This week, the Cassatt String Quartet is having its annual Cassatt in the Basin residency, through which they bring the abiding principles of chamber music — effective communication, responsibility to the group, mutual respect, and intimate musical expression – to young people in West Texas. They began yesterday with a concert that included music by Melinda Wagner and Lev ‘Ljova Zhurbin. They will conclude on Thursday with a side-by-side concert featuring my triple quartet Brio, performed with students from local high schools.
Cassatt in the Basin commissioned Brio ten years ago. That is, a triple quartet was commissioned, with the idea that Cassatt would play it alongside eight high school students. I had had several opportunities to work with Cassatt over the years, so I had plenty of experience with their capacities, but I didn’t know what the level of the students would be. Creating a piece that would be suitable for their strengths, while also taking advantage of the Cassatt’s skills was challenging, and I went back and forth with several ideas over several weeks.
In the end, I wrote two pieces: Blossom and Brio, figuring I would choose one or the other when the time came.
Then the time came, and I didn’t know which to choose. So I sent both, and asked Cassatt to choose.
True to typical quartet culture, two of them preferred Blossom and two of them preferred Brio. I guess we could call that a Texas Stand-Off.
I don’t actually remember how that all turned out, but somehow they chose one of them and premiered it. The reason I don’t remember is because I’ve been fortunate enough to have them play both of them a few times over the subsequent years. This Thursday evening they are doing Brio – at least that’s what I think they will play – with students from Permian High School. Details here.