Saturday, May 05, 2007

JACK Report: The Reviews Come In

Friday night, JACK performed locally in the Music Building Auditorium. This was a different program than they performed at Carnegie, despite the U. of I.'s breathless news release, which got some facts wrong. (JACK did not perform the same program at UIUC that they did in NYC, and they were not the winners of the Kronos Young Artists Concert.) This was a program more designed for academic musicians, with less mass appeal than the one in New York City. "Deconstructionism," one of Chris's former piano teachers was heard to sniff.

They played Eclats Cycle by Aaron Travers and String Quartet by Aaron Cassidy, both young composers in their early 30s affiliated with Northwestern University. Cassidy was present for the concert. They also played their signature work, String Quartet No. 3 "Grido" by Helmut Lachenmann, the German composer who is in his 70s and who is a self-proclaimed "believer" in JACK. Cellist Kevin McFarland wrote in the program notes that this piece is JACK's raison d'etre, because JACK was formed to perform this work at a festival in Mexico. The title, "Grido," is derived from the first names of the then members of the Arditti Quartet for whom it was written (Graham, Rohan, Irvine and Dov.) They joked at the time that had the piece been written for them, it would have been titled, "Jack." The last work was Tetras, by a dead composer, Iannis Xenakis. That was my favorite piece of the night, mainly because the virtuosic violin solo at the beginning reassured me that all my money for music lessons had not been wasted. Some of the other pieces, which involved playing with the back of the bow and every surface of the violin, had me wondering whether all those drives to Chicago for lessons were really necessary.

My friend and Chief Critic, PG was there with his wife and emailed me a review, which he gave me permission to use (along with their pictures.)(You can just call my photography "Deconstructionism.") Here is their review unexpurgated:

"Event: JACK Quartet, Music Building, University of Illinois, Friday, May 4, 2007

Aaron Travers, ECLATS CYCLE
Helmut Lachenmann, STRING QUARTER NO. 3 "GRIDO"
Iannis Xenakis, TETRAS

Program notes: Voluminous and ponderous

Critics: Lee, the midwestern Bjork, and her spouse PG, the Matthew Barney

REVIEW #1, by Lee
"It is like our house, the washing machine and the dryer, squeaky things, the basement. You know, sort of dysfunctional environment music."

REVIEW #2, by PG
"This concert by Chris and friends totally rocked. The only way it could have been better would be if they had performed a la Charlotte Moorman and, at the end, kicked over their music stands a la The Who."

(Extra notes not incorporated into the reviews: the question of intentionality in the performance; the look of the score; the quietness that allowed for audible intrusions in the audience of chairs squeaking, face scratching, and farts; the ability to differentiate between styles in the composers, we could do it but we did not know how.)"

JACK performed at Northwestern University on Thursday night and that performance was reviewed by Marc Geelhoed, in his blog, Deceptively Simple, (scroll way down) The money quote: "JACK’s fearless performance of Xenakis’ Tetras is something I won’t forget soon, given that they played with a great deal of energy and, even, expressivity."

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