The celebrated JACK Quartet took the audience at the first performance of the 2020 Hamlen-Palm Series of house concerts on a journey through a cutting-edge repertoire across classical time periods.
Hailed by The New York Times as “the nation’s most important quartet,” JACK opened the February 20, 2020, concert with Thomas Morley’s Christes Crosse. Though decidedly medieval, the jocular and playful tone of the piece made it feel modern, setting the tone for the genre-bending and innovation-forward program that followed.
The quartet, which features violinists Christopher Otto and Austin Wulliman, violinist John Pickford Richards and cellist Jay Cambell, then transported the audience to the postmodern world of groundbreaking composer John Zorn. The Remedy of Fortunes was written specifically for the quartet by Zorn. Connecting back to the medieval themes of the first piece, the group lithely moved between flowing movements and staccato plucking, contrasting moments of anticipation and piercing high notes with chilling and dynamic darker tones.
Challenging the conventions of classical music, the quartet then presented Sky Macklay’s Many, Many Cadences. The piece follows the rules of harmony within music theory, yet forms a bizarre, dissonant and experimental composition. JACK furiously traveled through the relentless cadences with a palpable fierceness, coupled with a sense of frivolity.
Moving back into medieval times, the quartet played Rodericus’ Angelorum Psalat, a complex piece featuring complicated rhythms. Resembling different clocks going in and out of synchronicity with each other, the quartet’s impeccable precision and timing throughout the bright piece captivated the audience.
Zorn’s Cat O’ Nine Tails, the first of eight string quartets he’s written, closed the concert. Like changing the channels on a television, the quartet expertly switched through dramatically different genres, from postmodern to country, gloomy to romantic. They approached the whimsy of the piece with an intense seriousness and intention.
The Hamlen-Palm Series concerts take place in the New York City home of Simon Yates and Kevin Roon. When the quartet returned to take their final bows, the couple’s dog, coincidentally named Jack, came barreling down the stairs to join in the congratulations.
JACK Quartet is committed to performing and commissioning new works, giving voice to underheard composers and cultivating an ever-greater sense of openness toward contemporary classical music. They have been selected as Musical America’s 2019 “Ensemble of the Year,” named to WQXR’s “19 for 19 Artists to Watch” and awarded an Avery Fisher Career Grant.
JACK Quartet was the first concert in the 2020 Hamlen-Palm Series. Soprano Lisette Oropesa performed on March 2, and countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo on March 24.
The Hamlen-Palm Series is generously supported by the Michael Palm Foundation/Stanley Family Foundation and The Hargrove Pierce Foundation.