Coming Up: A Far Cry from the Norm

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Music of reflection and reverie, melodies of sensitive youth and defiant old age, three chapters of a novella-in-sound, told by a troupe of instrument-wielding minstrels visiting our fair valley from the east…

Or, in plain English, a chamber orchestra from Boston is coming to Amherst to play a program of idyllic works by two young composers and one old one.

Either way, a concert decidedly worth your time and attention, marking the unofficial opening (hooray!) of the Pioneer Valley’s classical concert season, takes place this Sunday afternoon at 3:00 at Amherst College’s Buckley Recital Hall.

The artists, the Boston-based chamber orchestra with the intriguing name A Far Cry and the German violinist with the German name Augustin Hadelich, are amazingly good.  Take it from me:  I presented “The Criers” (as they’re known) in concert last spring, and watched as a (shall we way) veteran audience of music lovers fell in collective love with an endearing and dazzlingly talented bunch of musicians one-half or one-third their age.  I’ve heard Mr. Hadelich during his summers at the Marlboro Music Festival, as well as on many recordings and broadcasts, and can tell you without equivocation: He’s the real thing, a bona fide star.

If you know anything about The Criers, you know that they don’t do boring programs.  As violist Sarah Darling put it about this Sunday’s program:

Like every program A Far Cry plays, “Return to the Idyll” was the original idea of one of the Criers, vetted and voted in by a long process which slowly shifts ownership from the original individual to the entire group. Once every member feels that the program truly belongs to him or her, the real art of experiencing/expressing it together can begin.

Yes, they take the democratic thing very seriously.  In this case, the program opens with “Arcadiana” (program notes here),  a 1993 suite for string quartet by then 22-year old British wunderkind Thomas Adès, now one of the best-known composers in all classicaldom.  The arrangement for string orchestra was the collective work of the Criers, who did a splendid chart on a Quintet by Antonín Dvořák on the concert I presented, so don’t let the idea of a transcription get in the way of your enjoyment.  The central work is also a transcription (by Russian musicians Michail Zinman and Andrei Pushkarev), but of a great composer closer to the end than the beginning, the 1969 Violin Sonata by Dmitri Shostakovich (program notes here).  After intermission, youth will be served again, though with a composer we usually hear in vigorous old age, in Leoš Janáček’s Idyll for String Orchestra of 1878/9 (program notes here), thirty years before his greatest acclaim.

Back to Sarah Darling’s program note:

“Return to the Idyll” was originally conceived of by violinist Annie Rab­bat, who wrote the following:

“This program presents a truly idyllic work alongside one that evoke(s) various vanished or vanishing ‘idylls,’ and a third work which was written as a birthday gift, but in an environment that was all but idyllic . . . We start with the Adès, get lost in our search for the idyllic in the Shostakov­ich, and return finally to the beauty of the Janáček.”

One could read this program as a tortured search for simplicity, for ease, for innocence. Beginning with a protracted farewell, we then move into a state of darkness and despair, only to unexpectedly emerge on the other side of it and reclaim what one Zen koan beautifully refers to as “your original face.”

Annie had imagined collaborating with Augustin Hadelich from the very beginning of this project, and all of the Criers enthusiastically agreed that his “unbelievable” combination of rich, meaningful sound and intellectual rigor would be a perfect match for the Shostakovich. We are thrilled and grateful to be bringing this program to life with such a wonderful collaborator.

See you there?

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