It's music for different duos on Now Is the Time, Saturday, January 25th at 9 pm Eastern on the all-classical stream at wrti.org and WRTI-HD2. Charles Knox's Suite for Piano Four-Hands is puckish and not a little bold: its six movements take four minutes to play, and include an "Etude" that lasts all of six seconds. Chen Yi channels, for two violins and strings, two ancient Chinese instruments in her Romance of Hsiao and Ch’in, and George Crumb, in his Otherworldly Resonances for two amplified pianos, honors, in the "Palimpsest" movement, old manuscripts that have been erased and written over (and quotes the Gospel song "Bringing in the Sheaves").
Van Stiefel sets poetry of Sidney Lanier for voice and two electric guitars in Souls and Raindrops, and Ursula Mamlok's brilliant Sonatina is for two clarinets. Lance Hulme composed Manic Music, he said, for "two maniacal pianists," and the playing seems to demand a certain craziness, as cavalier as you can be while staying in step with your duo partner.
From the opening moments of its recent CD Thrum, the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet throws its cards on the table. Attitude and refined sound are the driving forces here. Even the first percussive beats that herald the strut through Harlem—the first movement of Daniel Bernard Roumain’s Ghetto Strings—are nuanced, a combination of tap, stroke, and pound. This is delicious playing.
Heat isn't all there is to summer on Now Is the Time, Sunday, July 21st at 10 pm. Gao Hong not only composed Guangxi Impressions, but also plays the pipa, or Chinese lute, on her work, along with the Minneapolis Guitar Quartet. It includes Summer Cicada and Celebrating the Harvest. Ronald Perera follows with Five Summer Songs of Emily Dickinson, looking at changing gardens, jostling winds, and reveries.
Two composer/guitarists round out the program. Van Stiefel always wondered why there weren't more violin/guitar duos in the literature, so he wrote one, Smoke and Mirrors, using violin with electric guitar. John King's Lightning Slide imagines blues for the string quartet Ethel. Its movements are Swing, Sweet, and Sweat: if heat isn't all there is to summer, sometimes it just seems that way.