Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of pieces, have been written for four string instruments. So, for a string sextet like Concertante playing a diverse and exciting set can be more than an everyday trial.
However, the ensemble, who will be brought by the University Musical Society to Rackham Auditorium tomorrow, welcomes the challenge, said Rachel Shapiro, violist for Concertante.
The proactive Concertante takes on the limited array of music with a few strategies. First, the group performs less familiar pieces by well-known composers. This allows the audience to simultaneously identify with the composer while getting exposed by music they have never heard before. “It is interesting for the audience,” Shapiro said. “The come in here to hear a well-known composer, but they get new music from that composer.”
Secondly, Concertante plays new music by modern composers. Tomorrow, Shaker Loops by John Adams will not only be a UMS premiere, but also a highlight of the evening. Although the ensemble normally does not play the piece on tour, Shapiro said, they made will be making an exception at Rackham per a special request from the University.
Shapiro said she is excited to play the piece and that it will be as much of a special occasion for the musicians as for the audience. “(The piece) is patterns of notes repeated and looped. The instrumentation is unique, with each instrument having different loops. These loops change but lock together, and you get this – charged thing,” Shapiro said.
Concertante has grown from a group of visionary Julliard graduates to a revolutionary string group with a core of six members. The ensemble has thrived for nearly a decade, keeping a deliberate, progressive approach to their repertoire.
Aside from Shaker Loops, the performance will begin with Strauss’s “Sextet” from Cappriccio, a piece with a “nice length; it’s romantic and lush for the opening,” Shapiro said.
Shaker Loops will come second, and the finale is Brahms’s String Sextet in B-flat Major, Op. 18. There are strong contrasts between all the pieces, and Shapiro anticipates the performance being “so interesting to hear the beauty in very different ways.”
Shapiro offered a more reflective description of Shaker Loops. “You have to go into this weird mindset. It is neither romantic nor melodic. Yet, it is extremely effective. I always enjoy the challenge and the trips it takes,” she said.
Concertante’s modern spin on traditional string sextets will bring a distinctive flair to Rackham Auditorium, while John Adams’s Shaker Loops shall enrapture the auditorium with its novelty.