Concert I

Time Spans 2018



La presse en parle

Best of 2018: 10 Memorable Musical Events

Steve Smith, National Sawdust, 28 décembre 2018

Across five reasonably priced evenings, this second-annual offering from the Earle Brown Music Foundation Charitable Trust showcased composers presented all too rarely elsewhere, played with expertise, commitment, and loving care by locals (Talea Ensemble, Alarm Will Sound, Yarn/Wire, JACK Quartet) and distinguished visitors (Quatuor Bozzini, SWR Experimentalstudio Freiburg). From the recondite elegance of Cassandra Miller and Linda Catlin Smith, as played by the Bozzinis, to the voluptuous exuberance Talea brought out in pieces by Oscar Bettison and Felipe Lara, the festival spanned a wide range of styles and moods. Two more highlights involved pieces by Alex Mincek: one a persuasive magnum opus played by Yarn/Wire; the other a powerful instance of a familiar creator venturing into alien modes of expression with Alarm Will Sound.

the recondite elegance of Cassandra Miller and Linda Catlin Smith, as played by the Bozzinis


Seth Colter Walls, The New York Times, 17 août 2018

It’s often useful to prepare for a concert by checking out past recordings by a composer or ensemble. But it can also be fun to attend a show blind, with no informational baggage.

On Tuesday, I took the unprepared route to a concert by the Bozzini Quartet, the first installment of this year’s Time Spans festival, which runs through Saturday at the DiMenna Center for Classical Music in Manhattan. I came out of the show a proselytizing convert to the music of Linda Catlin Smith.

Her string quartet Folkestone (1999) quickly revealed points of affinity with other music of the late 20th and early 21st centuries — including the patient thematic unfolding of Morton Feldman, as well as the quiet dynamics familiar to composers of the Wandelweiser collective.

Yet almost as quickly, Folkestone made me forget those sonic signposts; my focus shifted to the polished clarity of Ms. Smith’s compositional intentions. Inspired by a book of watercolors, Folkestone has 24 “panels.” Each seemed finely wrought, such as an early one in which a short stretch of canonic layering suavely morphed into a Minimalist pulse before dissolving into a series of strangely harmonized sighs.

The work never rose above a generally hushed volume, but its contrasts rang with real force. (It stuck in the memory, too, and compelled me to purchase two of Ms. Smith’s impressive recent albums — Drifter and Wanderer — from the imprint Another Timbre.) The Bozzini Quartet played this delicately intense music with subtle aggression, an approach that worked equally well for Cassandra Miller’s About Bach, a work that hitches its references to Bach’s great Chaconne to some high-pitched violin parts that sounded as though sung through clenched teeth.

The Bozzini Quartet played this delicately intense music with subtle aggression…


George Grella, New York Classical Review, 15 août 2018

The TIME:SPANS festival, presented by the Earle Brown Music Foundation Charitable Trust, is compact but mighty. The festival annually brings in the finest contemporary ensembles to play concerts that, though modest in duration, are packed with consistently well-chosen works with a heavy emphasis on 21st century music.

This year’s festival opened Tuesday night at the DiMenna Center with a one-hour performance by the Montréal-based Bozzini Quartet that was a rich and beautiful experience.

The quartet played music by two Canadian composers, Linda Caitlin Smith and Cassandra Miller. Though each composer took a different approach in their pieces, their shared aesthetic values made them opposite sides of the same solid and luminous coin.

Both were quiet pieces, with plenty of space, and both shared the same view of time. Rather than the standard marking of linear time through leading consistent beats and rhythms, the pieces presented themselves as tableaux — the music sat in the middle and asked the listener to circumnavigate its dimensions.

This has been a developing style in contemporary music since Morton Feldman, but it only fitfully makes its way into the concert world as a whole. The most prominent practitioners are the Wandelweiser group of composers, and although Smith and Miller are outside of that, the Bozzini is one of the most important interpreters of that music.

So no surprise at all that the quartet’s playing throughout had a warm, woody, grainy sound, with excellent intonation, even in extended passages in the violins’ highest range. Their concentration and focus were precise and solid yet with a soft touch, like raw linen stretched taut.

Written in 1999, Smith’s Folkestone was inspired by a series of watercolors JMW Turner made of environs around the city of Folkestone. Turner made twenty-four paintings, all from the same vantage point, and Smith followed that method, taking her material and recreating it twenty-four times. That would seem to outline variation form, but rather than take an idea and transform it cumulatively, FolkestoneSmith’s third quartet — gave a vivid impression of the core material being re-written each time, in the manner of Turner’s paintings.

The music was a series of sliding chords played by the ensemble without vibrato. Pulse had primacy over rhythm, and the chords balanced on the edge between consonance and dissonance. The music drifted like the wind, shifting clouds through sunlight-the sound was dappled with light and strayed, and gently swayed.

There were enough alternate note tunings that at times the style sounded like just intonation, at others like something more ancient, the phases shaped like plainchant. The effect was something like 21st-century William Byrd — earthy, communicative, with subtle depths and urgencies. At thirty-five minutes, the listening experience seemed to pass in less than half that time. When the playing stopped the audience seemed slightly stunned by their return to reality, as if it took some time to accept that the music was over.

After a short pause, the quartet returned with Miller’s About Bach (2015). Her inspiration was Bach’s Chaconne, specifically a phrase from that piece as played on a recording of violist Pemi Paull. Miller extracted Paull’s playing of the first major key phrase, and then transcribed it. The distinction of using Bach as mediated by performance and recording meant that along with the notes Miller was also capturing tiny variations in timing, dynamics, attack, and, crucially, the upper partials coming off the viola’s strings.

Another not-quite-variations piece, the resulting music was startling. With history in one’s ears, Bach was not a clear presence, but the material — something like a fragmented, harmonized chorale — had phrase lengths and cadences with an unmistakable Baroque foundation. Like Folkestone, About Bach used one core idea repeated as a series of slightly altered tableaux — the feeling of Miller’s composition was that of origami paper being folded, unfolded, then re-folded with small differences, until the first object was ultimately transformed into something very different.

About Bach had one additional element, a descending line played at the top of the violin register that accompanied the main material. Unmistakably derived from the harmonics on the original recording, this was a commentary that haunted the music, and its insistence coalesced into a lament that added poignancy to the beauty of the music.

… the quartet’s playing throughout had a warm, woody, grainy sound, with excellent intonation, even in extended passages in the violins’ highest range. Their concentration and focus were precise and solid yet with a soft touch, like raw linen stretched taut.


Christian Carey, Christian B Carey, 14 août 2018

Quatuor Bozzini, a Canadian string quartet, have performed and recorded a plethora of contemporary music. While their advocacy is wide-ranging, the music of Canadian composers is near and dear to Quatuor Bozzini. They demonstrated this at the opening concert of Time:Spans Festival, five concerts this past week devoted to some of the most ambitious repertoire of today. The Bozzinis’ committed and razor-focused performances of works by Linda Catlin Smith and Cassandra Miller made them a tough act to follow.

Linda Catlin Smith’s Folkestone (1999) is inspired by an 1845 sketchbook of watercolors by J.M.W. Turner. While the Catlin Smith piece isn’t programmatic, Folkestone’s point of departure is the idea behind the sketchbook, that of returning to the same location over and over again to depict it in different light, weather, and events, thus creating a panoply of artwork that responds to it. The piece is cast in a series of twenty-four sections, called “panels” by the composer, interspersed with silences in between them to denote “page turns” between the musical sketches.

Composing prevailingly slow and soft music, allowing it silence and space to breathe, Catlin Smith is a kindred spirit of the Wandelweiser collective, John Cage, and Morton Feldman. However, she employs a highly individual pitch language. In places, piquant clusters populated Folkestone, casting adrift from pitch centers and offering instead rich polychords. However, peering out of the corners of her music are singable tunes and sumptuous consonances. All of these features in combination supply a slowly evolving, gently articulated music that is truly beguiling.

Cassandra Miller’s About Bach (2015) co-opts a phrase from J.S Bach’s Chaconne No. 2. However, the quotation is a jumping off point for an extended meditation on repetition. The melody, in the altissimo register, is repeated over and over by the violins in the quartet. They trade off the tune in a ricocheting antiphony that is among the most interesting aspects of the piece, underlining the element of space in the quartet. The other players provide brief, bustling lines in counterpoint.

In Catlin Smith’s piece, repetitions were varied and off center, requiring the listener’s attentiveness to differences in the various sketches she creates. Miller’s About Bach instead revels in repetition with the small differences of antiphony being the only change. One had to be willing to put aside the desire for differences of a large sort in Miller’s piece. But in the right headspace, going with the repeats instead of waiting for them to end, the piece proves spellbinding.

Both Smith and Miller have new CDs out on the British label Another Timbre. Miller’s disc, a recording by Quatuor Bozzini, is one of the label’s latest run of discs by Canadian Composers. Smith has been recorded both by the Bozzinis and, more recently, Apartment House. All Another Timbre outings are heartily recommended.

The Bozzinis’ committed and razor-focused performances of works by Linda Catlin Smith and Cassandra Miller made them a tough act to follow.


Steve Smith, The New Yorker, 10 août 2018
Beyond excellent mainstays like the JACK Quartet, the Talea Ensemble, and Quatuor Bozzini, this year’s festival embraces vital musicians whose work falls outside the classical-music lineage.