Internationally acclaimed veterans of contemporary music, Sirius Quartet creates unforgettable musical events that combine exhilarating repertoire with unequaled improvisational fire. The group’s forward-thinking, genre-defying approach with collaborations in post-rock, avant-jazz and electronic music makes labels like ‘New Music’ sound passé. Born and bred in NYC’s downtown music scene, Sirius has performed at major venues around the globe. Having premiered works by the likes of Phil Kline, Uri Caine and Richard Einhorn, Sirius pushes beyond the conventional vocabulary of string instruments with bold, original works by its own members, incorporating improvisation, extended techniques and undeniable grooves. These conservatory-trained performer/composers shine with precision, soul and a raw energy rarely witnessed in concert. The quartet has performed at many important US venues, including Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, LACMA, the Andy Warhol Museum (co-presented by Music on the Edge), Tribeca New Music, American Composers Alliance Music Festival, Chelsea Music Festival and The Kitchen. International appearances include the 2013 Stuttgart Jazz Fest, the 2013 Beijing Music Festival, Bern University of the Arts, the National Academy in Ochsenhausen, the 2012 Tianjin International Jazz Festival, the University of Music and Theater in Munich, the 2011 Taichung Jazz Festival, Köln’s Musik Triennale, and Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Canada. Sirius Quartet has also shared studio and stage with the likes of Diane Reeves, Billy Martin (Medeski Martin and Wood), Jeremy Pelt, John Zorn, Uri Caine, John Escreet, Mike Block, Theo Bleckmann, John Patitucci, Ivo Perelman, Matthew Shipp, Nick Didkovsky, Mikael Karlsson, Elliot Sharp, Linda Oh and many others. With their latest album Colors of the East, Sirius Quartet puts forward the explosive, genre-defying compositions of violinist Gregor Huebner on full display. The title track is a piece inspired by Huebner’s own Romani heritage, rife with Balkan melodies and odd-metered grooves galore. Colors of the East sees the quartet’s ranks bolstered by the addition of accordion virtuoso Peter Stan and upright powerhouse Pascal Niggenkemper. Rounding out the album is Huebner’s String Quintet, a labyrinthine trip through the dissonant sound worlds of the classical avant-garde and modern jazz, and his New York Suite for string quartet, a homage to the city that Huebner has called home for the last 20 years; each movement a sonic snapshot of a different NYC neighborhood or locale. These pieces feature Gregor’s brother Veit Huebner on bass, and Sirius alumnus Mike Block on cello, respectively.
NEW YORK TIME
A Mesh of Sounds- ‘Voices, Winds and Paths’ at the Chelsea Music Festival
An alluring array of sounds filled St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church in Manhattan on Tuesday evening during a performance of the Brazilian-born composer Felipe Lara’s “Voz de Ventos” (“Voices of the Winds”), part of the imaginative Chelsea Music Festival. Mr. Lara advised the audience not to turn around and watch the clarinetist Danny Goldman, the flutist Caitlyn Phillips and the bassoonist Brad Balliett as they played in a balcony at the back of the church, but to focus instead on how the music traveled in space.
The lights were dimmed as what sounded like a chorus of deep breathers echoed through the church. It seemed as if more than three instruments were at work as unearthly timbres blended in a microtonal mesh, the music flowing and ebbing in intensity as the low rumblings of the bassoon underpinned the bright sound of the flute.
This year’s festival features a German-Brazilian theme inspired by the birth and death anniversaries of Richard Strauss, Heitor Villa-Lobos and C. P. E. Bach, with concerts intertwined with visual and culinary themes. Bach was represented on the first half of the “Voices, Winds and Paths” program, when Michael Culo conducted the Collegium Iuvenum Stuttgart Boys Choir in a lineup that traced the development of sacred German choral music from Bach and two other baroque composers, Heinrich Schütz and Andreas Hammerschmidt, through Beethoven and Mendelssohn. The choir (ranging in age from children to young men) sang with polish and expressive phrasing, although texts and translations would have been welcome.
The choir joined the Sirius Quartet for the premiere of the German composer and violinist Gregor Huebner’s “Six Songs of Innocence,” a lyrical setting of poems by William Blake. The most memorable moments were for string quartet, with the ensemble showing its versatility and flair with lively improvisations. During one section the Sirius violinists (Mr. Huebner and Fung Chern Hwei) engaged in a spirited duo, Mr. Fung beating time with his bow on his violin to accompany Mr. Huebner’s fiddling.
The Sirius’s performance of “Paths Become Lines,” a recent work by Jeremy Harman, the group’s cellist, proved another highlight. Driving rhythms and aggressive arpeggios were woven around an elusive cello melody in this engaging score, further enhanced by the improvisatory flair of the two violinists during their lively midpiece jam session.
Correction: June 14, 2014
A music review on Thursday about a concert in the Chelsea Music Festival, at St. Paul’s German Lutheran Church in Manhattan, that included the Sirius Quartet referred incorrectly at one point to one of the quartet’s violinists, Fung Chern Hwei. He is Mr. Fung, not Mr. Chern Hwei.
Reutlinger Zeitung (Germany)
“Rarely do you find ensembles who master the combination of new music, avant-garde, and jazz in such a brilliant way.”
New York City Jazz Record
“…the string players prove themselves as impressive improvisers, conversant with a wide range of extended techniques, their singing lines intertwining and soaring.”
Schäbische Zeitung (Germany)
“It takes only seconds at the beginning of the concert to feel that there are four instruments which open doors to rooms full of sound which are closed even for the modern classical string quartet literature.”