PREVIEW: Itzhak Perlman and Friends

There are many versions of Itzhak Perlman floating around in popular culture. For many, he is the iconic, gutwrenching violin solo from Schindler’s List. For concertgoers, he is an international rockstar, having played with every major orchestra and venue out there. For students and music enthusiasts alike, his recordings are textbook–and the recipient of 16 Grammy awards. 

Despite his decorated career, Perlman has always maintained a warm, friendly personality. For his 12th UMS-sponsored visit to Hill Auditorium this Saturday evening, he is bringing along several “friends” (a.k.a highly renowned pianists Emanuel Ax and Jean-Yves Thibaudet as well as the Julliard String Quartet) for an Avengers-esque mixed chamber music performance. 

Apart from the big names coming together in this performance, I am excited to experience more types of chamber music. The program will feature Jean-Marie Leclaire’s Sonata for Two Violins in e minor, Mozart’s Piano Quartet No. 2, and Ernest Chausson’s Concert for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet. While I played in my own quartet throughout high school, anything beyond the standard 4-part instrumentation is totally beyond my scope of knowledge!

REVIEW: Takács Quartet with Julien Labro

Coming to this performance has reminded me of how remarkably similar listening to new music is to meeting new people. If you come into the interaction without any background knowledge—their origin, their influences, their motive—you might spend the whole time confused, struggling to construct their story from whatever you see at face value, or simply uninterested. It’s the reason why program notes exist, and why I typically like to search for the pieces on Youtube before I hear the performance. Yet, with its mixture of world-premieres, uncommon instrumental combinations, and reimagined pieces, this program definitely challenged typical means of music consumption. 

I was immediately struck by how compact the bandoneon was and how it could achieve such crisp articulation and human-like phrasing. When Labro played, it felt like he was pumping his own breath and soul into the instrument. While the bandoneon is typically associated with tango, Labro also notified us that it was originally intended to play church music in small parishes in Germany. I didn’t quite believe him after he had performed Saluzzi’s Minguito, a groovy, pulsing Argentinian folk music-jazz hybrid incorporating percussive finger tapping against the sides of the instrument. However, his arrangement of Bach’s Wachet auf, ruft uns die Stimme, BMV 645 introduced an entirely new color and tone. In contrast to the previous push and pull of these tangled music lines, Labro’s Bach had a rich, organ-like sustain that put each voice in the four-part harmony on equal footing. 

I was also surprised by how naturally the bandoneon fit in with the quartet. In the first co-commission by UMS and Music Accord, Bryce Dessner’s Circles, the bandoneon set the stage with an oscillating rhythm for the strings to weave between. At some point, the pulsating melodies aligned and transitioned into an icy, polyphonic whistle-like section. Meanwhile, in Labro’s Meditation No. 1, the bandoneon reinforced the ensemble’s warm, syrupy chords and shined in a rich, cadenza-esque solo. In Clarice Assad’s Clash, the second UMS-Music Accord co-commission and concert finale, the bandoneon delivered punching dissonant chords and almost upsetting slides as the strings incorporated various frictional textures and sound effects.

The Takács Quartet was able to show off their refined musicianship in the hauntingly beautiful Ravel String Quartet in F Major. Melding elements of tension and dissonance, the piece had a shiny quality that fit really nicely with the rest of the program while still bringing a whole new flavor of sound. The complex layered plucking of the second movement was truly a marvel—the audience felt compelled to applaud afterward even though it was still between movements.

One of the most experimental pieces was Labro’s Astoración, performed as a solo with a pre-recorded backing track. Described as “an imagined duet and conversation with Nuevo Tango master Astor Piazzolla,” the piece tugged at single notes before expanding into big dissonant chords. Meanwhile, the backing track echoed spoken narrative phrases and introduced a second bandoneon that Labro riffed with. At some point, he also pulled out an accordina—a small, hand-held wind instrument with similar sound qualities to a harmonica— for an added layer on top of the rhythmical background.

All in all, I feel that I had witnessed something remarkable last Friday. My roommate who accompanied me enjoyed it as well, although she admitted that some parts were “a lot”. Such is contemporary music!

PREVIEW: Takács Quartet with Julien Labro

Having performed with UMS since 1984, the Takács Quartet returns once again with bandoneón virtuoso Julien Labro to bring sensational new sounds to Rackham Auditorium. The program is truly a culmination of musical experimentation and collaboration in the face of the pandemic, featuring world premieres of UMS-commissioned pieces through the Music Accord by Clarice Assad and Bryce Dessner, Ravel’s String Quartet, and a solo set by Labro. 

Violinist Harumi Rhodes shares in the UMS Connect video series: “I think it’s kind of cool how a program can have so many different sides to it, like a kaleidoscope. There’s so many twists and turns and beautiful gems in there, and it’s that kind of holistic approach that makes this kind of programming fun.”

Personally, I find the opportunity to witness the expansion of modern repertoire to be incredibly special一the world of music is an ever-changing environment that is very much alive and growing, despite the emphasis on older works. Additionally, I am very excited to see Labro as a soloist and how he merges with the ensemble. While I have listened to bandoneón recordings while studying works by Piazzolla (an iconic Argentine tango composer and bandoneón player) arranged for piano and violin, this will be my first time hearing the beautiful instrument live.

Come see the Takács Quartet with Julien Labro this Friday, December 3rd at 8 PM at the Rackham Auditorium!

PREVIEW: Rosseels String Quartet

PREVIEW: Rosseels String Quartet

Date: Sunday, Dec 13th, 2009

Location: Michigan League – Room D (3rd floor)

Time: 8:30pm

Tickets: free!


String Quartet in a minor, Op. 51 #2 ——————————————————-Johannes Brahms

String Quartet in g minor, Op. 10————————————————————Claude Debussy

Performers: Paula Muldoon and Christopher Jones, violins

Jarita Ng, viola

James Jaffe, cello

Though the Rosseels Quartet is the official “Graduate Student Quartet” at the University, some of them are only undergraduates! This talented group will perform a dramatic piece by Brahms and a dreamy, impressionistic piece by Debussy. Only an hour long, this program will be the perfect study break to clear your mind of the stress of exams and prepare you for a long night of studying.

A reception with delicious cookies with follow.