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Empyrean Ensemble features grad student works

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May 16, 2011 |

Ching-Yi Wang's String Quartet No. 3 will be performed Monday by the UC Davis Empyrean Ensemble. Courtesy photo

Next week’s concert by the Empyrean Ensemble could be considered as an event similar to a group of bold young inventors trying out their semi-experimental flying machines.

On Monday, May 23, at 7 p.m. in the Vanderhoef Studio Theatre at the Mondavi Center, the Empyrean Ensemble will premiere compositions by UC Davis music department graduate student composers. The works were composed for quartets of various instrumental combinations. The program will include:

* Garrett Shatzer: “Lament: Verse I” for String Quartet. Shatzer, who studies with professor Pablo Ortiz, adds this recent quartet to a series of pieces he has written for string quartet. He says the entire series deals “with different aspects of sadness,” and adds that it is his “hope that each piece will be more crushing than the last and that the collection as a whole will be just as affective/effective as, say, experiencing a few hours of (Alan) Pettersson’s symphonies.”

* Ching-Yi Wang: String Quartet No. 3. Wang has written for a wide range of ensembles, and for this piece decided to “focus on the perception of time.” Her piece explores continuous sounds contrasted against what she calls “periodic,” or non-continuous events.

* Ben Irwin: “Projection.” Irwin has been working hard this year on revising older pieces in addition to writing new ones. “Projection” uses melodies that contain a 60-note scale, which is introduced with solo piano, and overlapped with other material in the piece later on.

The work was inspired, as Irwin says, “by the idea of projecting musical structures onto one another, in a manner roughly analogous to the projection of three-dimensional space onto two-dimensional maps.”

* Scott Perry: “Three Spells.” Perry is studying with Mika Pelo, and enjoys composing for both concert and electronic music formats. “Three Spells” is in three movements and contains a part written for glockenspiel, which is given a repeated melodic motif that, as Perry says, is to imitate “the dogged following of a process that is owed to Art (Jarvinen),” who was a California Institute of the Arts instructor of Perry’s who died recently.

* Liam Wade: “Food Twenty Eleven” for Odd Quartet. Wade is an assistant for the Empyrean Ensemble and studies composition with Kurt Rohde and Ross Bauer. His odd quartet is written for flute, clarinet, percussion and piano, which was a combination he thought was perfect for a sort of be-bop tango.

Wade says the piece is “a merger of (his) two musical head-spaces: the technical, cerebral side … and the intuitive, lyrical side.”

* Gabriel Bolaños: “Two Daguerreotypes” for String Quartet. Bolaños is a Nicaraguan-American composer and guitarist, studying with professor Pablo Ortiz at UC Davis. “Two Daguerreotypes” is his first string quartet in two movements.

The first movement contains a large climax, but the second is built on, as Bolaños says, “the idea of auditory masking — essentially, how a quiet sound can be drown out by a louder one.”

* Hendel Almétus: “Combite” for String Quartet. Almétus, now in his third year of his Ph.D. program at UC Davis, was born in Haiti. In his quartet “Combite,” he has “set out to musically portray a gradual change from the  highest register of the ensemble to the lowest” and later explore ideas of dramatic contrast with both rhythm and tonality.

The musicians performing these works are Hrabba Atladottir and Michelle Maruyama, violin; Ellen Ruth Rose, viola; Robert Howard, cello; Michael Seth Orland, piano; Loren Mach, percussion; Tod Brody, flute; and Peter Josheff, clarinet. The ensemble is co-directed by Kurt Rohde and Mika Pelo.

Tickets are $20 for adults and $8 for students and children. Seating is reserved, cabaret-style. Tickets may be purchased from the Mondavi Center Ticket Office via http://www.mondaviarts.org or by calling (530) 754-2787.

— Reach Jeff Hudson at [email protected] or (530) 747-8055.

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