On the evening of Nov. 13, the string quartet that provocatively calls itself Brooklyn Rider made a local musical stop on the stage of Rollins College’s Tiedtke Hall.
The excellence of the Brookyners’ playing was never in doubt, and was clinched, once and for all, with a memorable performance of Antonin Dvorak’s “American” quartet, a piece that demands not only virtuosity from the quartet’s players, but individual and collective beauty of interpretation and sound, as well.
When the Brooklyn visitors finally locate a melody, they know well what to do with it, and this hearer for one, responded in a spirit of premature Thanksgiving.
The evening began with a group of Armenian folk song concoctions “preserved” by beloved priest Komitas Vartapet and arranged by Sergey Aslamazian. Bits and pieces of melodically slim music titled “Dance”, “Harvest Song”, “Cloudy”, “Festive Song” and “The Partridge” are bucolic, modal remnants of the folk art of a fast disappearing people.
The program featured a John Cage work called “In a Landscape,” a study in ennui in which insistently repetitious figures are patently intended to mesmerize an audience. Cages’ dissonance is here relatively nonaggressive and ruffles few traditional feathers. Brooklyn Rider’s second violinist, Colin Jacobsen, is responsible for the piece called “Brooklesca,” in which sounds that one is “likely to hear” in Brooklyn are musically represented. Jacobsen includes snips of klezmer, rock and roll, jazz and various Middle Eastern references in what terminates as ear-shattering arguments that — like most arguments — come to no logically productive end. Overall “Brooklesca” tends to be dry and lacking in emotional appeal. Despite its occasional fun, the piece looses itself in its exaggerated length.
The post-intermission Dvorak “American” quartet highlighted the enormous gift of this Czechish composer to the America, which he loved. Fortunately for us all, he chose to honor us with one of the most melodious of all musical spirits.
The evening ended with another Colin Jacobsen composition, “Sheriff’s Sorrow, Sheriff’s Joy”, which combined, for no particular reason, examples of modal passages, energetic syncopation, jazz licks, hoedown and bluegrass riffs, all of which judiciously stops when it does.
This gusto-filled program evokes once again the thanks of this commentator to Rollins College for its continuous and generous contributions to the culture life of Winter Park.