Monday, Apr 15th, 2013
by: Nelson Lee
Today, we started rehearsing Mark Adamo's "Aristotle," which is written for baritone and string quartet. It is always exciting to begin work on a piece that has never been heard or performed before. We dove right into it and worked through the piece from beginning to end. What struck us right from the start is the constant shifting of tempos and textures. The more we worked, the more vivid these transitions became especially when we examined how it depicted Billy Collins' text. A moment of ethereal beauty is suddenly interrupted with an entirely new sound with no warning or preparation. A driving, rhythmic section culminates in majestic chords and then a soaring melody appears out of thin air. The audience will definitely be on their toes when they hear this for the first time. There are also many extended techniques such as "sul ponticello" (playing right near the bridge of the instrument), pizzicato, and harmonics that produce really striking textures. The ending features some very beautiful harmonies that are enhanced by the exploration of the extreme high register of the violins.
It is definitely a challenge to work on a piece without the primary part. We would occasionally sing the baritone line very badly in order to get a sense for how our parts fit together. I think we will all be relieved to not have to hear ourselves sing anymore once we are able to put it together with Thomas Hampson. On that note, we are so excited to have the opportunity to collaborate with Thomas! It will be a treat to work with him and Mark and we look forward to learning a great deal from both of them.
We thoroughly enjoyed our first day with "Aristotle." We are finding a real connection with the music and cannot wait to put it together with Thomas Hampson for the first performance at UC Davis.