Gregg Kallor and the Attacca Quartet

Sheen Center Offers a Classical Music Series

By: - Jun 06, 2017

Gregg Kallor and the Attacca Quartet
Hosted by Gregg Kallor
World Premiere Some Not Too Distant Future
By Gregg Kallor
Commissioned by The Classical Recording Foundation Funded by a gift from Linda and Stuart Nelson
The Fierce Urgency of Now
The Road Ahead
Into the Hearts of Humanity
Only When it is Dark Enough, Can You See the Stars
Some Not too Distant Tomorrow 
Gregg Kallor, piano
The Attacca Quartet
Amy Schroeder, violin
Keiko Tokunaga, violin
Nathan Schram, viola
Andrew Yee, cello
The Sheen Center
New York, New York
June 5, 2017
Photo credit Andrew Ousley courtesy Unison Media

Sometimes you have the sense that artists and venues are desperately seeking the mash up or merger of forms to race to the finish line in the modern day music market.

Not so an artist like Gregg Kallor, who performed his own work on solo piano at the Sheen Center.  He followed with the world premiere of a quintet he has composed on Martin Luther King’s legacy for the Attacca Quartet.  

According to his parents, Kallor was born ambidextrous. That is, he is preternaturally comfortable in both the jazz and classical idioms. This gives his music a wonderful, off kilter beat and also provides the satisfaction of the demands of classical rigor. That this convergence works is a tribute to this highly gifted contemporary composer.

In this program, Kallor opened with his piano work, Notes from Underground, which immersed us in his special rhythms and colors.  

Next the Attacca Quartet performed Mendelssohn's Quartet in A Minor.  Their voice is distinguished by sharp attacks, for which they may have named themselves. (Attacca conventionally means to play without a pause between movments). Bright lyric lines abound and a sweetness is always tinged with passion.

This group too are born to music and its unique presentation on violin, viola and cello. They perform from Radio City Music Hall to Carnegie just up the road. The active and engaging conversation among the members of the group is part of their charm.  They each experience these musical talks between four instruments as a deepening of the understanding of a composition.

Mendelssohn studied Beethoven's late string quartets as he began to compose his own at eighteen years of age.  He admired cyclic construction and was captivated by the possibility of starting a movement adagio.  The Attacca played the last movement, which begins with a cadenza on the violin and then takes up a lovely, fast moving melody over a driving base, with particular passion.

Mendelssohn's music reminds us that classical composers also paid close attention to the elements of beat and lyricism in the service of mood. Mendelssohn quotes Beethoven.  Kallor likes to quote Eric Clapton and the Beatles.

The advantage of having one singular head and heart from which the moving, committed and wonderfully shaped sounds emerge becomes instantly clear. Kallor's Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow is inspired by the words and life of Martin Luther King, Jr. What could be a mess in the hands of a less talented originator now is music that, as one member of Attacca said, is getting better and better.

We heard Kallor’s Halloween classic, The Tell Tale Heart, at a Crypt Session around All Hallow’s Eve as it unfolded into an instant classic. It is easy to see a piece like Some Not Too Distant Tomorrow being performed in the Oprah Winfrey Theatre at the Museum of African American History and Culture on the Washington Mall. It is both an unusual and a monumental tribute to a leader who died as he was beginning to push for economic justice in America.

Cutting edge music is carving out all kinds of new edges with composers like Gregg Kallor. Despite dire predictions about the death of classical, its liveliness is erupting all around us.