The Turtle Island Quartet and Ying Quartet collaboration features two dynamic string ensembles from opposite ends of the musical spectrum exploring the inner core and outer edges of their art form. The project was inspired by idle conversation between Phillip Ying and David Balakrishnan while they both were attending a Chamber Music America board meeting.
The two groups had the opportunity to pursue the myriad possibilities in person during a subsequent Turtle Island engagement at Eastman School of Music, where the Yings are in residence. As the musicians threw ideas back and forth, such as what role improvisation and groove play in a classical string quartet and how vibrato is used in creating a sonorous blend when playing jazz, a preliminary concept for a central theme soon emerged: “Tradition versus Innovation.”
During the first half of the program each quartet performs separately, demonstrating their individual styles of presentation and interpretation. The quartets unite in the second half to perform a new transcription of Darius Milhaud’s “La Création Du Monde,” the first significant attempt to use jazz in a concert work (1923). “Julie-O,” a virtuosic tour de force for cello duo by Mark Summer, follows. The centerpiece of the program is David Balakrishnan’s, “Mara’s Garden Of False Delights,”* a three-movement work imbued with the composer’s trademark stylistic integration of jazz, American vernacular, western classical and East Indian musical genres.
The program ends with both groups squaring off in a classic ‘battle of the bands’ configuration to perform Evan Price’s masterful “Variations on an Unoriginal Theme,” which takes the audience on a tour through a brief history of chamber music, beginning with a bit of simulated Haydn and ending with the sounds of James Brown! Telarc released the collaboration nationally in 2005.