Dennis Rooney attends the Kaufmann Auditorium, 92nd Street Y, NY, on 15 March 2022 for a concert of Boccherini, Osvaldo Golijov, Clarice Assad, Caroline Shaw, Colin Jacobsen and Lev Zhurbin
Brooklyn Rider is the unconventional name for a string quartet established 15 years ago with a focus on crossing musical genres. This Kaufmann Concert Hall programme featured six new works and one old one, all unfamiliar. Mandolinist Avi Avital joined the group for the opener, Boccherini’s evocative moonlit journey for string quintet, La musica notturna delle strade di Madrid. Avital’s mandolin lent some new colours and the players obviously enjoyed themselves. Avital then played Prelude by the Italian cellist and composer Giovanni Sollima (b.1962) which, though originally for solo cello, sounded thoroughly idiomatic on the mandolin.
Entr’acte for string quartet by Caroline Shaw (b.1982) dates from 2011 and was inspired by a performance of a Haydn quartet; the result is an imaginative study in sonority, using techniques such as homophony, pizzicato and ostinato. Avital returned for Time and Again, a recent work by Brooklyn Rider’s co-founder and leader, Colin Jacobsen (b.1978) in which three musical ideas are elaborated in an extended sonata form, but the character of the work is a freewheeling mélange of Balkan, Greek and Turkish styles interspersed with more freely atonal writing.
The Afro-Brazilian religion Umbanda inspired Obrigado (2011) by Brazilian composer Clarice Assad (b.1978), an eleven-movement suite that depicts a succession of deities and their particular qualities. Chant melodies, set against varied rhythms, and some complex but often popular dances produced an attractive vehicle for an engaging performance. The premiere of Arum der Fayer (‘Around the Fire’) by Osvaldo Golijov (b.1960) followed, in which a Yiddish song was treated sequentially; this prompted from the players a vigorously virtuosic performance, as did the piece by Lev Zhurbin (b.1978), which concluded the programme. The players returned for Little Birdie, arranged by Pete Seeger, as a brief encore.