Contemporary Chamber Music

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The act of strumming is probably something you associate more often with a guitar, or more generally with folk music – that signature technique where a player makes a sweeping motion across the strings of the instrument to produce sound.

You can, of course, also strum the strings of a violin, a viola, and a cello – and Jessie Montgomery’s appropriately-titled  piece “Strum” is based entirely around just that: strumming on the instruments of the string quartet.

Montgomery says that this work  is the culmination of several versions of a string quintet which she wrote in 2006. In 2012 the piece underwent its final revisions with a rewrite of both the introduction and the ending for the Catalyst Quartet in a performance celebrating the 15th annual Sphinx Competition.

Interestingly, this is music that was originally composed for a quintet of cellos, and in adapting the music for string quartet Montgomery has spread out the voicing of the instruments, and what results is quite an expansive sound. On top of that, the music draws on American folk idioms and the spirit of dance and movement, so there’s moments of both nostalgia and ecstasy throughout the piece.

Finally, as you can imagine based on the title, you’ll hear some strumming across the ensemble: in fact, these rhythmic, strumming moments serve as a textural theme, described by the composer as the “primary driving rhythmic underpinning of the piece.” And layered on top of this are melodies which weave in and out.

We’ll hear the Catalyst Quartet perform this work from the Grand Canyon Music Festival on a program of contemporary trio and quartet works. Tune in for that, plus performances by the Lysander Piano Trio, ASU Faculty members Elizabeth Buck, Christopher Creviston, and Hannah Creviston, and the Tokyo-based OrigAmi Euphonium Quartet.

Nabors - Piano Trio (2019) - Lysander Piano Trio

Hyde to Jekyll

A Day in the Life

Jekyll to Hyde


Bark - Shout for Joy for Flute, Alto Saxophone, and Piano - Elizabeth Buck, flute; Christopher Creviston, saxophone; Hannah Creviston, piano

I. Uncontrollable

II. Irrepressible


Montgomery - Strum - Catalyst Quartet


Akiho - Presidio - Catalyst Quartet


Ruedi - Variations on Japanese Song - Euphonium Quartet OrigAmi


Shinkawa - Multilayer III for 4 Euphoniums - Euphonium Quartet OrigAmi

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