PAUL HERTELENDY, ARTSSF.COM, THE INDEPENDENT OBSERVER OF SAN FRANCISCO BAY AREA MUSIC AND DANCE, WEEK OF MAY 19-26, 2007, VOL. 9, NO. 95
SAN JOSE — One of the most stimulating and consistently inventive new string quartets we’ve heard in years has been launched by Daniel Asia, 53, of the University of Arizona faculty. It’s the seven-movement Quartet No. 3, which had its world premiere in San Francisco in March, and heard again here (with a few revisions) via the Cypress String Quartet’s concert May 18.
Asia’s music highlights an engaging needle-spray of sound, influenced both by traditional American forms and the livelier side of the Second Vienna School. Particularly striking are the irregular little stops in the music, never settling into a predictable routine. Rhythms, however irregular, are the driving force.
The jocular opening movement blazes with originality, offering jazz-like syncopation. Two of the lyrical interludes are so epigrammatic, you could see this 26-minute opus as essentially a five-movement concept. The whimsy of the third movement is hard to define on first hearing, rich in ideas and directions, quirky-volatile in its outbursts, while the fifth suggests some lullaby, with solos on violin and cello. The sixth movement is the crux, combining ideas from Nos. 2 and 4, while spinning out a palindromic format. The fast-flying finale recalls the opening of Webern’s “Five Pieces for String Quartet,” Op. 5 — bold, witty, fun-loving. And the piece goes full circle, ending as it started on the note E. Like any opus so rich in ideas, it fairly cries out for repeat hearings in order to be properly assimilated.
RICHARD SCHEININ, SAN JOSE MERCURY NEWS, 5/22/2007
‘Seer’ quartet merits second hearing
Every year, the Cypress String Quartet performs new music it has commissioned from a living composer. And every year, I listen and say to myself, “Why can’t they play that twice?”
I mention this because Cypress’ annual “Call and Response” concert has just passed, and I’ve been reflecting on the new sounds the quartet is bringing into the world. This time, the music is by Daniel Asia, whose String Quartet No.3 employs a private shadow language, which he says is inspired by the rhythms of jazz and popular music. But the relationship is oblique, embedded, waiting to reveal itself, through time.
Played by Cypress, the music put out a personal call. It was conversational – speech-like, sometimes argumentative and generally dark, even when it announced itself as whimsical. The music is highly introverted; Asia has taken those outside influences and brought them to a private, internal place. The Beatles? Not really. Davis? Maybe, because of Asia’s dark spirit.
The opening movement of Asia’s piece was very much like that. I imagined, as the four instruments talked in changing combinations, two couples schmoozing at the dinner table, relaxed, riffing on ideas, arguing and popping with excitement. The second movement was more clearly melodic and haunting. The third, titled “Whimsical,” drooped and melted. The fourth brought to mind a disjointed hoedown. The fifth, a soulful adagio, was a dark potent hymn, long-lined and ruminative.
And so it went through seven movements, with moments of occasional innocence (the Beatles, finally?), motoric rhythms (rock ‘n’ roll or jazz, obliquely?) and playful conjuring of colors and textures, new sounds for a string quartet. Asia is an experimenter (Davis?), a careful thinker who also takes risks.
Let’s hear it again.
J. SUTHERLAND, THE SEATTLE TIMES
The three-movement piece is a wonder of textures, mixing fingered and open-string timbres with extensive use of string harmonics.
P. KIRALY, SEATTLE POST-INTELLIGENCER
It’s a beautifully constructed, substantive work with supported lyrical melodies wrapped in light, airy fragments.
ON PIANO TRIO
K. KEUFFEL JR., ARIZONA DAILY STAR
This century has given birth to only a handful of great piano trios. University of Arizona professor Daniel Asia’s may be one of them.
D. BUCKLEY, TUCSON CITIZEN
It was akin to the work of impressionist painters – the individual dots and fine strokes generated a sense of light, air, form, and space…
ON PINES SONGS
J. VON RHEIN, CHICAGO TRIBUNE
Asia captured the gentle surrealism and quirky humor of the Pines poems in a simply effective (but not simple-minded) fashion.
B. CREDITOR, QUINTESSENCE
Larry McDonald (of the Oberlin Woodwind Quintet) agrees with this writer that Pines Songs should be a major work in the wind quintet repertoire–a serious and well-crafted piece.
R. BUELL, BOSTON GLOBE
The open and close show a moonstruck Frank Bridge-like ethereality, the adagietto breathes like a gorgeous long-spanned aria and the middle section of Scherzo No. 1 is enjoyably cockeyed. Shames’ virtuosic performance hummed with pride of ownership.
ON B FOR J
D. HAGEN, EAR MAGAZINE
B for J, conducted by the composer, Daniel Asia, featured sensitive, finely-wrought melodies.
D. BUCKLEY, TUCSON CITIZEN
B for J was another highlight of the program. Alternating sections of lyrically composed music for flute and bass clarinet were contrasted with a solo trombone and cushioned by an otherworldly bed of higher strings, synthesized organ and rumbling basses. The work seemed timeless and ethereal and was well-received by the audience.
J. REEL, THE ARIZONA DAILY STAR
B for J alternates and combines a pair of simple, even pretty melodies (one for flute and bassoon, the other for trombone) which are given an enigmatically tense accompaniment. The work was immediately likable.
CHAMBER MUSIC AMERICA, 2004
101 Great American Ensemble Works
In 2004, the membership of Chamber Music America nominated American works for small ensembles that they believed to be the most significant in the repertoire. From over 1,000 nominations, an independent panel chose 101 of the most-nominated pieces that best represent the diversity of style and instrumentation that comprises CMA’s membership.
We encourage our members to use this list of great American compositions in their programming in the coming seasons.
String Quartet #2