Part concert and part multimedia event, the unconventional performance titled “Akoka: The End of Time” at 8 p.m. Saturday, April 5, will present Olivier Messaien’s World War II classic “Quartet for the End of Time” — one of the most popular chamber works from the 20th century — in a new context.
The “Quartet for the End of Time” was composed and premiered while Messaien was being held in a prisoner of war camp during World War II. The piece was composed for clarinet, violin, cello and piano because those were the instruments available; a sympathetic guard slipped some paper to the composer so he could write out the score.
Akoka was the Jewish clarinetist in the prison camp who performed the world premiere. This program has a musical focus on Akoka’s story, bringing out the human aspect of this composition as seen from the perspective of someone caught in terrifying events beyond his control.
This performance will feature noted American clarinetist David Krakauer, respected in the fields of classical music and klezmer music, who will be joined by innovative cellist Matt Haimowitz and other musicians from an ensemble known as Socalled. Haimowitz once performed the Bach Cello Suites at The Palms Playhouse in Davis.
“Quartet for the End of Time” will be performed in its entirety between the two new works — Krakauer’s “Akoka” being a raw structured improvisation that takes as its point of departure some of the musical gestures of the Messiaen — and the closing piece (“Meanwhile,” by Socalled) made up of sequences and samples of the acoustic recording of the Messiaen combined with sound images that illustrate the violence and turbulence of the piece.
“Akoka: The End of Time” lifts Messiaen’s original work out of the polite context of a chamber music concert and places it in a dramatic setting that drives home its gravity and impact, while bringing it into the 21st century. As the forces of fundamentalism, intolerance and violence intensify in today’s world, this particular mounting of the great work seems all the more timely.
Opening the program will be the Brahms Clarinet Trio, and a suite from “Gimpel the Fool” by David Schiff.
A question-and-answer session will follow the performance, moderated by faculty member Sam Nichols of the UC Davis music department.
The concert will be in Jackson Hall at the Mondavi Center. Tickets start at $37 general, $18.50 for students, available at www.mondaviarts.org or 530-754-2787.