Two ensembles boasting Eastman School of Music alumni and known for their performances of new works will be joined by iconoclastic German composer Helmut Lachenmann for a guest recital at the Eastman School on Friday, March 26.
SIGNAL and JACK Quartet are performing a concert spanning 40 years of Lachenmann’s compositions in honor of his 75th birthday. The event, being presented in three other venues across New York state, gives audiences the rare opportunity to hear the composer perform some of his own music. The local concert starts at 8 p.m. in Room 120 of the Eastman School and is free and open to the public.
Lachenmann’s music is seldom performed in the United States, largely due to the fact that it is made up of an extensive language of highly specialized techniques that must be studied with Lachenmann. The 75th Birthday Celebration project marks a rare collaboration between Lachenmann and a U.S.-based new music ensemble. In preparation, each performer will take part in individual meetings and rehearsals with Lachenmann at the University of Buffalo’s Center for 21st Century Music.
SIGNAL was founded by Eastman School conducting faculty member Brad Lubman and cellist Lauren Radnofsky, an Eastman School graduate. The majority of the ensemble’s performers are Eastman alumni who in the past 10 years played in the School’s Musica Nova under the direction of Lubman.
Since its first appearances in 2008 at the Bang on a Can Marathon in New York City, SIGNAL has earned widespread praise. Described by the New York Times as “one of the most vital groups of its kind,” the ensemble explains its mission as building new audiences for new music.
In 2008, the San Francisco Classical Voice wrote of Lubman and SIGNAL, “Years ago, Reich predicted that orchestras would need to change, to become more flexible in order to perform more than the extremely narrow band of repertoire we keep hearing over and over . . . With Brad Lubman’s SIGNAL, composed of some of New York’s most accomplished music players, that day seems closer. In only its second official performance, the group nailed Eight Lines and Reich’s new-ish Daniel Variations.”
The JACK Quartet — named for violist John Pickford Richards, violinists Ari Streisfeld and Christopher Otto, and cellist Kevin McFarland — has been praised for its “powerhouse playing” by the Chicago Sun-Times and its “extraordinary precision” by the Boston Globe. The commissioning and performance of new works for string quartet has led them to work closely with such leading contemporary composers as Lachenmann, György Kurtág, Mathias Pintscher, and others. The group, whose members met and started playing together as undergraduates at Eastman, has performed in Europe and North America.
Lachenmann has said he believes in “music which, in order to be grasped, does not require a privileged intellectual training, but can rely uniquely upon its compositional clarity and logic.” His orchestral, chamber, and piano works — described as a distinctive voice that challenges the way one listens — create a jarring and intense sound world and have been performed, recorded, analyzed, and discussed throughout the world.
The recipient of numerous music and composition prizes, Lachenmann was awarded the Golden Lion for lifetime achievement in 2008 at the Biennale di Venezia, where it was noted that, “Much loved and controversial, the music of Helmut Lachenmann has had and has a great influence on the composers of at least two generations.”
In addition to the Eastman School, SIGNAL and the JACK Quartet will present the Lachenmann 75th Birthday Celebration concert program at the University of Buffalo, EMPAC (The Curtis R. Priem Experimental Performing Media and Arts Center) in Troy, and on the Composer Portrait Series at Miller Theatre in New York City.
Concert audiences will get the chance to hear Lachenmann perform his solo piano works “Wiegenmusik” and “Ein Kinderspiel.” He will join SIGNAL as the speaking soloist in “