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This article by Elaine Strauss was published by U.S. 1 Newspaper on September
22, 1999. All rights reserved.
Brentano Strings, Plus One
The Brentano Quartet, Princeton University’s
quartet in residence, opens its three-year residence with a flourish
this week. The free public recital, co-sponsored by the Music
and Friends of Music at Princeton, takes place at Richardson
on Saturday, September 25, and features the quartet in performance
with faculty member, composer, and electric guitarist Steve Mackey.
The Brentano plans to open each semester with such a recital.
Named after Antonie Brentano, who many scholars believe was
mysterious "immortal beloved," the Brentano Quartet has
its musical merit at previous performances in Princeton, beginning
in 1993. It has appeared in both the Princeton University Concerts
series and the Summer Chamber Music Concerts. This is its first
however, as a resident ensemble.
The Brentano Quartet members are violists Misha Amory, Mark Steinberg,
and Serena Canin, and cellist Nina Maria Lee. The Chamber Music
of Lincoln Center chose the Brentano in 1995 to participate in its
inaugural season of Chamber Music Society Two, designed for
young artists on the verge of international careers in chamber music.
Funded by a gift from an alumnus, the Brentano’s three-year
marks the first-ever residency by a musical ensemble at Princeton.
There are no fixed guidelines for the quartet in residence role, Amory
told U.S. 1 in July. "It can mean different things, depending
on the quartet and the university. At Princeton it’s great for us
because the department is creative, and interested in our input. We
were surprised and touched that the first thing that came up was that
the department asked, `What are your interests?’" At this point
the quartet has no final agenda for its three years on campus,
they have scoped out a variety of areas where they will take part.
During their first semester they intend to participate in courses
taught by others. One of these is a course designed by Mackey of the
Princeton program in musical performance (U.S. 1 December 4, 1996).
The course, which Amory calls "unprecedented," is designed
around the programming and repertoire that the Brentano is working
on. In addition, the Brentano will devote themselves to new string
quartets composed by students. For the second semester, the ensemble
plans to focus on coaching student chamber music groups.
The Richardson concert will have some characteristics of a
and feature the ensemble’s premiere of two guitar quintets by Steve
Mackey, "Troubadour Songs" and "Physical Property."
Mackey, whose instrument is electric guitar, joins the performance.
"We hope to bring him with us to play the pieces in several
says Amory. "We’re recording these pieces, and it helps to have
performed the pieces in public."
Mackey’s "Physical Property" requires unusual tunings for
both cello and violin. Normally, the musical distance between adjacent
strings on instruments used in a string quartet is a perfect fifth,
the interval at the beginning of "Twinkle, Twinkle Little
For "Physical Property" Mackey shrinks the interval of one
pair of cello strings to a major third plus 1/4 tone (the musical,
distance at the opening of "The Bear Went Over the Mountain,"
and a little extra).
He also specifies that the lowest violin string be tuned more than
an octave lower than normal. "The G string is tuned so low,"
says Amory, "that it almost turns into a rubber band. It makes
a grunting, whining effect. We’ll use a spare violin for the special
tuning. Each of the violinists plays that violin as well as their
The concert recital includes, in addition to the Mackey quintets,
Schubert’s G Major Quartet. Amory sets to rest any doubts about the
balance of the program by pointing out Mackey’s sensitivity to
"If you think about a piece for string quartet and electric
you expect loud, blasting, unrelenting energy from the guitar. But
Mackey has adjusted the amplification so the guitar is just one of
the instruments. He uses innovative sounds. His pieces are
subtle, and colorful. If they were too loud, it would be difficult
to follow up with the Schubert."
— Elaine Strauss
Richardson Auditorium, 609-258-5000. The Music Department and Friends
of Music at Princeton present a debut concert by the Brentano String
Quartet. Free. Saturday, September 25, 8 p.m.
talented, creative performers for its after-hours Playhouse Cabaret.
"If you have a great act that can be done in an intimate setting,
you can perform at the Spot," says Wendy Liscow. Auditions begin
Friday, September 24, at 6 p.m. Prepare a five-minute sample. To
call 732-846-2895, extension 202.
bands in New Jersey, is seeking new members, particularly trumpet
and clarinet players. Rehearsals are Monday evenings in Hopewell.
For more information, call director Jerry Rife, 609-882-4148.
for its November production of "Guys and Dolls," especially
seeking men who can sing. For appointment call 609-936-1228.
on Sunday, October 3. Directed by Bruce Curless, the show begins
13, 2000. To schedule, call 856-858-5230.
— invites readers. Featured are poems by Andrew Feindt, Joan Pond,
L.S. Shevshenko, Matthew David Hittinger, Melissa Gammill, Marcella
Daly Mrockzkowski, Timothy Joseph Mladic, Debrah Kayla Sterling, and
Ace Boggess. New at the site are a Virtual Photo Gallery, an
Poetry Challenge, and "Fooling With Words," a PBS special
with Bill Moyers at the 1998 Dodge Poetry Festival.
to assist in ticket-taking, ushering, and concessions at the F.M.
Kirby Shakespeare Theater in Madison. Volunteers work alongside
staff and see productions free of charge. Call house manager Laura
to assist area residents as part of its caregiving team. Call
Spoons Program, a patient assistance feeding program. Application
process includes an interview, health screening, orientation, and
training. Call Lynne Kluin, 609-394-6102.
pet cats and kittens at Petsmart in West Windsor, Saturdays, from
10 a.m. to 4 p.m. 609-737-0775.
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