THE AMERICAN STRING PROJECT
LIVE 2006 - BEETHOVEN, SARASATE & SHOSTAKOVICH
Ludwig van Beethoven, Pablo De Sarasate, Dmitri Shostakovich
THE AMERICAN STRING PROJECT
Barry Lieberman & Maria Larionoff, Artistic Directors
Arrangements for String Orchestra by Barry Lieberman
"In the first movement of the Beethoven the targeted attacks of the sforzandos are particularly virtuosic. The minuet is perfectly poised and the last movement invigoratingly fleet. This remarkable performance [of the Shostakovich] has a compelling sweep that might well be envied by many a conventional string quartet. Three Sarasate pieces...[are] accomplished here with great elan. The technical values of this live performance recording are superb. Let's hope there will be more recordings from these imaginative, accomplished musicians.."
Fanfare - May / June 2008
"[This is] the best string orchestral playing TC has heard in decades. Virtuosic not only in precision (parts of the Beethoven finale are reminiscent of Toscanini's recording of Paganini's Perpetual Motion with the entire first violin section of the NBC ) but in expressive nuances. If this group ever gets around to recording the standard string orchestra repertory...the results - if anything like the playing here - should be spectacular."
Turok's Choice - December 2007
"The American String Project...hums seamlessly through a program of Beethoven, Shostakovich and Sarasate, both intimate and virtuosic at once. The Beethoven C Minor enjoys a muscular, lithe realization under leader Eriko Sato. Forward motion is the order of the performance, and the two interior movements gain authority and girth in the arrangement for 15 strings. The dark, deep colors of the lower strings add a romantic ethos to Beethoven’s natural tendency to make C Minor a surging modality of expression. The playful sinews of the final Allegro in this medium align Beethoven both with Rossini’s string sonatas and the later string serenades of Dvorak and Suk. Leader Maria Larionoff, violin shapes the massive Twelfth Quartet of Dmitri Shostakovich, whose two-movement structure resembles Beethoven’s Op. 111 Piano Sonata. Like Barshai’s arrangement of the Eighth Quartet, Lieberman’s distribution of parts amplifies Shostakovich’s angular polyphony and sullen, martial pessimism. When the texture thins, we hear echoes of Stravinsky’s neoclassic ballets, Orpheus and Apollo."
Audiophile Audition - September 2007
PROGRAM NOTESThe name itself gives the first hint: not the American String Orchestra, or the American String Ensemble, but the American String PROJECT. Think "project" in its one of its prime connotations-- a plan in development, communal in nature, defining and refining its goals as its members engage—and you get a sense of the fluidity and camaraderie that are the hallmarks of this group.
The American String Project is an annual phenomenon where diverse performers and modes and visions mingle to create something that did not exist before: Fifteen string players from around the world gather in Seattle to perform works from the chamber music repertoire that have been arranged specifically for the group. The intimacy of the chamber music articulation, with its interplay of tone and color, is enriched and deepened, taking on the tonalities of a string symphony—but always with the proportion and exchange that characterizes the great chamber works.
Two further differences are salient: First, the Project draws from the world’s premier string players: soloists, concertmasters, chamber music artists, teachers. Moreover, this ensemble performs without a conductor. The group is anchored by its artistic directors, Barry Lieberman and Maria Larionoff, but its modus operandi is collaborative. Each work on a season’s program is assigned a "leader," who together with all the musicians determines how best to shape and present the performance. From work to work, the players’ positions rotate, to egalitarian effect: at times even a musician who sits exclusively in the concertmaster’s chair in her or his regular job may occupy in the last chair in the second violins.
The result of these differences, as audiences and critics over the past five seasons have discovered to their joy, is music making of thrilling vitality and communication-- performance not as reproduction but as translation. From the introspection of Mozart to the energy of Beethoven and the poignancy of Mendelssohn; from the passion and tension of Prokofiev and Shostakovich to the late-twentieth-century yearning of Vasks, from Britten’s Britain to Sarasate’s Spain to Barber’s America: those who hear the American String Project have the privilege of experiencing performances of music at once familiar—but wonderfully new.
LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN
PABLO DE SARASATE