The Administration Building auditorium was nearly filled to the brim Thursday with Auditorium Chamber Music Series (ACMS) attendees ready to listen to a performance by the Ying String Quartet. The Ying Quartet performed as part of the 2011-12 ACMS season and their return to Moscow presented the opportunity to connect with the community further.
“It has been great to be a part of your community here in Moscow,” violist Philip Ying said. “We thank you for welcoming us to your community.”
Sharing music with the whole community is a priority in the Ying Quartet’s residency this year. During their four-day stay in Moscow, the quartet will play at senior living residences, hospitals, the Moscow Public Library, a chamber music workshop for high school students and a “rug concert” for young children.
Despite their long list of other events and commitments, the ACMS concert might be considered the centerpiece of the Ying Quartet’s visit to Moscow. The quartet played three pieces, including Mozart’s String Quartet in D Minor and Dvorak’s String Quartet No. 11 in C Major. The third piece broke the mold set by the other classical pieces, as it was composed specifically for the Ying Quartet and had previously never been performed.
“We just learned yesterday… ‘The Conference of the Birds,’ it’s a world premiere,” Leonard Garrison, director of the Auditorium Chamber Music Series, said. Ying confirmed Garrison’s news, jokingly informing the audience that the piece was new to the Ying Quartet as well.
“We’ve never heard it before!” Ying said.
The piece was composed by Christopher Theofanidis, a musician from Dallas, Texas, who studied at the Eastman School of Music where the Ying Quartet is in residency.
Violinist Robin Scott was quick to clarify that the group had heard the piece many times before in rehearsal, but had never heard it performed for an audience.
“We’ve been working on it for a couple of months, and it has been very difficult,” Scott said. While introducing “The Conference of the Birds” for its inaugural performance, Scott encouraged the audience to listen to the silence in the piece and the echoes, just as if they were listening to bird calls in nature.
“The Conference of the Birds” is based on a twelfth century Persian poem of the same title. In seven movements, the piece takes listeners through seven “valleys of understanding” which represent spiritual completion.
Although stylistically different from the traditional chamber music pieces that opened and closed the concert, “The Conference of the Birds” resonated deeply with some audience members.
Music performance and music education student Ian Reilly said that he was impressed by the diverse colors of the contemporary piece.
“Every part was integral,” Reilly said. “Each note was integral to giving the same feeling.”
“It was definitely more modern and more colorful,” guitar performance student Jacob Orton said. “It had more of a story.”
Orton and Reilly received tickets to the concert through their music classes, where they are required to attend a certain number of musical events each semester.
“Usually these (ACMS) concerts are pretty cool because they’re more renowned artists,” Orton said.
While the Ying Quartet will leave Moscow after Jan. 28, there are still two more ACMS concerts in the 2017-18 season. Chamber music enthusiasts can catch the Calefax Reed Quintet March 6, and the Horszowski Trio April 24.
Beth Hoots can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org