Even as Brooklyn Rider redefines what a string quartet is, it embodies the form’s tradition by premiering new works by great living composers. This concert began with a debut of group member Colin Jacobsen’s A Mirror for a Prince. It set the stage for an evening that would dwell on two great themes: the conduct of leaders and the hearts of their people.
Philip Glass has now written seven string quartets, and on this night, Brooklyn Rider gave the most recent one, No. 7, its Southern California premiere. Sinuous, reflective, and stunningly beautiful, No. 7 demonstrated that Glass is now at a peak in writing for this configuration. Let’s not call it his “late style” yet, but as with Beethoven, there’s a sense of mystery and longing that at once extends and transcends the composer’s earlier work in the genre.
Kamancheh virtuoso Kayhan Kalhor opened the second set with a solo improvisation of extraordinary honesty and directness. Kalhor has an ability to bare his soul through his playing that one only hears a few times in a generation. Like John Coltrane, Kalhor establishes such a vivid presence with his instrument that it feels as if he is talking, even perhaps telling us the news of the world. When the rest of the group returned to the stage, they played Kalhor’s classic composition Silent City, a piece that takes on new meaning every time it is performed.