Joseph Haydn via Wikipedia
The St. Lawrence String Quartet played at Stanford yesterday afternoon. I don't get out much but I'm surprised I was surprised at the demographics of the audience. Still, it's good that older, white, females so fully support their aesthetic interests. The other surprise was the cost of tickets. Let's see: $49 is the equivalent of purchasing 490 tracks at lala...
The first work was something by Haydn. Since I had spent the morning listening to an older, white, female of a different sort -- Pauline Oliveros -- it took me about half the work to come to terms with how mundane the texture of a string quartet is compared to early electronic music. Fortunately, the musicians played with a verve that eventually caught my interest. Still, I'm no Haydn lover unlike some bloggers even if several years ago, I did immerse myself in the Haydn symphonies and listened to the Greenberg CD lectures. I remain unmoved. The violinist Geoff Nuttall jokingly suggested the group would like to do an all-Haydn series next year. Yikes.
For the West Coast premiere of John Adams' String Quartet, Nuttall and then the composer made some introductory remarks. It was mentioned that Adams' son, Sam, has graduated from Stanford. The composer went on to apologize for a short program note. After all the social and historical hoopla over his other works, this one "is just pure music. Leave me alone." He also pointed out an advantage of writing for a string quartet over larger forces is that the opportunity for the performance to get better and more precise as it is performed over time. The group has played it ten times in concert and spent two hours in the morning rehearsing it with him.
The composer was inspired to write this work after hearing the St. Lawrence String Quartet play at Stanford his earlier John's Book of Alleged Dances as well as a Beethoven work. Adams is a funny, witty, and smart guy but his new quartet benefits from including no post-modern humor -- no cartoon music, no Bay Area geographical references, no emphatic bass drum etc. The result was serious substance along with the usual Adams' sheen. The performance was exciting and concentrated.
It's also good to see the Stanford Lively Arts series has some fringe events. Thursday is a David Harrington "Deejay Session" (apparently at the Stanford Coffee House). And on May 15th, Mark Applebaum features his Concerto for Florist and Ensemble.
* And in honor of the Opera Tattler *
During the quiet parts of the Adams piece, there was noticeable coughing, program rustling, and candy unwrapping. Before the end of the first movement of the Dvorak, a woman made a swooning sound. During the second movement, this blogger stifled a yawn. And someone sneezed precisely during the rest before the last note of that movement.