Paradise for Emerging Composers, Part Two

June in Buffalo Memory: Pinch hitter

 

In 1999, I was invited to June in Buffalo for a second time. My string quartet was slated for premiere by the Cassatt Quartet: an excellent opportunity for a composer at any age, but particularly exciting for a young pup still in grad school!

The piece mixed aspects of 12-tone writing with swing-era jazz, and finding the correct balance between these two different demeanors was a tricky compositional and interpretive challenge.

Fortunately, the Cassatt members were very generous with their time. I met with them in New York City to rehearse the quartet, and things went quite well.

But when I arrived in Buffalo, I learned that their cellist had fallen ill and wouldn’t be able to play on the concert; the festival’s opener. While having any ensemble member cancel is concerning, it was particularly worrisome that the cellist was unavailable. I’d written the quartet in such a way that the cello served as the de facto ‘rhythm section’ of the piece, frequently articulating the pulse with walking bass lines.

But into the breach stepped Christopher Finckel; an excellent new music player who was also playing at the festival. Chris learned, rehearsed, and performed the quartet in one day. His pinch-hitting rescued the concert and earned a young composer’s lasting gratitude.

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