Jefferson Friedman’s String Quartet No. 3 Nominated for a GRAMMY

Jefferson Friedman’s String Quartet No. 3 Nominated for a GRAMMY

Composer Jefferson Friedman's String Quartet No. 3, part of the Chiara String Quartet's Jefferson Friedman: Quartets album released in April on New Amsterdam Records, has been nominated for a Grammy Award in the Best Contemporary Classical Composition category (#76). The 54th Grammy Awards ceremony will take place on Sunday, Feb. 12, 2012, at 8pm EST on CBS.

Jefferson Friedman: Quartets also includes the composer’s String Quartet No. 2 and two remixes of the quartets by electronica duo Matmos. Grammy-winning engineer Judith Sherman (who is also nominated this year in the Classical Producer of the Year category) produced the recording.

The album has drawn significant praise since its release. The Boston Globe reports that String Quartet No. 3 shows “astonishing imaginative breadth,” while The San Francisco Chronicle raves, “It's a rare thrill to come across new music as exciting, vivacious and downright gorgeous as these two string quartets by young New York composer Jefferson Friedman.” Gramophone states, “Both in concept and in content, this CD of American composer Jefferson Friedman’s music breathes fresh new life into the string quartet genre. . .”

Friedman’s String Quartet Nos. 2 and 3 were commissioned by the Chiara, and are the result of a near fifteen-year friendship with the composer. They met in 1996 at the Aspen Music Festival, where the Chiara premiered Friedman’s first string quartet. They crossed paths again as graduate students at Juilliard and had a casual conversation that resulted in the composition of String Quartet No. 2 in 1999. In 2005, Friedman’s third string quartet was commissioned by the Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music on behalf of the Chiara. The world premiere took place that spring at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall.

Of a performance of No. 3, Allan Kozinn, writing in The New York Times reported it to be, “a vital, imaginative 30-minute score, packed with unusual timbres, unabashedly rich melodies and carefully worked-out themes. Mr. Friedman’s quartets are finding plenty of performances; they already deserve to be heard as classics of this decade.”

First violinist Rebecca Fischer remarks, “Jefferson describes his string quartets as abstract diary entries and the act of writing them as pure expression. Because we are such good friends, his music reflects our combined experiences; he writes for the Chiara Quartet as a unit and for each of our individual strengths and personalities. Parts of String Quartet No. 3 directly reflect this: ‘Epilogue/Lullaby’ is dedicated to my first daughter’s birth, and the love duet in ‘Act’ between the second violin and cello was written at the time of Julie and Greg’s engagement.”

The remixes by Matmos sprang from a more recent musical friendship, which began when Jefferson Friedman created the string arrangements for the duo’s 2006 album, The Rose Has Teeth in the Mouth of a Beast (Matador). For Friedman’s album, Matmos responded in kind and contributed two remixes which sample the Chiara’s recordings of String Quartets Nos. 2 and 3. Matmos Remix No. 1 (A Bruit Secret Mix) is an addictive dance track, while Matmos Remix No. 2 (Floor Plan Mix) is an enigmatic and haunting three-dimensional exploration of sound.

The album also features cover art by artist Anthony Hawley, husband of Chiara first violinist Fischer. “It's a very friends and family kind of record,” said Chiara violist Jonah Sirota.

American composer Jefferson Friedman was born in 1974 in Swampscott, Massachusetts. His music has been called “impossible to resist” by The New York Times, and his work has been performed throughout the United States and abroad, most notably at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and Avery Fisher Hall, Carnegie Hall, the Hollywood Bowl, the Brooklyn Academy of Music, Columbia University’s Miller Theatre, the Bowery Ballroom, (Le) Poisson Rouge, and the American Academy in Rome.

In addition to his string quartets, Friedman has been commissioned three times by Leonard Slatkin and the National Symphony Orchestra; his works March, The Throne of the Third Heaven of the Nations Millennium General Assembly, and Sacred Heart: Explosion were all written for the NSO. The works have subsequently been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Chicago Symphony Orchestra.

Most recently, Friedman has collaborated with singer-songwriter Craig Wedren (formerly of avant-rock band Shudder To Think) and ACME (American Contemporary Music Ensemble) on a set of songs called On In Love, which explores song archetypes and marries contemporary classical and rock sensibilities. On In Love has been performed at Miller Theatre, (Le) Poisson Rouge, the Bowery Ballroom, Galapagos Art Space, Joe’s Pub, and on the Ecstatic Music Festival at Merkin Concert Hall.

Friedman’s honors and awards include the Rome Prize Fellowship in Musical Composition, the ASCAP Leo Kaplan Award, the BMI Student Composer Award, the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer Award, the Palmer-Dixon Prize, and the top prize in the Juilliard Orchestra Competition. He received his M.M. degree in music composition from The Juilliard School, where he studied with John Corigliano, and his B.A. from Columbia University, where his teachers included David Rakowski and Jonathan Kramer. His has also studied with George Tsontakis and Christopher Rouse.

In addition to his work as a composer, Friedman has performed with a number of rock bands, including Shudder To Think. Friedman lives and composes in Long Island City, NY. With the exception of String Quartet No. 2, his catalog is self-published by Montana 59 Music.

Chiara String Quartet (Rebecca Fischer and Julie Yoon, violins; Jonah Sirota, viola; Gregory Beaver, cello): Renowned for bringing fresh excitement to traditional string quartet repertoire as well as for creating thoroughly insightful interpretations of new music, the Chiara String Quartet captivates and enthralls its audiences throughout the country. During 2011-2012, the Chiara is celebrating twelve seasons of playing together.The Chiara has established itself as among America’s most respected ensembles, lauded for its "highly virtuosic, edge-of-the-seat playing" (The Boston Globe).

The Chiara String Quartet serves as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University, where it recently completed a complete cycle of the Beethoven quartets. The Chiara’s honors include a top prize at the Paolo Borciani International Competition, winning the Astral Artistic Services National Audition, and winning First Prize at the Fischoff Chamber Music Competition. Awarded the Guarneri Quartet Residency Award for artistic excellence by Chamber Music America, the Chiara Quartet has also been the recipient of grants from Meet The Composer, The Aaron Copland Foundation and the Amphion Foundation.

The Chiara Quartet performs in major concert halls across the country, including Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Philadelphia's Kimmel Center, the Philadelphia Museum of Art, the National Gallery in Washington DC, and Harris Hall at the Aspen Music Festival. The ensemble also devotes a portion of its performance season to concerts in non-classical venues including (le) Poisson Rouge and Galapagos Art Space in New York, The Tractor Tavern in Seattle, Avant Garden in Houston, and the Hideout in Chicago, among many others. Recent highlights of the Chiara Quartet's international performances include the American Academy in Rome, a critically-acclaimed eight-city tour of Sweden with clarinetist Håkan Rosengren, and a performance of Steve Reich's Different Trains in Munich at the storied Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität.

Described by the Seattle Post-Intelligencer as "vastly talented, vastly resourceful, and vastly committed to the music of their time," the Chiara has commissioned and premiered new music for string quartet since its inception. In addition to Jefferson Friedman, the Chiara has commissioned composers Nico Muhly, Gabriela Lena Frank, Huang Ruo, Robert Sirota, Thierry Tidrow, and Matthew Ricketts.

The Chiara discography also includes the Mozart and Brahms clarinet quintets with Håkan Rosengren for SMS Classical, and the world premiere recordings of Robert Sirota's Triptych and Gabriela Lena Frank's Leyendas: An Andean Walkabout for the Quartet's own New Voice Singles label. The Chiara is also featured on Nadia Sirota's debut recording for New Amsterdam Records, first things first, which was included on "Best of" lists in The New York Times, The New Yorker, Time Out New York, and many more. Other recent collaborators of the quartet include Joel Krosnick, Todd Palmer, Simone Dinnerstein, Norman Fischer, and Paul Katz, as well as members of the Orion, Ying, Cavani, and Pacifica Quartets.

The Chiara Quartet has been artists-in-residence at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln since 2005. In the summer, they are in residence at Greenwood Music Camp as well as the University of Nebraska-Lincoln's Chamber Music Institute. The Chiara trained and taught at The Juilliard School, mentoring for two years with the Juilliard Quartet, as recipients of the Lisa Arnhold Quartet Residency from 2003-2005. Chiara (key-ARE-uh) is an Italian word, meaning “clear, pure, or light.”

Matmos (Daniel and Martin Schmidt): There’s a lot of lip service paid these days to various electronic-based music being “experimental” but Matmos’ musical practice genuinely deserves this much-abused term. Using samplers, analogue keyboards, field recordings and guitars, Matmos make atmospheric, idiosyncratic electronica. In addition to incorporating chance operations into their sequencing environment, many songs are based upon a working methodology of “conceptual restriction” – songs are built entirely out of samples from a single sound source: field recordings, contact microphones on hair, even the sound of an amplified synapse from crayfish nerve tissue. Sometimes these samples and recordings are built up into elaborate rhythmic sequences verging on (but tweaking) the by-now familiar subgenres of trip hop, drum and bass and electro; sometimes these sound sources are kept beat-free, and sculpted into frighteningly noisy atmospheres, or shot through with eerie silent pauses and gaps.

New Amsterdam Records: New Amsterdam Records is a non-profit-model record label and artists' service organization that supports the public's engagement with new music by composers and performers whose work grows from the fertile ground between genres. The diverse catalogue reflects New Amsterdam's commitment to supporting and nurturing projects that wholly fulfill the intent of their creators, resulting in music without walls, without an agenda, and without a central organizing principle. Since the label's inception, New Amsterdam and its artists have been featured on NPR's All Things Considered, Weekend Edition, and Studio 360, in prominent print publications such as Newsweek, The New York Times, New York magazine, The Los Angeles Times, Alarm Press, the Village Voice, and Time Out New York, and in tastemaker online magazines such as Pitchfork, The Awl, PopMatters, and BlackBook. Newsweek's Seth Colter Walls called New Amsterdam "an upstart label that's been releasing one quality disc after another since its founding", and the Sunday New York Times lauded its first slate of releases in two separate year-end best-of articles. New Amsterdam has also presented or co-presented over 50 concerts of groundbreaking new music over the past three years. Highlights include 2009's Undiscovered Islands series, the 2009-2010 Archipelago chamber music series, and 2011's Ecstatic Music Festival (presented in association with Kaufman Center). As part of its ongoing programming, New Amsterdam has made a priority of forming partnerships with other like-minded organizations, including Cantaloupe Records, MATA, Galapagos Art Space, Minneapolis's Southern Theater, Nonclassical (UK), the Manhattan New Music Project, Search and Restore, Kaufman Center, and AMC's Counterstream Radio. 2010 was a year of unprecedented praise for New Amsterdam releases - the label garnered it's first Grammy Nomination, and titles were included on the NPR and New York Times Top Ten Classical Releases of the Year List, eMusic's Best Albums of the Year (three titles), Time Out New York and Time Out Chicago's Best Classical Releases of the Year, and NPR's Top 5 Genre-Defying Albums of the Year.