Salon qb 2013

About

Every year, just before the Composer’s Kitchen, Quatuor Bozzini features two concerts of contemporary chamber music at its Salon qb (previously Salon des compositeurs). This event seeks to encourage exchange with other players and gives pride of place to new Canadian chamber works. The program includes collaborations with mentor-composers from the Composer’s Kitchen.

In the Press

  • Review in The Gazette (Québec)
    “What’s the last concert where all the composers were new to you?”
  • Review in sound expanse (USA)
    “The combination of discipline, great technique, and a genuine interest in taking this music on its own terms was remarkable from each of the members of the Bozzini Quartet and from Philip Thomas.”

Review

By Lev Bratishenko in The Gazette (Québec), April 18, 2013
What’s the last concert where all the composers were new to you?

What’s the last concert where all the composers were new to you?

For some attendees of the Bozzini Quartet’s concert on Wednesday the Norwegian appetizers were dinner. And probably breakfast. But such is the glamorous life of new musicians toiling on the periphery and wondering where the audiences might be. For the curious, the evening suggested answers.

Previously called the Salon des compositeurs and now the Salon qb, ours was the first in a series of premieres and collaborations played in the edgiest runt of our public musical establishments: the Chapelle Bon-Pasteur. Fishy sandwiches were courtesy of the Norwegian ambassador in honour of the Ny Musikks Komponistgruppe whose members wrote most of the music we would hear.

Seven pieces, to be exact, that are spread over three days of concerts after the quartet found performing all seven in one Oslo concert too much. It is strange how such minimal music can become overwhelming.

Kristin Bolstad’s And Nobody Gets Everything Right tore the night open with screaming and stamping, a jet engine, and a violin duel to the death. It was a brilliant piece to begin with because it was the most shocking. It even had the magical effect of temporarily making all onstage movement suspect — usually the mark of a great play — even if it was just dragging furniture around. For about 10 minutes everything looked and sounded meaningful, and very funny.

All this movement was necessary to create a stage for Stine Sørlie’s Alcoves, a work of quieter theatricality with many beautiful moments. It builds from the cello — at one point played by five bows in a huddle, like they were massaging it — to a quartet played standing apart before circling the cello again, this time in the dark. Then Michael Oesterle’s charming and surprisingly melodic Daydream Mechanics V made the transition to more familiar sounding and conventionally performed new music repertoire.

Tyler Futrell’s Pre-echo wittily cycled through effects, its structure holding our attention even though at 18 minutes it was the night’s longest piece. Not so for the three remaining works, including the première of Laurence Crane’s Holt Quartet, which were skilfully played on the edge of silence, had clever concepts worth reading about, and were eye-wateringly dull.

But four out of seven isn’t bad — what’s the last concert where all the composers were new to you? The Salon qb continues April 18 and 19, and the Bozzini Quartet also present a laboratory-concert of new work by young composers on the 27th. Come, and like the pretty young woman who bolted after Pre-echo, don’t be afraid to leave.

Review

By Jennie in sound expanse (USA), July 1, 2013
The combination of discipline, great technique, and a genuine interest in taking this music on its own terms was remarkable from each of the members of the Bozzini Quartet and from Philip Thomas.

A couple of weeks ago, I drove up from Boston to Montréal for a series of three concerts given by the Bozzini Quartet and Philip Thomas. (I missed the Wednesday night concert.) I was hard at work on a separate project as well, which had the dual effect of delaying this post and keeping me fairly tethered to my laptop during the days, rather than taking a good look at such a promising city. But I’m hoping to repair the first issue with this (late) post, and the second one in June when I return for the Bozzini/Wandelweiser immersion from June 14th to 17th.

Some highlights from the Friday concert included the last section of Michael Oesterle’s piece, Alan Turing — Solace for Irreversible Losses, called “Hyperboloids of Wondrous Light.” The chords had a luminescent quality which was, to my ear, tailor-made to a quality of playing that makes the Bozzini Quartet really special. Laurence Crane’s Piano Quintet was quite a surprise. It was clear enough to me that only he could have had that particular type of relationship to tradition to write it. The objects of tonality are treated as found objects. I don’t know how he (and the performers) keep finding them, but it’s a wonderful thing. But this piece was so audacious, so full of joy. No one else could have done it, but it was a huge surprise. I haven’t described the music, and I won’t. There’s nothing I can say about how it’s made that will shed any actual light on what it is. Here’s the program note, at least. The combination of discipline, great technique, and a genuine interest in taking this music on its own terms was remarkable from each of the members of the Bozzini Quartet and from Philip Thomas. That was the case on each of the concerts, but it all came together in that piece in such a clear way.

On the Friday evening concert, I found Cassandra Miller’s Warblework quite beautiful and compelling. I have the strong sense that this piece is, in the best sense, both hers and theirs. It takes place at a point of relation between Miller and the quartet. You can hear a section of it just below.

Tendrils is described by Howard Skempton as “a continuous movement of undulating lines. Although the piece seems to unfold, the impulse was lyrical and experimental. The first task was to compose the process.” Here is the first page of the score. The piece has a sense of inevitability about it, as if it predated the composition of it. It’s like a richly detailed, perfectly formed found object. Bryn Harrison’s Vessels was performed the next evening by Philip Thomas, and is, as Harrison explains, based on the techniques of Tendrils. It had a similar feeling of pristine formation about it, but a far more unsettled one. I had the feeling that everyone in that concert hall — performer, composer, audience — was balanced on the fuzz of a peach. One false move and we all would have fallen out of that space, but there was no false move. It stayed suspended within that very narrow space, which was not just defined by register or dynamics but by what I can only think of as a weather condition.

In fact, most of the pieces on the program evoked compelling atmospheric conditions. Christopher Fox’s L’ascenseur seemed to gradually but perceptibly chill as it ascended the full range of the piano. Martin Arnold’s Points and Waltzes started off with clear lines, almost metallic in quality, and suddenly shifted into the warmest embraces of chords. Cassandra Miller’s Philip the Wanderer didn’t relate so much to weather as to setting. At a very particular, inevitable moment, there was an opening, a clearing, a clarity. This moment was described in the program notes (which I have since lost—maybe someone can fill me in) and I think even in the section title, but it was immediately palpable in the musical presentation, irrespective of that preparation. There was also a wonderful moment when Clemens Merkel, who was page turning, stood up and whistled a beautiful melody which Miller had composed into the piece, using more vibrato than I for one have ever heard him use on the violin. That moment was one of many examples of a risk, or a departure from expectation that is possible when a composer works closely, and genuinely as a peer, with performers. The Bozzini Quartet and Philip Thomas have been fostering such relationships for years.

The annual Composers’ Kitchen is an aspect of that work for the Bozzini Quartet. The April 17-19 concerts which I’ve written about are part of the Salon QB, which launched the 9th Composer’s Kitchen. This year, this project is being done in collaboration with the Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival, and its second session will take place there. The Montréal workshop has been really nicely documented here and here by four communications students from Concordia University. The little video below introduces the participants, including the quartet, the mentors (Laurence Crane and Michael Oesterle), and the participants: Sean Clancy, Marielle Groven, Simon Martin, and Amber Priestley.