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Korine Fujiwara: Montana

Carpe Diem String Quartet
Release Date: 11/27/2010 
Label:  Seize The Music   Catalog #: 50143805   Spars Code: n/a 
Composer:  Korine Fujiwara
Performer:  Charles Wetherbee
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Carpe Diem String Quartet
Number of Discs: 1 
Recorded in: Stereo 
Length: 1 Hours 7 Mins. 

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Notes and Editorial Reviews

This CD steals in so delightfully with the sound of a solo violin alternately sweet and soulful that one cannot resist. It is the opening movement of the Fiddle Suite: Montana, for string quartet, and soon the violin is joined by the viola. If the piece is intended to “represent the great vastness of this state” as the composer says, this is no Messiaen-style evocation of awe; rather the scale of the place is imagined in human terms (six people per square mile, apparently). The composer, Korine Fujiwara, describes Montana Read more class="TIMESi"> as “a piece about family, about traditions, and about the state in which I was born and raised, Montana. It is a work in five movements, written in a jazzy/bluesy/fiddle style.”

Fujiwara not only has the advantage of being Montana-born but she is also that very violist in the Carpe Diem Quartet who modestly enters second. The five movements of Montana illustrate favorite places of the composer in the state. “Stillwater Gorge” reflects the energy of the less than still water in this location as white-water rapids surge through the gorge. But again the chosen way to illustrate this is through human references: a jig and a reel. In the third movement, “Walkin’ in the Water,” the composer shares with us a childhood song she used to sing (pizzicato ostinato in the cello), overlaying it with an evocation of the actual quartet members in conversation. The fourth movement, “Cherry Blossom,” evokes spring, but through the eyes of the composer’s father, who was Japanese. And finally, “Peasebottom” honors the traditions from the composer’s mother’s side of the family. Homegrown gatherings of spontaneous music-making were the norm, it seems, and this hoedown captures the joy and exuberance of these family gatherings. The Fiddle Suite is not intended to be deeply serious. It’s fun. What lifts it are the composer’s fine ear for what works and her assuredness deploying her forces.

The quartet Entangled Banks was written in commemoration of the 200th anniversary of Charles Darwin’s birth and the 150th anniversary of the publication of The Origin of Species . It was premiered by the Carpe Diem String Quartet in 2008. It takes its title from the final paragraph of the book in which Darwin refers to the “many plants of many kinds, with birds singing on the bushes, with various insects flitting about, and with worms crawling through the damp earth” to be found in an “entangled bank.” Fujiwara’s music, particularly in the first movement, “Tarboo Creek,” is full of slitherings, rustlings, and twitterings. Again, the music is firmly located in place, with each of the five short movements describing the banks of a river or creek. There is a degree of subtlety, of delicacy entirely appropriate for such micro-environments while a degree of thematic unity is provided by a C-D-G-D motif, representing the initials of Charles Darwin and God. Much of the music is quiet and attentive to detail, though the middle movement provides some much-needed energy and contrast, and the last provides some gentle ecstasy.

In both these quartets, Fujiwara and her colleagues in the Carpe Diem Quartet play with complete conviction, completely inside the music. A clearly deep understanding and empathy with the instruments (she is both a violist and a violinist) comes across, allied with an ability to write music in which the four players are intertwined in ever-changing ways. As a result the ear is forever tickled by beautifully judged music that, in Entangled Banks , manages to be sophisticated and accessible at the same time.

Finally, the Carpe Diem’s first violin, Charles Wetherbee, performs the Six Tasty Caprices, which were written for him. “Since Korine is both a violist and a violinist I wrote her a letter for the commission of the works,” he told me, “and I said I was looking for caprices that were both musically and technically challenging, so she took me at my word.” She certainly did. These six disparate pieces are highly allusive, flickering between many genres and styles, often in hints and wisps. The first, Sweet Whoop Ti Do , may make the listener initially think they are back in Montana, but things soon get more complicated. The remaining movements range far and wide. Strange Marinara is strange and haunting, “[as] if Paganini and Ysaÿe had a jam session together,” says the composer, while the third is a brief moto perpetuo . The fourth is an engaging and, by the sound of it, fiercely difficult tango, and the fifth, according to Wetherbee, a ballad “with a little bit of Ella Fitzgerald” in it. The set is rounded off with a tour de force for the player, Rock Salt and Bitters , “an homage to stadium rock, beat box, and exploring the limits of what the violin might be able to pull off, given the opportunity.” Rather more than the quartets, with their intentionally circumscribed ambits, these caprices show the range of Fujiwara’s compositional skills and make one keen to hear more. The whole disc is a joy, not least because it contains a very rare attribute in contemporary classical music: happiness.

FANFARE: Jeremy Marchant
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Works on This Recording

Fiddle Suite 'Montana', for string quartet by Korine Fujiwara
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Carpe Diem String Quartet
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Hamilton Hall, Newman Center for the Per 
Length: 25 Minutes 14 Secs. 
Entangled Banks, for string quaret by Korine Fujiwara
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Carpe Diem String Quartet
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 08/2009 
Venue:  Hamilton Hall, Newman Center for the Per 
Length: 14 Minutes 52 Secs. 
Six Tasty Caprices, for Solo Violin by Korine Fujiwara
Performer:  Charles Wetherbee (Violin)
Orchestra/Ensemble:  Carpe Diem String Quartet
Period: Contemporary 
Date of Recording: 04/2010 
Venue:  Audio Lab, Boise 
Length: 25 Minutes 36 Secs. 

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