2020 Grammy Award-winning Attacca Quartet coming to New Mexico - Albuquerque Journal

2020 Grammy Award-winning Attacca Quartet coming to New Mexico

The Attaca Quartet

The Grammy-winning Attacca Quartet will perform in Santa Fe and Albuquerque this weekend.

The group will play at SITE Santa Fe on Saturday, Feb. 8, and at both Chatter Sunday at Las Puertas Event Center and a Chatter Cabaret concert at the Albuquerque Museum on Sunday, Feb. 9.

The dates mark the first New Mexico performances for the world-renowned quartet, cellist Andrew Yee said in a telephone interview from New York. They formed at The Juilliard School in 2003.

Their album “Orange,” featuring six of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Caroline Shaw’s pieces, was released last July. NPR called it “a love letter to the string quartet.” The musicians received the 2020 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music/Small Ensemble Performance for the recording.

The quartet will perform Paul Wiancko’s “Benkei’s standing death” and Beethoven’s String Quartet Op. 18 No. 6 in both Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

The commissioned “Benkei” is based on a Japanese folk tale about a warrior monk named Benkei. The New Mexico performances will mark its world premiere.

“He plays duels with people and when he beats them he takes their swords,” Yee said.

Wiancko “is one of our favorite new composers,” Yee continued. “It just has amazing textures and it’s got really great tone poetry. Paul’s music has a kinetic energy and a sort of joy we really latch onto.”

The Beethoven work is in honor of the composer’s 250th anniversary. The piece is one of the composer’s earliest.

“This quartet is kind of ahead of its time,” Yee said. “The first movement is at breakneck speed. It also has that same kinetic energy and that sense of joy.”

At the Albuquerque Museum, Attacca will play Shaw’s “Entr’acte.” The term refers to an interval between a play or ballet.

“Caroline is great at mixing what feels very natural for a string performer with what feels natural to sing,” Yee said. “There are these chords you can’t get out of your head.”

Gabriella Smith penned her “Carrot Revolution” based on Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation art collection.

“The walls have not just one style of painting, but several paintings from different time periods,” Yee explained. “She mixes a lot of different styles. I use the cello as a drum for the first couple of minutes. It’s just very imaginative.”

The work blends rock music with choirs and Appalachian fiddles.

“It could easily be corny, but it’s not,” he added.

The concert will close with Beethoven’s String Quartet in C sharp minor, Op. 131.

“It’s the Mount Everest of string quartets,” Yee said. “It is different from any other string quartet ever written. He took the form and threw it out and wrote seven movements and took out all the breaks. You play for 45 minutes straight.”

Yee grew up in Fairfax, Virginia.

“When the string teacher came around to show us all the instruments, she played something on the violin and the viola. But she was a very poor cellist, so she played the theme from ‘Jaws’ and I said, ‘That’s me.’ ”

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