The next one of the Special Events concerts scheduled by the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM) will take place on the first Saturday of next month. The Del Sol String Quartet of violinists Benjamin Kreith and Rick Shinozaki, violist Charlton Lee (’93), and cellist Kathryn Bates (’07) will give a recital to celebrate this being the 80th year of composer Terry Riley. The major event on the program will be the world premiere of Riley’s new quintet for guitar and string quartet. Riley’s son Gyan, an SFCM alumnus (’01), will perform the guitar part with Del Sol.
The title of the quintet is Dark Queen Mantra, and it is structured in three movements, inspired by a trip Riley made to Spain. The first movement, “Vizcaino,” is named for the hotel in Algeciras, where Riley stayed upon his arrival. The second movement is a somewhat scherzo-like reflection on paintings by Francisco Goya entitled “Goya with Wings.” This is followed by a darker and heavier final movement.
The program will also include a repeat performance of “Mythic Birds Waltz,” the Riley composition that was featured at Del Sol’s Soundings 3.1 concert at the Center for New Music at the end of last month. Composed in 1983, this is one of the many works that Riley wrote for the Kronos String Quartet. The piece is in a single uninterrupted movement; and, while it draws upon a disciplined approach to repeated structures and polyrhythms, it also evokes the sort of improvisatorial rhetoric that can be found in Riley’s solo keyboard works, such as the movements of The Harp of New Albion.
It is also worth recalling the hypothesis advanced on this site after last month’s performance that the adjective “mythic” may serve as a modifier of “waltz,” rather than “birds.” One consequence of Riley’s particular approach to polyrhythms is that any sense of a three-beat pattern rarely (if ever) establishes itself over the course of the composition’s duration. Thus, while there are several sonorities that are distinctively suggestive (if not evocative) of birds, any sense of waltz may not have advanced beyond the dreamworld of the composer.
Two other composers will be included on the program that Del Sol has prepared for their SFCM visit. One is by Stefano Scodanibbio, one of Riley’s close friends and a frequent collaborator. Scodanibbio died of ALS in Cuernavaca on January 8, 2012, about half a month before his 56th birthday. He had collaborated with Riley on two albums, Lazy Afternoon among the Crocodiles (1997) and Diamond Fiddle Language (2005). In April of 2013 ECM New Series released its first album (a “posthumous debut”) of his music entitled Reinventions. This involved meticulous reconstruction, through modifications of not only pitch class and register but also sonorities of individual notes, of both fugues from Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1080 The Art of Fugue and popular Mexican songs. Del Sol will perform a similar approach to three madrigals by Claudio Monteverdi, which Scodanibbio collected under the title Mas Lugares (more places).
The remaining work on the program will be “Calligraffiti” by Huang Ruo. Del Sol had performed Huang’s chamber music in 2014 in connection with the premiere of his opera Dr. Sun Yat-sen, performed that summer by the Santa Fe Opera. The title is a superposition of opposing concepts, the decorative nature of calligraphy and the illicit defacement of graffiti. “Calligraffiti” explores a similar Hegelian opposition between the profound and the profane.
This concert will take place in the SFCM Concert Hall on Saturday, December 5. The performance will begin at 8 p.m. Tickets will be $20 for general admission and $15 for students, seniors, and SFCM members.
SFCM is located at 50 Oak Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni station. Tickets may be purchased by calling the Box Office at 415-503-6275. The Box Office is located in the lobby of the SFCM building; and its regular hours are 10 a.m.–4 p.m., Monday through Friday. In addition, the SFCM Calendar Web site has an event page, which includes a hyperlink to a Click4Tix Web page for online ticket purchases.