Why we love Julia….
Julia Wolfe’s music lives on the extremes….with enough energy to power a major city. I love the edginess, the challenge to the instrumentalist to push beyond comfort zones to achieve ecstatic moments. The three pieces by Julia on our concerts this week could not be more different in instrumentation (bagpiper, violin/piano duo, 8 string basses), but all share an ecstatic quality, that surge of energy that thrills. It’s not music for the faint of heart….rather it’s for those who like some sizzle in their chamber music.
And this music is very tough to play! Ecstasy ain’t easy….it must be earned. Mark Mullaney starts of Julia’s half of the program with LAD, a fantastic piece for solo bagpiper and soundtrack. I was amazed by the way the opening music transforms the sound of this ancient instrument into something new, like the opening THX sound effect you hear in the movie theaters…I think it freaking rocks:
Mink Stole is a duo for violin and piano, and really puts Susan Smith and I to the test. It’s really fast….she indicates 116 = 1/4 note, which is right on the edge for us. The music alternates between gorgeous, sparkling melodies, and frenetic high octane glam power chords that evoke the 1920’s. It’s exhausting, thrilling stuff…
The last of Julia’s pieces on our program is Stronghold, an octet for string basses. This piece is only possible because of the great bassists we have in our community. The range of colors she gets from the instruments is incredible, from the boisterous beginning, through scenes of beautiful melodies and harmonies that break down into swirling pools of low music.