Saxes, strings join in premiere

Chautauquan Daily

by Jennifer Darrell
Staff Writer

A world premiere performance will take place tonight at 8:15 p.m. in the Amphitheater. The Amherst Saxophone Quartet joins with the Arcata String Quartet for the debut performance of composer Paul Seiko Chihara's octet entitled "Forever Escher."

Paul Chihara
Seattle-born Chihara received his D.M.A. from Cornell University in 1965. In addition to studying with Robert Palmer at Cornell, his principal teachers were Nadia Boulanger, with whom he studied in Paris and won the Lili Boulanger Memorial Award, Ernst Pepping in Berlin and Gunther Schuller at Tanglewood. He also held the position of Composer-in-Residence with Toru Takemitsu at the 1971 Marlboro Music Festival.

Chihara has won numerous awards for his concert works, which are concerned with the evolution and expression of highly contrasting colors, textures and emotional levels, often dramatically juxtaposed with one another.

In addition to composing concert works that have received acclaim both nationally and internationally, Chihara has composed music for over 80 motion pictures and series for television. Some such credits include "Prince of the City," "The Morning After," "Crossing Delancey,' "China Beach," and "Brave New World." On Broadway, he served as musical consultant and arranger for Duke Ellington's "Sophisticated Ladies" and was the composer for James Clavell's "SHOGUN the Musical." Currently, Chihara is Professor of Music at UCLA.

The title of his work came after the piece was completed, Chihara explained. Until he decided that "Forever Escher" accurately described both the surface and emotional content of the work, the composer referred to it simply as "Double Quartet." The title refers to Dutch printmaker, M.C. Escher, who is famous for his "metamorphosing" artworks. Chihara compares his work to that of Escher's because, in the composer's words, "Escher was thinking and conceptualizing then the way we do now."

He compared the form of the octet to Escher's "Metamorphosis II," a woodcut measuring approximately seven inches high by 157 inches long. Comprised of images of bees that become fish, then birds, and so on, the significance of the work is that it ends in the same way it began.

Similarly, Chihara's four-movements begin and end on the same pitch, middle C, with "morphing" sections in between. Chihara also noted that "Forever Escher" contains many harmonic references to Debussy's Prelude a l'apres-midi d'un Faune, and, like Debussy's symphonic poem, makes use of antique cymbals near the end of his piece. The final movement also contains French tempi markings, another way of acknowledging the French composer.

Amherst Saxophone Quartet
From Maine to Japan, from "The Tonight Show" to the Bermuda Triangle (and back), the Amherst Saxophone Quartet has been venerated for their "scintillating virtuosity, superb musicianship and, of course, built-in sax appeal." The Buffalo-based group's current line-up includes Susan Fancher, Russ Carere, Stephen Rosenthal and Harry Fackelman. Since its inception in 1978, the quartet has performed internationally, sharing its love for the saxophone ensemble and its desire to build the repertoire for the saxophone quartet. This desire led the musicians to commission the octet from Chihara that will be premiered tonight with the Arcata String Quartet.

Arcata String Quartet
Founded in 1993 at the Manhattan School of Music, the Arcata String Quartet includes violinists Marjorie Bagley and Christopher Takeda, violist Brant Bayless, and cellist Michael Carrera. The young ensemble has developed a varied repertoire, ranging from the standards of string quartet literature to world premiere pieces, including tonight's collaborative performance. In the past, the group has premiered works by various composers, including Pulitzer Prize nominee Judith Shatin, Nils Vigeland and David Noonl. They have endeavored to bring a rarely heard geme to the public by including in their repertoire various quartet concerti by Schoenberg, Spohr, Martinu and Piston. The quartet acknowledges members of the Tokyo String Quartet, Pinchas Zukerman, David Geber, Isidore Cohen and Marta Istomin for their "influential teaching and ardent support."

The Arcata String Quartet will open the evening's program with a performance of Antonin Dvorak's String Quartet No.12, better known as "The American," followed by Alexander Glazunov's Quartet for Saxophones, Op.109, performed by the Amherst Saxophone Quartet. The two quartets will join for the world premiere performance of Paul Seiko Chihara's octet, "Forever Escher," following an intermission.


Saxes, strings join in premiere: Forever Escher for String & Sax Quartets
Saxes, strings join in premiere: Forever Escher for String & Sax Quartets
Saxes, strings join in premiere: Forever Escher for String & Sax Quartets