Ying String Quartet

High Notes from Harry: About the Ying String Quartet, April 14

Dear Virtuosi Friends,

There is a program change for the upcoming concert with the Ying Quartet. The piece previously listed by composer Kenji Bunch, is near completion but not yet ready for prime time on Virtuosi Concerts.

Accordingly, we are substituting a new dramatic work by their friend, Billy Childs, called Awakening, a piece dealing with the emotional effects of his wife’s recent sudden illness.  Billy Childs is perhaps more famous as a jazz pianist, but he has played with and served as arranger for a great diversity of artists, from Yo-Yo Ma to the Los Angeles Philharmonic to Sting, as well as the Ying Quartet! He has recorded 10 jazz CDs.

See the revised programme and the music notes written by Billy Childs below.

Two days after the Ying Quartet leave Winnipeg, they perform a benefit concert for the Pro Musica chamber society in Joplin Missouri, a town devastated by last May’s tornado. You can view them in live-streamed performance on April 16, 7.45pm, at www.joplinglobe.com

See you on Saturday.

VIRTUOSI CONCERTS presents The Ying Quartet
Virtuosi Concerts at the University of Winnipeg presents the Ying Quartet in our season finale concert Saturday, April 14th at 8:00 pm in Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall. The concert features works by Arensky, Childs and Beethoven. Tickets are $43. Students $25, eyeGO $5 by calling 786-9000 or at the door.

The Ying Quartet occupies a position of unique prominence in the classical music world, combining brilliantly communicative performances with a fearlessly imaginative view of chamber music in today’s world. The Quartet has established itself as an ensemble of the highest order in its tours across the United States and abroad. Their performances regularly take place in many of the world’s most important concert halls; at the same time, the Quartet’s belief that concert performance can also be a meaningful part of everyday life has also drawn the foursome to perform in setting like schools and juvenile prisons. Famous for their extraordinary, adventurous repertoire, the Yings’ ongoing LifeMusic commission project has greatly expanded the rich string quartet literature. The Ying Quartet is quartet-in-residence at the Eastman School of Music. The Ying Quartet consists of Ayano Ninomiya, violin; Janet Ying, violin; Phillip Ying, viola; Savid Ying, cello. The Quartet will be playing Billy Childs’ composition, Awakening. Billy Childs has spoken of composing Awakening:

Awakening is the second string quartet I’ve composed.  It was commissioned by the Ying Quartet.  Composing the piece turned out to be a cathartic experience for me because it deals with my wife’s illness and recovery last year; it basically sets out to illustrate how the experience affected me – emotionally, physically, and spiritually.

Movement one is entitled “Wake-Up Call.”  This movement is about the initial shock, panic, and terror of getting a phone call early in the morning from my wife, telling me that she was in intensive care– she had suffered a pulmonary embolism.  The opening trill and tremolo in the second violin and viola set against the snap pizzicato in the cello and the twelve-tone opening pronouncement in the first violin signal the onset of a potentially fatal situation.  The form is a very loosely applied ternary form, with the two outer Presto sections book-ending a middle Andante section, which symbolizes those moments of quiet and anguished reflection during that first day.

“The White Room” is about the waiting period in the hospital room by my wife’s bedside.  This was the most difficult part of the entire ordeal because being in such close proximity to your loved one while they are suffering, and being powerless to do anything to ease the suffering except wait it out, is very tough. The plaintive melody stated in the first violin, set against the backdrop of the bi-tonal harmonies in the accompaniment (CMaj/Ab – G#Min/C), illustrates a sense of imbalance and urgency.  Composed in a quasi-arch form, this movement utilizes harmonics and other devices to create the ethereal, almost surrealistic atmosphere of a hospital room.

“Song of Healing” is an ode to rediscovery, to a new and more profound appreciation and love for my wife, to a new respect for how transient and delicate life is.  It is also about the slow process of healing.  A languid viola melody accompanied by an A minor, eighth-quarter-eighth pattern opens the movement and gets developed in various ways throughout.  In the middle there is a violin and cello duet, which introduces a second theme; perhaps one can look at this section as a loving conversation between a man and a woman.  This is followed by a contrapuntal treatment of the second theme by the entire quartet, closing out the piece with a re-statement, in the first violin, of the opening theme.

Along with Childs’ Awakening, the Quartet will also perform Anton Arensky’s String Quartet No. 2 in A minor, Op. 35, and Ludwig van Beethoven’s String Quartet No. 8 in E minor, Op. 59, No. 2.

Virtuosi Concerts is Winnipeg’s International Recital and Chamber Music Concert Series. Under the artistic direction of Harry Strub, VCI has for twenty-one years brought Winnipeg the finest in chamber music. VCI is well-known for providing its audiences with an exceptional concert experience. This year over thirty-five guest artists will perform on the stage of Eckhardt-Gramatté Hall at the University of Winnipeg. VCI’s mission is to enhance the University of Winnipeg as a cultural and performing arts centre for the entire city of Winnipeg.