Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hi everyone. The following are the answers I recently provided a student in Alabama about one of the works Quadre commissioned in 2000, Crazy Rhythm by Michael Kallstrom. I thought you might find it interesting.

1. What is Quadre’s relationship with Michael Kallstrom?

I first started talking to him when Quadre was in residence in Selma, Alabama during the 1999-2000 season. I believe the ensemble met him at the Southeast Horn Workshop in 2000 at the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa. We stayed in touch during the commissioning process and followed up once after the premieres. We have lost touch since although we still send him updates care of our mailing list.

I might add that this relationship is not unusual. In working with composers and other artists over the years, often there is a very close connection during the project and then everyone moves on afterwards. In some ways, this is probably necessary to give the kind of focus that is required for each new endeavor. That said, please send him my regards since it has been a while since we talked.

2. When and why did you choose to commission a quartet from Michael Kallstrom?
We had played Starflame, liked it, and wanted him to compose a multi-movement work for us. He sent us the final copy in April or May of 2000 I believe.

3. Where and when was the premiere of CRAZY RHYTHM?

The premiere was on Friday, December 14, 2001 at San Jose City College in San Jose, CA. It was repeated on Sunday, December 16, 2001 at Noe Valley Ministry in San Francisco, CA.

4. Was it well received by your audience?
We didn't survey the audience after that concert, so I can't give you specific feedback. Although, from what I remember, I believe the audience enjoyed it.

5. Who were the performers? Do you remember the part assignments?
The performers were Armando Castellano (I), Meredith Brown (II), Carrie Campbell (III) and myself - Daniel Wood (IV).

6. How would you describe each movement of CRAZY RHYTHM?

First movement - Moderato, quarter note equals 88
A rhythm predominants the first movement: 2 sixteenths, eighth followed by an eighth rest and then four sixteenths, eighth. The quartet starts by playing this rhythm together and continues to return to that figure as a melodic device and accompaniment. Energy slowly builds until the quartet plays in unison a triplet passage in m.55. This is followed by a caesura in m.61, the only one Kallstrom employs throughout the work. A short espressivo section follows at m.62 before the movement returns to the opening figure at m.75. A couple bars employ stopped horn, however the color Kallstrom achieves in this movement is mostly from exploring the sonic qualities of multiple players in unison rhythmically, melodically or both.

Second movement - Adagio, quarter note equals 66
With a focus on the low range of the instrument, movement 2 has a murky quality with many low notes occurring in seconds in the beginning. As the movement progresses, a canonic like section begins that rises to an Ab written above the staff for the 1st horn. A bass drum like syncopation supports the very legato texture throughout the work. After the climax at m.53, the movement gets softer and softer until all players are asked to merely whisper their parts. It closes with the same murky seconds from which it began.

Third movement - Allegro moderato, quarter note equals 120
In the third, the opening three bar figure in horns 2 and 4, repeats itself for the entire movement. The figure varies over the course of the piece, gets passed between parts, and switches from a melodic to an accompaniment role from time to time. In contrast, a melodic theme that uses eighth notes and triplets occurs in the other parts with occasional solos, subito dynamics, and very staccato notes. While the metronome mark is 120, the work feels more like 60 due to the ostinato of the opening figure.

Fourth movement - Allegro assai, quarter note equals 144
This movement has a lot of moves from a quarter note to a dotted quarter note feel. For example, the first nine bars change meter until the work settles in common time in m.10. (6/8 to 3/4 to 9/8 to 6/8 to 9/8 to 3/4 to 2/4 to 3/4 to 7/8 to 4/4) These changes of meter continue throughout the movement, but in less frequency after the beginning. There is a great deal of time where all four players play the same syncopated rhythms. The rhythmic opening leads way to a climax at m.37. A melodic section follows until the work begins its trip at m.67 towards the finale with numerous entrances that match the earlier underlying syncopated rhythms. A nice subito forte four player octave slur happens in m.122 that grabs the audience's attention with a build that follows to the climax at the very end.

We did perform the fourth movement on its own in a number of concerts and masterclasses the most notable being the Manhattan School of Music in January, 2002.

7. Besides the obvious ‘crazy rhythms’ found in CR what, in your (or the quartet’s) opinion, were the most challenging aspects of the work?
Despite the name, the piece doesn't focus on 'crazy rhythms.' I asked Michael how he came up with his titles. He said that he just uses the names found on the back of the scratch manuscript paper he uses which is from an old radio station I believe. The title on the back for this piece was 'crazy rhythm.' Nonetheless, the rhythms can be a little tricky to line up at times. Getting all the parts to play in perfect unison can be difficult and getting the seconds in tune in the low range as well as at the endings was a little challenging. However, the piece pretty much played itself. For a quartet that has been together for some time, it would be easy to program it.

8. In your opinion, how approachable is CR (and by what level of playing)?
It is approachable. I believe a talented college group in their second or third years would be able to manage the work with minimal rehearsal. Even a talented high school group with a good deal of practice and rehearsal could do it. The highest note is a horn Ab above the staff. The lowest note is a horn Bb an octave and a step below middle C. These extremes are used sparingly however. The first and third horn are predominantly the high parts while the 2nd and 4th are the low. Adequate break time is given within each of the parts so that no one has to play constantly.

9. How many other original horn quartets has Quadre commissioned?
We have commissioned:
14 original works for horn quartet (includes 1 trio and 2 quintets)
7 original works for horn quartet + soloist/ensemble (flute, percussion, wind ensemble, choir, etc.)
24 arrangements for horn quartet alone
15 arrangements for horn quartet + soloist/ensemble (piano, soprano, handbells, steel drums, etc.)

10. Has Quadre performed any other Kallstrom quartets?
I believe we played Starflame during some of our concerts in 2000 and 2001. Jeepers was also considered for a few concerts, but we have not performed it.

11. CRAZY RHYTHM is Kallstrom’s first 4-movement horn quartet. How else is CR different from the other horn quartets Kallstrom has composed for the TransAtlantic Quartet?
Besides Jeepers and Starflame, I'm afraid I'm unfamiliar with Kallstrom's other horn quartets. However, I feel that Crazy Rhythm is more introspective than Jeepers and Starflame.

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