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The Art Is A Lonely Hunter

New York
Trinity Wall Street Church
09/08/2011 -  
Richard Danielpour: String Quartet No. 6 “Addio”
Robert Sirota: Triptych

The Chiara Quartet: Rebecca Fischer, Julie Yoon (Violins), Jonah Sirota (Viola), Gregory Beaver (Cello)
Artwork by Deborah Patterson

Chiara Quartet (© Christian Steiner)

”we can not dedicate - we can not consecrate - we can not hallow - this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract.
A. Lincoln at Gettysburg

Nor can any strings, pianos, trumpets or words hallow our Decade of Unceasing War, where half-a-million innocent and guilty, warriors and civilians, children and old men have been murdered. It started on that morning of September 11th 2001, and it continues, apparently without end.

Yet artists throughout New York are trying to hallow this weekend, vying with each other (and the models of New York’s “Fashion Week”) to make their statements. They are gathering not only in Ground Zero, but museums, street corners, parks, concert halls and churches throughout the city.

These creations are but a speck in our tragic world, yet we can make our tiny efforts to relish that which consoles the mind. And little is more consoling than the Chiara Quartet. The two works played last night at historical Trinity Church, within screaming distance of Ground Zero, were new to this listener. But so seamlessly, so interlaced was their performance that the novelty of the sounds became almost comforting.

Every professional string quartet must have four virtuosi. But the Chiara has four artists performing as a single organism, not a series of brilliant players.

Their initial offering, Richard Danielpour’s String Quartet No. 6 “Addio” was written two years ago, not for Nine-Eleven, but as “The way we as families say goodbye and take leave of each other.” Bach did this first in his only pure program work,. Beethoven wrote his own “Adieu” sonata, and of course Haydn offered an ironic farewell to his boss .

Mr. Danielpour finished Haydnesquely (so to speak) as each of the four players left the stage, leaving cellist Gregory Beaver to finish the piece. Other than that, the four movement were a perfectly composed and often moving moments, mainly sad or despondent, with a jolly pizzicato section to assuage the pathos.

But Mr. Danielpour’s challenge was a great one. As another artist said, “Breaking up is so hard to do.”

D. Patterson, R. Sirota (© Coco T. Dawg)

Robert Sirota’s Triptych–each movement illustrated by what Deborah Patterson’s poignant panel oils on the dais–was a pièce d’occasion, premiered by the Chiara Quartet in this same church.

Artists today labor under the handicap of the shadowy 21st Century. We are removed from the jingoism of Wellington’s Victory or 1812 Overture. War is no longer heroic, and enemies are ill-defined. But while nobody can replicate the emotions of our Decade of Ceaseless War, Mr. Sirota made the valiant effort. (And when he composed it, in 2002, this decade was merely rumbling with threats, not actually killing.)

In fact, Triptych was a quite moving piece. The three movements plainly stated the obvious: “Dessecration”, “Lamentation” and “Prayer”. But the composer’s conservative language was ideal for the literal truth of the attack. The beginning cello murmurs could have been the sounds of the planes approaching Manhattan’s iconic edifices. The jolting movement attacked, then backed away, the first coda was short and slow, the ending coda reflected shrieking alarms.

The “Lamentation” was rightly dissonant, and the “Prayer” much simpler. Simple yet puzzling with its solos, the folkish harmonies negated by enigmatic stops and starts.

The final notes were unresolved. And rightly so. As if Mr. Sirota had the prescience, a mere year after the first tragedy, to know that our epic of bloodshed, our American Orestia was only Act One.


CODA: Mr. Sirota’s second ecclesiastical concert is the New York premiere of Holy Women: Lives of the Women Saints in the Stained Glass Windows of St. Bede’s Chapel on October 5 in Corpus Christi Church, 529 West 121st Street, at 7.30 pm

The Chiara Quartet

Harry Rolnick



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