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Brooklyn Rider

Friday June 23, 2023 at 8:00pm

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Friday June 23, 2023 at 8:00pm

With the energy of four young rock stars, Brooklyn Rider performs a program that explores the four elements (earth, air, water, and fire) as a metaphor for the complex inner world of the string quartet and the current health of planet Earth. You’ll hear music created within the last century of accelerated and unprecedented climate change, including pieces commissioned by the Quartet, by composers whose works reflect current realities and serve as a musical call to action. Will you heed the call?

Summer Season Shuttle / Take the FREE shuttle from Metro North’s Katonah train station to and from Caramoor! The shuttle runs before and after every summer afternoon and evening concert. No need to RSVP to get on the shuttle, it will be there when you arrive (in the parking lot side of the station). And if it’s not there, that means that it just left and will be back in 5-10 minutes!


Johnny Gandelsman, violin
Colin Jacobsen, violin
Nicholas Cords, viola
Michael Nicolas, cello


Colin Jacobsen (based on American Folk Songs as collected by Ruth Crawford Seeger): A Short While to be Here
Andreia Pinto-Correia: Aere senza stelle (NY premiere)
Dmitri Shostakovich: String Quartet No. 8 in C Minor, Op. 110
Osvaldo Golijov: Tenebrae

About The Four Elements

A Short While To Be Here (2023)
Colin Jacobsen (based on American Folk Songs as collected by Ruth Crawford Seeger)
I. Whoa, Mule!
II. Hommage a Ruth
III. Peep Squirrel
IV. The Old Cow Died
V. Little Birdie

We have a “short while to be here, and a long time to be gone,” as the lyrics go on the American folk song Little Birdie. Astronaut Loren Acton described his experience looking down at our home planet Earth from above: “Looking outward to the blackness of space, sprinkled with the glory of a universe of lights, I saw majesty – but no welcome. Below was a welcoming planet. There, contained in the thin, moving, incredibly fragile shell of the biosphere is everything that is dear to you, all the human drama and comedy. That’s where life is; that’s where all the good stuff is.” In writing this piece, I was very much inspired by the example of Ruth Crawford Seeger, one of America’s most forward looking composers of the early part of the 20th century. Then her life took a turn in Depression-era America as she and her husband Charles Seeger began a deep investigation of American folk music alongside the Lomax brothers during the FDR years. She treated folk music with the respect and attention that Bela Bartok had exhibited in a somewhat parallel fashion in Europe, and as an educator became deeply committed to teaching folk songs to children. She published several collections of American folk songs for children, including the Animal Folk Songs for Children. She also raised 4 children of her own during that challenging time, several of whom became icons of the folk-revival movement in the generation to come (step-son Pete Seeger, and her own children Peggy and Mike Seeger). For around 20 years, her personal compositional voice was silent, but in 1952, she wrote one last modernist composition, a wind quintet before falling ill and eventually succumbing to cancer. I like to imagine what would have happened if she had lived longer and had attempted to further integrate her life’s work- her love of folk music alongside her formalist/composerly voice. So this piece, representing Earth in our The Four Elements project, is very much an hommage to Ruth (nicknamed “Dio” by her children) as well as joyous celebration of our home planet. This of course includes all animals and children past and present who’ve been here or will be here a short while and then gone for a long time…

— Colin Jacobsen

Aere senza stelle (2022)
Andreia Pinto Correia
The inspiration for Aere senza stelle (Air Without Stars) was the tempestades de poeira—or dust storms—that travel from the Sahara Desert to the Iberia Peninsula, a phenomenon experienced during my youth in Portugal. From the descriptions of “blood rains” as bad omens epics by Homer, Hesiod, and Plutarch, to scientific observations by Darwin and Ehrenberg in the nineteenth century, up until today, the reporting of desert dust storms has evolved from descriptive narratives to encompassing an entire field of environmental research. Re-reading Dante Alighieri’s Inferno, I recognized a profound poetic connection to climate change, and so I mirrored the structure of Canto III, 22-30 dividing the work into three sections. In the final measures, the string quartet creates a sonic cloud, as though carrying an infinite stream of particles from the desert to other parts of the world. I. Lacrimoso, quasi recitativo – the starless air: lyrical and static. II. Agitato, strepitoso – a tumult of voices: dense, angular and dissonant. III. Misterioso, senza misura. Inquieto – time suspended. A whirlwind of sands, vanishing into infinity. Commissioned by the 2022 Vail Dance Festival, Damien Woetzel – Artistic Director – Aere senza stelle is dedicated in admiration to António Guterres, for his life dedication to climate change issues, and to Catarina Vaz Pinto. A special thank you to Brooklyn Rider.

— Andreia Pinto Correia

String Quartet No. 8 in c minor, Op 110 (1960)
Dmitri Shostakovich
Dmitri Shostakovich’s explosive Eighth String Quartet was written in just three days in 1960 while visiting Dresden to write music for the film Five Days and Five Nights about the Allied firebombing of that city in World War II. Dedicated to “the victims of fascism and war,” the extra-musical meaning of the work has long been debated. Is it an aautobiographical statement about the composer’s struggles against the Stalinist regime, a reference to the Holocaust, or a rebuke to totalitarianism? While we will never ultimately know, this beloved work has nevertheless secured a place as one of the most important and searingly powerful works of the 20th century. The basic building block of the five movement composition is based on the spelling of the composer’s name DSCH (D-E-flat-C-B), heard in the fugal opening of the first movement. The second movement reveals an iconic Jewish theme also heard in the composer’s famous Second Piano Trio. The composer describes his feelings on the qualitative elements of Jewish music in Testimony “Jewish folk music has made a most powerful impression on me… it can appear to be happy while it is tragic. It’s almost always laughter through tears. This quality… is close to my ideas of what music should be. There should always be two layers in music. Jews were tormented so long that they learned to hide their despair. They express despair in dance music.” Following the third movement’s macabre waltz, the fourth movement unfolds in a series of quotations. Opening with a series of ominous knockings, an inverted DSCH statement is juxtaposed, revealing a fragment of the Dies Irae from the Catholic Requiem Mass. Following this, the lower three instruments play a Russian funeral anthem (…tormented by the weight of bondage, you glorify death with honor…), followed by the two violins sounding the Russian revolutionary song “Languishing in prison.” Later in the movement, a soaringly transcendent cello melody from Shostakovich’s opera Lady Macbeth of Mtensk serves as an emotional crest, followed by an elegiac and contrapuntal reprise of the DSCH theme in the concluding movement.

— Nicholas Cords

Tenebrae (2003)
Osvaldo Golijov
I wrote Tenebrae as a consequence of witnessing two contrasting realities in a short period of time in September 2000. I was in Israel at the start of the new wave of violence that is still continuing today, and a week later I took my son to the new planetarium in New York, where we could see the Earth as a beautiful blue dot in space. I wanted to write a piece that could be listened to from different perspectives. That is, if one chooses to listen to it “from afar”, the music would probably offer a “beautiful” surface but, from a metaphorically closer distance, one could hear that, beneath that surface, the music is full of pain. I lifted some of the haunting melismas from Couperin’s Troisieme Leçon de Tenebrae, using them as sources for loops, and wrote new interludes between them, always within a pulsating, vibrating, aerial texture. The compositional challenge was to write music that would sound as an orbiting spaceship that never touches ground. After finishing the composition, I realized that Tenebrae could be heard as the slow, quiet reading of an illuminated medieval manuscript in which the appearances of the voice singing the letters of the Hebrew Alphabet (from Yod to Nun, as in Couperin) signal the beginning of new chapters, leading to the ending section, built around a single, repeated word: Jerusalem.

— Osvaldo Golijov 

About the Artists

With their gripping performance style and unquenchable appetite for musical adventure, Brooklyn Rider has carved a singular space in the world of string quartets over their 15-year history. Claiming no allegiance to either end of the historical spectrum, Brooklyn Rider most comfortably operates within the long arc of the tradition, seeking to illuminate works of the past with fresh insight while coaxing the malleable genre into the future through an inclusive programming vision, deep-rooted collaborations with a wide range of global tradition bearers, and the creation of thoughtful and relevant frames for commissioning projects.  

The quartet’s 2023-23 concert season is strongly illustrative of the intrepid musical appetite of Brooklyn Rider. Last fall they began unveiling a major new commissioning and programmatic venture called The Four Elements, an exploration of the four classical elements (earth, air, water, and fire) as both metaphor for both the complex inner world of the string quartet and the current health of planet Earth. This winter, the quartet also released The Wanderer, their first ever live concert recording, made in Palieusius Manor in Eastern Lithuania while on tour last spring. The album consists of two works written recent works written for Brooklyn Rider by Gonzalo Grau and Osvaldo Golijov, as well as Schubert’s iconic “Death and the Maiden” String Quartet. This season also sees the quartet reuniting with Magos Herrera across the U.S. for their Dreamers project.  

The 2021-22 season boasted two unique collaborative ventures: one with Israeli mandolin virtuoso Avi Avital, and the other, a brand-new phase of work with Swedish mezzo soprano Anne Sofie von Otter, where they explored themes of love and death through the music of Franz Schubert and Rufus Wainwright. Also, 2022’s release of The Stranger (Avie Records) with tenor Nicholas Phan was recently nominated for a 2023 Grammy Award and made numerous “best of” lists for 2022, including The New Yorker. These projects, along with the rest of Brooklyn Rider’s extensive discography, have helped give rise to NPR Music’s observation that Brooklyn Rider is “recreating the 300-year-old form of string quartet as a vital and creative 21st-century ensemble.” 

To learn more about Brooklyn Rider, please visit their website

Health & Safety / We’re committed to maintaining the health and safety of our audience, artists, and staff, while ensuring that every visit to Caramoor is comfortable and enjoyable. Click here for more information and up-to-date health and safety policies.

This concert was made possible, in part, thanks to the generous support of The Amphion Foundation.

Caramoor is proud to be a grantee of ArtsWestchester with funding made possible by Westchester County government with the support of County Executive George Latimer.
All concerts made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.