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Posted Oct 12, 2010, 10:39 am
One of the longest running chamber ensembles in the world, the Czech Nonet, will perform the latest work by Tucson composer Daniel Asia on Wednesday.
The premiere of Asia's Mixed Nonet will be played by members of the ensemble at the Leo Rich Theater as part of the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music Evening Series. Formed in 1924 at the Prague Conservatory to perform a specific work for nine instruments by Louis Spohr, the Czech Nonet has evolved into one of the most famed chamber ensembles in the world.
Mixed Nonet was commissioned by the Arizona Friends of Chamber Music and the Barlow Endowment for Music Composition. Composer-in-residence at the University of Arizona School of Music, Asia's works include five symphonies, concertos for the piano and the cello, two song cycles and numerous chamber pieces.
"I had to get used to the combination, but the combination is not that far fetched or problematic," Asia said of his latest composition. "It's really one of each instrument, except for trumpet and trombone, so it's really like writing for a small chamber orchestra or an enlarged chamber ensemble."
Questioned about the problem of balancing these diverse instruments, each with its own range, timbre and volume, he responded, "It's not really a problem," then laughed, "What it is, is an opportunity."
Balance, he noted, is dependent on the player and the sophistication of the composer in making it all work.
"You've got the entire range of the strings," Asia said. "What I thought of was, 'what are the combinations of this entire ensemble that I could use to my benefit?' The answer is that this isn't a problem at all, but that there are great combinations amongst all of these nine instruments."
The six movement work is structured as a theme with variations.
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"I've become increasingly intrigued, since my violin sonata (2001) with the idea of having larger, longer movements that have the dramatic development, separated by very short movements that are almost palate cleansers," Asia said.
"The first movement contains a cadenza that is almost out of the musical world, but it then is referred back to in the fourth movement," he said, describing the Nonet. "It also has a moment, a brief secondary theme that is quite lyrical, but it dissipates very quickly back to the original angular, perky material."
"The second movement, the andante," Asia explained, "is a walking scene that gradually grows more rhythmically vibrant as one moves through it, so that the central theme is portrayed very clearly, and stately, almost. The third movement is retake of the first movement, more prolonged, more developed each time. The rhythm becomes more complex, and in fact the density of material becomes more complex."
"The fourth movement is a lyrical adagio, very much in contrast to anything that we've heard so far," Asia said. "The strings for the first time are a backdrop for the lyrical, almost chant-like material that appears in the winds. It takes material from the second movement and reworks it for the entire ensemble. The fifth movement is a re-working of the material from the first and third movements in its most robust and fully orchestrated."
"The final movement is the most complicated rhythmically. It takes some of the material from the third movement which is a jazzy presentation of that opening material and redevelops it extensively," Asia said.
Other works on the program include Iša Krejčí's Nonet Divertimento Mozart's Horn Quintet, and ensemble arrangements of Debussy's Suite Bergamasque for piano and Wagner's Siegfried Idyll.