New Classical Tracks: Brooklyn Rider

by Valerie Kahler, Minnesota Public Radio
May 17, 2010
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St. Paul, Minn. — NYC quartet Brooklyn Rider is made up of cellist Eric Jacobsen, violist Nicholas Cords and violinists Johnny Gandelsman and Colin Jacobsen. Their newest CD is called "Dominant Curve," likely in homage to Wassily Kandinsky's 1936 painting of the same name. Indeed, the cover of the liner booklet, with artwork by Lennie Peterson echoes a few elements of the Kandinsky, albeit in a highly stylized fashion. Kandinsky's philosophy was that art, color and form could transform the spirit. He was a master of incorporating both sharp lines and amorphous figures into a cohesive, often whimsical, always compelling whole.

Which brings me to the music. Percussive, gristly attacks blend seamlessly with soaring melodies and electronic noise in in a piece by Kojiro Umezaki, "(Cycles) what falls must rise," written for quartet, electronics and the Japanese bamboo flute, the shakuhachi. If you think you're not a fan of "new" music, just close your eyes and give this a chance to tell its story. Me? I hear the persistent drone of cicadas, steam rising from the ground early on a humid morning... but there's something industrial about it as well, like an abandoned factory being reclaimed by nature.

Deconstruction and recreation is nature's endless cycle, and it's a common thread throughout this entire CD. Claude Debussy's String Quartet uses various permutations of the same melodic theme in each of its four movements. In turn, Dmitri Yanov-Yanovsky pulls a fragment of Debussy's theme, deconstructs it and rebuilds it in "...al niente."

One of Debussy's given names was Achille--"Achilles"-- which was the inspiration for Brooklyn Rider's Colin Jacobsen to write "Achille's Heel," a testament to the boundless creative inspiration one can find in a circle of friends.

At the heart of the CD is this: everything we create is actually a synthesis of everything we've ever heard and read and seen and smelled and felt... deconstructed and rebuilt through the filter of our own individual, unique experience.

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