IU South Bend’s resident chamber music ensemble, the Euclid Quartet, will perform as soloists with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra at a concert on October 22. The event includes the world-premiere performance of a new composition by Anna Clyne, titled “Quarter Days.”
Clyne is one of the most highly regarded composers of our time. She has earned Grammy nominations and numerous awards from classical music publications. Her pieces have garnered over 10 million plays on Spotify. Clyne has been commissioned to write pieces for elite ensembles all over the world, and now she has written a work co-commissioned by the South Bend Symphony Orchestra and the Fischoff National Chamber Music Association. This year marks the 90th anniversary of the SBSO and the 50th anniversary of Fischoff, so the two collaborated in commissioning this piece to celebrate.
Clyne is known for her chamber music as well as her orchestral pieces, and “Quarter Days” is actually both at once. It’s a concerto for orchestra and string quartet. Conductor Alastair Willis will direct the orchestra and the Euclid Quartet musicians will be positioned in front of them as featured soloists.
Clyne often uses art and poetry to inspire her and to frame her compositions, and the score of “Quarter Days” includes as an epigraph the opening lines of T.S. Eliot’s “Burnt Norton,” the first section of his Four Quartets. Like Eliot’s poem, Clyne’s composition is a meditation on the passing of time, the changing of the seasons, and the profound metaphorical meanings that spring from the concept. Each of the concerto’s four movements is titled after an equinox or a solstice – the four “quarter days” on the calendar.
The Euclid Quartet is currently comprised of violinists Jameson Cooper and Aviva Hakanoglu, violist Luis Enrique Vargas, and cellist Justin Goldsmith. Cooper co-founded the Euclid Quartet in Cleveland in 1998, but since 2007 the ensemble has been based at IU South Bend. The musicians have previously worked with the Fischoff competition in various capacities, and both Cooper and Hakanoglu are presently members of the SBSO as well, with Cooper serving as concertmaster and Hakanoglu as principal second violin. (They will have substitutes in their orchestra chairs for this event.)
As the musicians delve into the score as they prepare for the premiere, they feel an added sense of responsibility. After all, no one has ever played or heard this music before, so the Euclid musicians have an opportunity to stamp it with their own personalities.
“There’s no recording of this yet, of course, so there’s no precedent for how to play it,” Hakanoglu says. “We’ve been playing together long enough now that we can really come together and create our own interpretation.”
Clyne’s expressive markings – those little words and phrases in the manuscript that indicate moods beyond the notes – are unique.
“One marking we all took a little differently was ‘playful.’ We’ve been zeroing in the question of what we take ‘playful’ to mean,” Hakanoglu says. “Do we want it to mean cheeky? Sassy?”
“It’s always fun when a composer will use colloquial language like that,” Cooper says. “Another marking is ‘woozy.’ That’s a good moment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen that one before. We’re used to seeing ‘allegro’ or ‘presto’ a thousand times. With this, we’re at liberty to try new things and create new sounds.”
The Euclid Quartet will perform as soloists with the South Bend Symphony Orchestra in Anna Clyne’s “Quarter Days” on Sunday, October 22 at 2:30 p.m. at the University of Notre Dame’s DeBartolo Performing Arts Center. For tickets and more information, visitsouthbendsymphony.org/events/quarter-days. To learn more about the Euclid Quartet, visiteuclidquartet.com.