The Telegraph Quartet (above) with Abigail Fischer and Robert Sirota (below) (courtesy of Jensen Artists)
Next month the Sierra Chamber Society, based in Walnut Creek, will present the world premiere of a new composition by Robert Sirota. “Contrapassos” was scored for string quartet and soprano. The vocalist for the occasion will be soprano Abigail Fischer, performing with the members of the Telegraph Quartet (violinists Joseph Maile and Eric Chin, violist Pei-Ling Lin, and cellist Jeremiah Shaw). The libretto was written by Stevan Cavalier, who explains the text he wrote as follows:
Contrapasso is an Italian term from Dante's time meaning a punishment made by inversion of a sin. For example, one who in life was mired in the vain pursuit of worldly goods, is condemned after death to wander eternally in boiling mud. In this poem, dreams may be regarded as the contrapassos of waking life.
Sirota, in turn, has explained the structure of his composition:
The piece begins with memories of the quotidian joys of childhood, quickly turning to darkness and thoughts of early death by suicide, heart attacks in middle age, and final judgment. And yet throughout, there is the vigorous embrace of abundant life, of the beauty of our world, and of our striving for faith.
Fortunately for those living in San Francisco, “Contrapassos” will be given two additional performances within the city limits.
The first of these will be presented by Noontime Concerts, and the program will also include a performance of Ludwig van Beethoven’s Opus 131 quartet in C-sharp minor. These events take place regularly at 12:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. This particular program will be performed on March 17. The performance will take place in the sanctuary of Old Saint Mary’s Cathedral, which is located in Chinatown at 660 California Street, on the northeast corner of Grant Street. There is no charge for admission, but this concert series relies heavily on donations to continue offering its weekly programs.
The second performance will take place the following night in the Caroline H. Hume Concert Hall of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music (SFCM). While the Noontime Concerts offering will only be an hour in duration, SFCM will present a full-length concert program. Thus, in addition to the works by Beethoven and Sirota, Fischer will also join Telegraph in a performance of Arnold Schoenberg’s Opus 10 (second) string quartet in F-sharp minor, whose final two movements include a soprano along with the quartet.
This concert will begin at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, March 18. The SFCM building is located at 50 Oak Street, between Van Ness Avenue and Franklin Street, a short walk from the Van Ness Muni Station. There will be no charge for admission, but reservations are highly recommended. The SFCM event page for this concert includes a hyperlink for making reservations.