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Home / Articles / Entertainment / Music /  Daniel Kellogg gets around
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Thursday, April 14,2011

Daniel Kellogg gets around

Composer of much-praised Takács Quartet piece draws inspiration from his environment

By Peter Alexander

His Web page has photos of him skiing in Utah, hiking at Brainard Lake in the middle of the winter, on the beach in Southern California, and wearing a hard hat at a construction site in Denver.

Oh yeah — there’s one backstage at the Aspen Music Festival, too. Did I mention that he’s a distinguished composer who teaches at the University of Colorado College of Music? Daniel Kellogg has written music for the Philadelphia Orchestra, the National Symphony, the Colorado Symphony and l’Ensemble orchestral de Paris, among others.

In addition, his works have been premiered by performers as diverse as the Ying Quartet, the President’s Own United States Marine Band, the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble and eighth blackbird — not bad for an outdoorsy Coloradan still in his 30s.

One of Kellogg’s more recent scores was written for Boulder’s Takács Quartet, which will perform his Soft Sleep Shall Contain You: A Meditation on Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” in its upcoming concerts at 4 p.m. Sunday, April 17, and at 7:30 p.m. Monday, April 18, in the Grusin Music Hall at the CU Imig Music Building.

As its full title suggests, Soft Sleep Shall Contain You is based on Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden” String Quartet, which takes its name from Schubert’s song of the same title, used in one of the quartet’s movements.

The Kellogg score will be performed along with the Schubert work on the upcoming program, which will be completed with Béla Bartók’s Quartet No. 6.

The Takács Quartet premiered the Kellogg piece in New York last October and has since played it on tour around the world. At the premiere, both the work and the performance earned a glowing tribute from New York Times critic Vivien Schweitzer. Kellogg’s “intelligently wrought and harmonically intriguing work ... echoes a famous quartet by Schubert,” she wrote. “In the original quartet the tension between the Grim Reaper and the maiden is expressed by the tussle between the violin and the cello ... Kellogg conveys that dance of death in the clash between G and F sharp, which casts a dissonant pall over the opening section. During the more robust interlude that follows, a simmering tension contrasts with exuberant outbursts.

Schubert’s themes are woven through the work, which concludes with a beautiful chorale.”

Of the Takács performance, Schweitzer noted “the sensitivity and commitment [of ] the Takács players,” adding that “their complex and intense interpretation illuminated every nuance” of the Schubert.

The idea of commissioning a piece based on the Schubert quartet was the brainchild of Edward Dusinberre, Takács’ first violinist.

“The idea of contemporary music commenting, reflecting, on our mainstream repertoire means I think that people listen to both with open minds,” Dusinberre says.

Kellogg was likewise fascinated by the suggestion. “I was drawn ... to the idea of conversing with older music in a modern aesthetic,” he says. And as he notes, he has joined a long “tradition of creating new music from old,” dating back at least to the Renaissance and continuing up to the present day.

The result, Dusinberre thinks, fits the players of the Takács Quartet particularly well.

“We know Dan well and have worked together before,” he says. “He knows the sound of our group and the individual personalities; we felt he wrote specifically for us.”

Indeed, Kellogg says that’s exactly what he did. “In this case, I wanted to take advantage of the beautiful and lyrical playing that they bring to the table, but also the passion they bring to it — knowing that they could have the most extreme expressions, that they could pull that off and have the drama so successful in their playing,” he says.

There’s one more thing Kellogg wants audiences to know when they hear his piece.

“Writing music can often be a difficult challenge,” he says, “but writing this piece was one of the greatest joys I’ve had as a composer, starting with the beautiful Schubert chorale, and then writing for this group. The piece seemed to write itself, which hardly ever happens to me.”

As usual with Takács performances here, the concerts are sold out. And as usual, determined concertgoers may still be able to get into the concert. You may call the box office at 303-492-8008 to get on the waiting list for returned tickets; come to Grusin Hall before the concert and get on the wait list for lastminute turnbacks; or purchase stage seating, for which a limited number of tickets remain available.

Respond: letters@boulderweekly.com

On the Bill

Takács Quartet performs music by Daniel Kellogg, Schubert and Bartók. Sunday, April 17, at 4 p.m. and Monday, April 18, at 7:30 p.m. Grusin Music Hall on the CU campus Ticket information: 303-492-8008

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