Parker Quartet Performs Helix Spirals
On World Premiere Recording
Of Augusta Read Thomas’ “Of Being Is A Bird”
April 1 Nimbus Records Release
is sixth CD in a series presenting the music of the eminent American composer and first featuring the Parker Quartet
The Parker Quartet expands their performance relationship with celebrated composer Augusta Read Thomas to recordings with the latest CD of her works this spring.
Commissioned by medical anthropologist and author Jeanne Guillemin “in celebration of the Meselson-Stahl DNA replication discovery, 1958,” Helix Spirals is a 23 minute, three movement work (I. Loci: memory palace; II: Interlacing: twists and threads; III: Spirals: life force). It was premiered by the Parker Quartet in April of 2015 at Harvard University, an institution connecting scientist, composer and musicians: Matthew Meselson is Thomas Dudley Cabot Professor of the Natural Sciences, the Parker Quartet are Blodgett Artists-in-Residence, and Ms. Thomas served as Junior Fellow in the Society of Fellows at Harvard University from 1991-1994.
“The Parker Quartet gave a committed, detailed, and virtuosic reading…
Helix Spirals combines explosive energy, technical virtuosity,
and vivid colors and textures with an intellectual rigor of conception
that lends it formal continuity and cohesion.
This exciting work deserves a place in the repertoire.”
– Matthew Heck, The Boston Musical Intelligencer
“Working with a composer, the source of the music, is one of the most enlightening ways to explore a new work,” stated the Parker Quartet. “As performers, it is incredibly special to be part of a composition, from inception, through drafts, discussion, and revisions, to the premiere and beyond. We also feel fortunate to have developed new and wonderful friendships through this project. Gusty’s dynamic personality and approach to music is absolutely infectious, and it was an honor to do such work in celebration of Matthew Meselson and Jeanne Guillemin.”
Of the work, Ms. Thomas wrote in her program notes (note extract): “Jeanne Guillemin and I spoke at length about the project and we agreed from the start that music is music and science is science. … If, though, one moves into the realm of metaphor, great synergies exist between science and music; and it was in this realm that Jeanne and I started our collaboration – celebrating that music can be an abstract and intellectual expression of nature. The four string parts are equally and evenly virtuosic. There are many solo moments for each member of the quartet allowing the musicians’ individual skill, elegance and radiance to shine. The three movements encompass a vast array of contrasting colors, motives, textures, rhythmic syntaxes, harmonies and counterpoints, such that each movement contributes to a larger, 24-minute gestalt. Deeply honored to have been asked to compose Helix Spirals, I spent eight months working on the music, which is dedicated with admiration to Matthew Meselson, Franklin Stahl, Jeanne Guillemin, and the Parker Quartet.”
Also on the CD are works performed by other artists: Selene (Moon Chariot Rituals) octet for percussion quartet and string quartet (2014), Third Coast Percussion and Spektral Quartet; Capricious Toccata for solo violin (2015), Nathan Giem, violin; Of Being Is A Bird (Emily Dickinson Settings) for solo soprano & ensemble (2015), Claire Booth, soprano, the Aurora Orchestra, Nicholas Collon, conducting; Caprice for solo violin (2005) and Rush for solo violin (2004), Nathan Cole, violin, and Love Twitters Irving Berlin’s “they say it is wonderful” arrangement made by Augusta Read Thomas (2006), Nicola Melville, piano.
About The Parker Quartet
“exceptional virtuosity [and] imaginative interpretation” –The Washington Post “The final movement, ‘SPIRALS: life force,’ displayed the power of the Parker Quartet’s unified sound with its aching chords that sounded reminiscent of Part. As the chords grew in rhythmic syncopation and dynamics, the group’s sound became one of unease leading to a climactic musical exclamation of joy that left the audience breathless.” –CVNC.org (Helix Spirals regional premiere)
Inspiring performances, luminous sound and exceptional musicianship are the hallmarks of the Grammy-Award-winning Parker Quartet (Daniel Chong and Ying Xue, violins; Jessica Bodner, viola, Kee-Hyun Kim, cello). Renowned for their dynamic, compelling interpretations, expansive colors, and varied repertoire ranging from classical to romantic to new music, the group has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation. In demand worldwide, the quartet has appeared at distinguished venues, series and festivals throughout North and South America, Great Britain, Europe and South Korea since its founding in 2002.
In the recording arena, the Parker Quartet has distinguished itself with acclaimed recordings for Zig-Zag Territoires, Innova Records and Naxos. The quartet’s debut commercial recording of Bartok’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 for Zig-Zag Territoires (July 2007) came about as a result of winning the Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition. Gramophone praised the ensemble: “The Parkers’ Bartok spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” Their Naxos recording of Gyorgy Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance (the last string quartet to have won this category). In 2015, Innova Records released the world premiere recording of American composer Jeremy Gill’s “Capriccio” written for the Quartet through a Chamber Music America commissioning grant. Coming later this year is the ensemble’s own recording of Mendelssohn’s Quartets Op. 44, Nos. 1 and 3.
Recent collaborations include such acclaimed artists as violist Kim Kashkashian, violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg, pianists Anne-Marie McDermott and Shai Wosner, Kikuei Ikeda of the Tokyo Quartet, clarinetist Jorg Widmann, and clarinetist Charles Neidich.
Founded and currently based in Boston, the Parker Quartet’s numerous honors include winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition, the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at France’s Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition, and Chamber Music America’s prestigious biennial Cleveland Quartet Award. Now Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music, and also in residence at USC School of Music, the Quartet’s numerous residencies have included serving as Artists-in-Residence at the University of St. Thomas (2012-2014), Quartet-in-Residence artists at the University of Minnesota (2011-2012), Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008-2010), and as the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009-2010).
The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and were part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006-2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the original members of the Cleveland Quartet, Kim Kashkashian, Gyorgy Kurtag, and Rainer Schmidt.
More information on the Parker Quartet, including upcoming performances, can be found at: parkerquartet.com
More information on Helix Spirals and the composer can be found at:
Information on Nimbus Records can be found at:
“Of Being Is A Bird” is available for pre-order at Itunes and Amazon.com: