What’s Past is Prologue
"Elegant, inquisitive" - The New Yorker on Aizuri Quartet
The GRAMMY Award-winning string ensemble performs What's Past is Prologue, two digital concerts of music by female composers spanning the past millennia, filmed March 2021 at the studio of renowned sculptor Joel Shapiro.
The phrase "what's past is prologue," from Shakespeare's The Tempest, "has become a modern shorthand for the notion that history set the context for the present," says Aizuri cellist Karen Ouzounian. "Contemporary composers reflect on the work of those who came before them as they push the string quartet medium towards the future." The dramatic setting for this two-part program is Shapiro's large-scale geometric sculptures that suspend from the ceiling and extend from the walls and floors of his studio in Long Island City, Queens.
Part 1, available June 23 includes Benedictine composer, philosopher, and abbess Hildegard von Bingen’s (b. 1098) liturgical poem Columba aspexit, arranged for string quartet by Alex Fortes; composer and environmentalist Gabriella Smith’s (b. 1991) Carrot Revolution, written for Aizuri’s GRAMMY-winning album Blueprinting; and GRAMMY and MacArthur Award-winning musician Rhiannon Giddens’s (b. 1977) At the Purchaser’s Option, a haunting work inspired by an 1830s advertisement selling a young female slave with or without her 9 month old baby.
Part 2, available June 30 offers Barbara Strozzi’s (b. 1619) L'usignuolo “The Nightingale” and L’amante modesto “The Modest Lover,” arranged by Alex Fortes; and British, Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga’s (b. 1949) second movement from String Quartet No. 1, a life-affirming work inspired by a physics lecture in which the composer learned we are all made of star dust.
Film Director - Tristan Cook
Audio Engineer - Noriko Okabe
Live on ZOOM
Praised by The Washington Post for “captivating” performances that draw from its notable “meld of intellect, technique and emotions,” the Aizuri Quartet was awarded the Grand Prize and the CAG Management Prize at the 2018 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, along with top prizes at the 2017 Osaka International Chamber Music Competition in Japan, and the 2015 Wigmore Hall International String Quartet Competition in London.
The Quartet’s debut album, Blueprinting, featuring new works written for the Aizuri Quartet by five American composers, was released by New Amsterdam Records and nominated for a 2019 GRAMMY Award. Through its engaging and thought-provoking programs, branded by The New York Times as “genuinely exciting” and “imaginative,” the Quartet has garnered critical acclaim for bringing “a technical bravado and emotional power” to bold new commissions, and for its “flawless” (San Diego Union-Tribune) performances of the great masterpieces of the past. The Quartet has performed extensively throughout North America, as well as in Europe, Japan, Mexico, Chile, Costa Rica, and Abu Dhabi, and has commissioned and premiered new works by Pulitzer Prize-winner Caroline Shaw, Lembit Beecher, Paul Wiancko, Yevgeniy Sharlat, Gabriella Smith, Rene Orth, Michi Wiancko, and Alyssa Weinberg. Their 20-21 season highlights include performances at Lincoln Center, San Antonio Chamber Music Society, National Gallery, Dallas Chamber Music Society, the Kennedy Center and a special performance of John Adams’ “Absolute Jest” with the Milwaukee Symphony. The quartet has been combining four distinctive musical personalities into a unique collective since 2012. Aizuri Quartet draws its name from “aizuri-e,” a style of predominantly blue Japanese woodblock printing that is noted for its vibrancy and incredible detail. They are currently based in New York City.
Photos: Maria Baranova