical material not otherwise seen in St. Louis. Focusing on presentations that are interdisciplinary, multicultural and/or experimental, Edison Theatre presents work intended to challenge, educate and inspire.
Edison Theatre programs are made possible with support from the Missouri Arts Council, a state agency; the Regional Arts Commission, St. Louis; and the Arts & Education Council of Greater St. Louis.
WHO: Turtle Island String Quartet and Ying Quartet
WHAT: Concert, 4 + Four
WHEN: OVATIONS!: 8 p.m. Friday, Jan. 20; ovations! for young people: 11 a.m. Saturday, Jan. 21
WHERE: Edison Theatre, Washington University, Mallinckrodt Student Center, 6445 Forsyth Blvd.
TICKETS: OVATIONS!: $28; $24 for seniors and WUSTL faculty and staff; $18 for students. ovations! for young people: $7. Available through the Edison Theatre Box Office, (314) 935-6543, and all MetroTix outlets