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Phenomenal SA quartet SOLI closing season with 'Freedom'

Photo: Courtesy photo, License: N/A

Courtesy photo

Key, Mollenaur, True, and Torgul loosen up.

All four of SOLI Chamber Ensemble's players — with day jobs ranging from top spots in the SA Symphony Orchestra to teaching music at Trinity University — can shred with the best all on their own. But they're soloists in another sense, too. In SOLI, each musician plays a different instrument, with Ertan Torgul on violin; Stephanie Key on clarinet; David Mollenaur on cello; and Carolyn True on piano. This unusual instrumentation (a far cry from a typical string quartet's two violins, violist, and cello) has prompted the group to commission new works to build their repertoire; over two dozen new pieces have been written specifically for SOLI's unique instrumentation by contemporary composers since they formed in 1994. This week they will conclude their season with the premiere of commission number 25, Prelude to the End, written by Grammy-winning composer Steven Mackey.

The title recalls French composer Olivier Messiaen's "Quartet for the End of Time," written in 1941 for the same instruments — and premiered by musicians incarcerated with Messiaen in a German POW camp during the Second World War. They somehow scrounged up a violin, cello, and clarinet. Messiaen played piano. Since that first wartime performance before prisoners and their guards, the piece has become known as one of the masterworks of the last century. It must be daunting for a composer to judge his own work alongside it, but Mackey was haunted by another composition, too — his own "Physical Property," written in 1992. He knew SOLI had performed this earlier work and guessed they wanted a similar composition for themselves. It is a bravura piece featuring some screaming passages on electric guitar, the composer's preferred instrument.

According to Torgul, SOLI's current artistic and managing director, Mackey "was sweating bullets about matching his youthful work of 20 years ago. So why not fail, go on a tangent, and come back to it again?" The resultant work is a multimedia piece featuring three-channel video by choreographer/videographer Mark de Chiazza and music by Mackey. It's an autobiographical piece, with images on the outer screens bleeding into the middle, charting memory, expectation, and the present.

Also included in the program is Matt Haimovitz' 2005 arrangement of "Kashmir," Led Zeppelin's 1975 rock classic included on Physical Graffiti. Haimovitz interpreted the piece for four cellos; SOLI will perform it with solo cello and an electronic track. Other works include Richard Carrick's "La scene miniature quartet" (2009), Steven Hartke's "Horse With The Lavender Eye" (1997), and a second world premiere — "Andy Warhol Sez," by Paul Moravec, especially fitted to the McNay's exhibition "Andy Warhol Fame and Misfortune."

Mackey is Professor of Music and chair of the Department of Music at Princeton University. His many commissions include works for the Chicago, St. Louis, New World, and San Francisco symphonies, as well as the Los Angeles Philharmonic and the BBC Philharmonic. Hartke is the recipient of numerous awards, including the American Academy's Rome Prize and a Guggenheim Fellowship. Carrick is the co-founder of the New York new music ensemble Either/Or. The music of Moravec, winner of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in music, last appeared in San Antonio in January in SOLI's "Beethoven R/Evolutions," new works inspired by the "Grosse Fuge." •

Freedom, SOLI Chamber Ensemble

7:30pm Tue, May 8
Trinity University's Ruth Taylor Recital Hall
One Trinity Place


7:30pm Wed, May 9
McNay Art Museum's Leeper Auditorium
6000 N New Braunfels

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