Symphony Space on Manhattan’s Upper West Side seeks to “foster artistically and culturally diverse performing arts, literary, and film programs.” The venue succeeded quite brilliantly on May 6 with a performance by the Cassatt String Quartet and pianist Ursula Oppens. The quartet, consisting of Muneko Otani, Jennifer Leshnower, Sarah Adams and Nicole Johnson, joined Oppens to present compositions that displayed their talents and virtuosity. Adding to the evening’s excitement was the world premiere of three pieces, including Fang Man’s Images of a Snow Lake, commissioned by Symphony Space.
Ghosts in a Dream Machine, by Gabriela Lena Frank, began ominously with Oppen’s fingers seeming to dance across the wide expanse of the grand piano’s black keys. The piano’s intensity lessened and the three violins and cello joined in, the resulting harmony symbolizing a wide range of emotions, never lessening the feeling that danger—perhaps a mysterious ghost—was just ahead. The piece concluded quietly, giving the audience a chance to catch its breath.
That respite, however, was short lived. The next work, Images of a Snow Lake, continued the intensity of the evening’s musical program. The piece vacillated between up tempo moments and slower interludes. Members of the quartet used their violins and cello as percussion instruments, a surprising sound. Bell chimes mixed in, unpredictable and grand.
Dumbarton Quintet, by Joan Tower, featured shifting tempos, creating the illusion that audience members were being led closely down a twisted path. At times the sound was so rich that one couldn’t believe only five musicians were performing.
Both Fang Man and Joan Tower were in the audience and celebrated with the musicians following the concert.
Hear the concerts online at www.symphonyspace.org