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).