Skip to content Skip to navigation

New music at Merkin Hall

September 26, 2015- The Amernet String Quartet played four pieces by young composers Thursday, Sept. 24 at Merkin Hall in NYC before a sparse audience.  There was charm, warmth and a definite strain of familiarity among the three composers, all of whom were present.
The audience that was not there would have been surprised at how conservative these composers sounded.  They did not go for the far out, the weird or the uncomfortable. They all composed for the string quartet using the instruments the way they have traditionally been played, which was surprising.  They even sounded like traditional instruments.   They sounded a little like Haydn.  There were themes and variations and sounds that might be the human voice and sounds from nature. 
The last piece by Daniel Ott had six movements with names like Mesto, Odes 1 and 2, Scherzo and Allegro!  
So what was new?  These were crafted in the quartet tradition.  Mathew Fuerst, Alex Freeman and Ott well understood the possibilities and limitations of the quartet and were comfortable in making quartet music.  I liked Freeman’s String Quartet No. 1, played here for the very first time in public, as it was meaty, covered a lot of ground, had interesting textures, a variety of themes, folksy, nostalgic and melancholic; moments of lyricism were broken up by moments of short gestures, all held together by a fabric.  It asked for terrific instrumental work and was altogether comfortably complex. It was played with energy by the talented quartet.  
I doubt the composers could find a more sympathetic or dedicated quartet.  These players are strong, disciplined and committed, as well as brave. 
I thought Mathew Furst’s Quartet No. 2 more concerned with noise and sounds of bizziness than with making music in a traditional sense.  There is energy and its dissipation, there is a sense of movement, even flight, perhaps a flight of atoms; some cosmic effects. 
Dan Ott’s described his String Quartet No. 2 as having references to Liszt and Mahler both of whom lost young children, both writing music in their memory.  Having an idea may be a good  way of getting “into the music” – Ott’s words – and it gives a hook to the audience.  I thought the music too academic in that it was not Ott who had the experience of grief; he writes of the grief of others.  He is a good craftsman and gets commissions.  His music is demanding,  playable and succinct. He does not drag, linger or repeat.  Very encouraging.