Emerson and Dillon meet on Friday

As I mentioned in my October Concert Picks post a few weeks ago, I am eagerly anticipating the Emerson String Quartet’s performance this Friday at 8 pm.  After hearing the Takács Quartet perform Haydn and Schubert in our opening concert last Friday, I am primed to hear two more pieces by the same composers this week — this time Haydn’s Quartet in D Minor, Op. 103, and Schubert’s Quartet in G Major, D. 887.

But I am particularly intrigued by the piece inserted between these two great masterpieces:  the Philadelphia premiere of Lawrence Dillon’s Through the Night.  The Emerson recently commissioned Dillon to compose this, his fifth string quartet, as part of his “Invisible Cities String Quartet Cycle.”  In the piece, Dillon explores the time between evening twilight and morning dawn — and the dreams that live in that space.  And like a thought that keeps us awake at night, the Welsh lullaby Ar Hyd Y Nos (All Through the Night), on which the quartet is based, weaves its way through each dream and waking moment.

Now if you find yourself wondering whether this will be another new work you find hard to endure (much less appreciate), I entreat you to lend your ear to this piece.  In fact, Dillon dealt with the same feelings when he was composing the quartet in 2008:

"Another issue I’m dealing with is clarity vs. interest. I don’t get my kicks out of burying a theme where nobody can find it, in the hopes that some theory professor I’ve never met suddenly has a eureka moment in a distant ivory tower.  I want any interested listener to be able to pick out the theme at any given moment.  But there is a danger — how am I going to keep 25 minutes of one theme from getting tedious or too obvious?  I’m hoping my Dream Interludes will provide some respite, but I’m also aware of the problem of going away from an idea, then returning to it. The return has to feel like something new, or you’re just spinning the listener in circles."

I believe we are all in for a surprise on Friday and this new work will prove it can hold its own next to Haydn and Schubert.

If I’ve whet your appetite for more information, check out the following links for more information:

The Invisible Cities String Quartet Cycle (with recordings)

Composing Through the Night

Revising the work in preparation for the PCMS concert (interesting thoughts on working with each musician)

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