Common Theme

Brooklyn Rider

By Christina Schreil


“There seemed no better ensemble to lift the audience from this sense of apocalypse than Brooklyn Rider. The eclectic New York-based string quartet is the ultimate transporter, known for creative programming and chameleon-caliber versatility…In an intriguing move, Brooklyn Rider commissioned four composers to respond to this concept of music as panacea: Caroline Shaw, Gabriela Lena Frank, Reena Esmail, and Matana Roberts—four women of different backgrounds and cultural influences. Works ranged from musings over the composers' own illnesses to comments on complex societal structures. It was a fine example of how a starting point may be a kernel of a concept, but expounding upon it yields twisting, fascinating paths forward. It made of a multi-faceted program that Brooklyn Rider buffed like a gem… Shaw’s work, Schisma, kicked off the concert, nudging the audience into a contemplative, intimate space with lusciously warm hues…Shaw writes that Beethoven’s movement has a “nest-like” architecture, and her work touches on this without ever quitting it directly; the complex interaction between voices feels finely wrought and layered—a deeply pretty wash… Roberts’ work, borderlands…, later on also took inspiration from broader human-rights issues: the US-Mexico border crisis…Gentle synchronized bow strokes escalated with a bold, gritty crescendo, and a crash of pizzicato. Roberts plays with a coarse contemporary palate to create feelings of build-up and release… Despite meaty topics, a closeness governed the entire evening. This resonated especially in Frank’s and Esmail’s works, which drew from personal illness… Kanto Kechua No. 2 had Frank’s trademark influence form Peruvian folk melodies woven throughout a dissonant storm of activity. It felt like pieces stitched together and then chopped apart, with beautiful splashes of color… Brief solos by Cords and Nicolas felt nostalgic and eerie…The title, Zeher, means “poison.” The enchanting cello part evoked this, Nicolas’ honeyed vibrato fostering succulent lines. This transporting work seems the strongest link to that inspiriting Beethoven movement, played in the second half of the program. Moments in Esmail’s piece evoked a tension and release—like quick chases to expel pain.”