Sleepover Show #35: The Boston String Players

Sometime last summer we read an article about the Boston String Players explaining how conductor Motoki Tanaka found his greatest happiness through exposing new audiences to the classical compositions he loved.  Having gathered together some of the upcoming talents here in town, Tanaka organizes concerts and other performances to help broaden the audience for the composers of the past by proving that great music does not always have to be contemporary.  And for us, through their interpretation of Radiohead’s Idioteque, that contemporary music can also have its roots in the classical traditions.

So when we contacted the group about doing a Sleepover Show, we were met with much enthusiasm.  Since they are local, we had the opportunity to meet them first during one of their practice sessions, at which they were busy at work trying to figure out which pieces to play for us.  They settled on two pieces by Claude Debussy, and bassist Chad Gray’s own take on Idioteque.  For the performance itself, we were invited to sculptor Janet Echelman’s home studio.  The drawings all around the room are design sketches, works in progress, and completed pieces–as is the giant mesh sculpture that hung over the heads of the musicians for the shoot.

The musicians–Lilit Hartunian on first violin, Sam Stapleton on second violin, Brianna Pesce on viola, Nick Upton on cello and Chad Gray on bass–tuned, rehearsed, and readied themselves for our very first classical show.  The first piece performed is La Fille Aux Cheveux De Lin (The Girl with the Flaxen Hair) from Préludes for piano (1909) by Claude Debussy.  Motoki revealed to us that after composing the piece, Debussy imagined an attractive young lady listening to it, but you are free to create your own images.

Next, another by Debussy, Golliwogg’s Cakewalk from Children’s Corner Suite for piano (1908).  A dance, this song is, as Motoki explains, a gateway to a better appreciation of classical music.  A short, lively piece, the Boston String Players are actually reinterpreting here a piano recording by Sergei Rachmaninoff.

Finally, if short, lively pieces are not enough to pique your interest, we have a reinterpretation of a Radiohead song.  Long a favorite of contemporary classical and jazz composers who record variations of their songs, here we get a theme based on Idioteque.  As with the best of interpretations and covers, the Players make this their own, elongating the music to nearly seven minutes, each second of which is rife with tension–so much so that the time goes by without a notice.  As always, we hope you enjoy the videos.  If you like what you hear, try the Boston String Players live; they have a show coming up on April 16th at First Church in Boston.


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