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Baryshnikov Art Center And Tippet Rise to Co-Present The Aizuri Quartet In Two Digital Concerts


Featuring Music Spanning 10 Centuries, all by Female Composers

Baryshnikov Art Center And Tippet Rise to Co-Present The Aizuri Quartet In Two Digital Concerts

Baryshnikov Arts Center and Tippet Rise Art Center will co-present the Aizuri Quartet in two digital concerts premiering on Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 3PM MT/5PM ET and Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 3PM MT/5PM ET at and The two-part program, What's Past is Prologue, features music spanning 10 centuries, all by female composers. A film by director Tristan Cook with audio engineer Noriko Okabe artfully captures Aizuri Quartet performing these works on March 4, 2021 at the studio of sculptor Joel Shapiro in Long Island City, New York. Both concert films will be free and available on-demand for two weeks following the premiere date.

In the program notes, Aizuri cellist Karen Ouzounian writes, "The phrase 'What's Past is Prologue' was famously spoken by Antonio in Shakespeare's The Tempest, and has become a modern shorthand for the notion that history sets the context for the present. For this Aizuri Quartet program, [it] refers to music of the present moment that has sprung forth from the past. Contemporary composers [Rhiannon Giddens, Gabriella Smith, and Eleanor Alberga] reflect on the work of those who came before them as they push the string quartet medium towards the future."

The June 23 premiere features German Benedictine composer and philosopher Hildegard von Bingen's (b. 1098) liturgical poem Columba aspexit, newly arranged for string quartet by Alex Fortes, and San Francisco Bay Area-based composer and environmentalist Gabriella Smith's (b. 1991) Carrot Revolution, written for Aizuri's GRAMMY-winning album Blueprinting. The program also includes GRAMMY and MacArthur Award-winning composer and singer/songwriter Rhiannon Giddens' (b. 1977) psychological journey into a troubled part of America's past, At the Purchaser's Option, inspired by an 1830s advertisement selling a young enslaved woman, with or without her 9 month old baby "at the purchaser's option." Giddens, a musical historian, imagines the thoughts of the enslaved person whose soul is out of reach to her captors.

The June 30 premiere includes Alex Fortes' new, Aizuri-commissioned string quartet arrangements of Italian composer and singer Barbara Strozzi's (b. 1619) L'usignuolo "The Nightingale" and L'amante modesto "The Modest Lover," originally written for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass with basso continuo; and the second movement of British, Jamaican-born composer Eleanor Alberga's (b. 1949) String Quartet No. 1. Alberga writes, "In the case of the first quartet I was propelled into an intense burst of creativity by a lecture on physics. The details of this lecture - who gave it, where it was given, and so on - are now lost to my memory, but what grabbed me was the realization that all matter - including our physical bodies - is made of the same stuff: star dust. So the first movement might be called 'a fugue without a subject,' as particles of this stardust swirl around each other, go their separate ways, collide, or merge. The second movement might be described as 'stargazing from outer space,' while the finale re-establishes gravity and earthbound energy."

A live Zoom conversation among the quartet members will be held on Monday, June 28, 2021 at 7PM MT/9PM ET. Free registration is available beginning May 24 at

Described as "immensely appealing" by The New York Times, American sculptor Joel Shapiro (b. 1941) creates abstract geometric sculpture that elicits a sense of movement and engages viewers' physical and psychological relationships with space. His studio, the setting for both concerts, currently exhibits his recent investigations of the expressive possibility of form and color in space-painted wooden elements suspended from the ceiling and extending from the walls and floor - exploring the projection of thought into space without the constraint of architecture.

Event Information


Wednesday, June 23, 2021 at 5PM ET until Wednesday, July 7, 2021 at 5PM ET
Free and available on demand at and
Running Time: 20 Minutes

Hildegard von Bingen (arr. Alex Fortes): Columba aspexit
Rhiannon Giddens: At the Purchaser's Option (2016)
Gabriella Smith: Carrot Revolution (2015)

Monday, June 28 at 7:00PM MT/9:00PM ET
In Conversation: Aizuri Quartet
Live on ZOOM
Free / Registration required at, available beginning May 24
Running Time: 30 Minutes

Wednesday, June 30, 2021 at 5PM ET until Wednesday, July 14 at 5PM ET
Free and available on demand at and
Running Time: 25 Minutes

Barbara Strozzi (arr. Alex Fortes): L'usignuolo
Eleanor Alberga: String Quartet No. 1 (1993)
II. Espressivo, with wonder and yearning
Barbara Strozzi (arr. Alex Fortes): L'amante modesto

Programs were filmed at the studio of sculptor Joel Shapiro in Long Island City, NY on March 4, 2021.

Film Director - Tristan Cook
Audio Engineer - Noriko Okabe

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