Funny twist — last year around this time, I wrote about being a freelance violinist during the holidays, which usually involves Handel and/or Tchaikovsky. In my case, my Messiah gig was in a nice little town I’d never been to, off the Northeast Corridor NJTransit line. Now I live there! And am doing something totally different!?
I’m not sure I have the proper receptors for whatever musical molecule saturates the brain and signals you’ve-heard-this-so-many-times-it-makes-you-nauseous. I love playing Handel’s Messiah. Same with Nutcracker. Staple cash cows of December — love love love them. But I know that this music can have a nauseating effect on those who’ve done one too many Hallelujahs or Waltz of the Snowflakes. (The only time I’ve ever been asked by the ballet instructor to change what I was playing for a class was when I thought the Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy might be cute for a set of tendues. FAUX-PAS. DEATH STARE. It was like bringing up someone’s horrible past relationship, negating years of therapy and fad diets.) I discovered Sunday that I also still adore K.525 (otherwise known as “eine kleine OMG”). By contrast, my love for that jangly 1948 Leroy Anderson holiday number is about 67% camp, and that music may forever smell to me like cinnamon scented candles and plastic wrap. DeLiteful.
(Speaking of camp, or not camp, and Nutcracker — it’s looking like I won’t be able to catch a single show of the Hard Nut, due to full schedule stuffs this week. Sad face. But instead I get to play Corelli and Bach and Vivaldi with great friends, and record string tracks for these folks — Pearl and the Beard! And write some new music!)
Caleb and I were lamenting our lack of Messiahs this year, when we realized that Steve Reich’s Music for 18 was kind of filling that place, in a beautiful and amazing way. We sang it (with Martha and Mellissa) on Thursday in Alice Tully, as guest vocal quartet with Juilliard’s Axiom Ensemble. There’s something wrong and awkward about describing that experience in words here, so I won’t. But, you know. Music for 18. It’s like Messiah, but without words and tempo changes, right? Anyway, I got to work with the composer face to face, which usually doesn’t happen with Handel.
Following the Reich concert came three consecutive days of quartet playing, with three entirely different groups, for three very different venues. Friday night was Schulhoff’s Fünf Stücke (1924), with the Franklin Quartet in Morse Hall at Juilliard, for Eli’s final doctoral recital (congrats!). Saturday night was a wedding gig at the fancy schmancy Yale Club in Manhattan, with the N@than H@le Quartet, featuring everything from Beethoven Op. 18 to Stevie Wonder’s “Signed, Sealed, Delivered”. Sunday afternoon was a really wonderful performance for kids with autism, at the Staten Island JCC, with the Hudson Quartet. (Everyone please check out Robert’s great project!)
Last — I’m a little wrapped up in a couple of pieces I’m writing, or planning, for the spring. Very exciting. I think I’ve probably listened to this ritornello from the second act of Purcell’s Dido & Aeneas over a bajillion times.
I’m doing something with that progression for a project with string quartet and singer, with some Rhodes and harpsichord woven in. Here’s Purcell, all gussied up in vintage garb.
And here are a couple of bits for a related string quartet piece I’m cooking up, generously read here by the Brentanos: