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Known for his rich and distinctive voice, the composer Kevin Puts has been hailed by the critics as one of the most important composers of his generation. The Cypress String Quartet‘s February 19 performance at Centrum will showcase Lento Assai - a work commissioned by the Quartet itself.
The 2 p.m. performance at the Wheeler Theater is part of the The Port Townsend Chamber Music Festival’s Joseph F. Wheeler Celebration Series.
Kevin Puts’ work has been commissioned and performed by leading orchestras in the United States and abroad, including the New York Philharmonic, the Tonhalle Orchestër (Zurich), the symphony orchestras of Baltimore, Cincinnati, Detroit, Atlanta, Colorado, Houston, Fort Worth, Utah, St. Louis, the Boston Pops, and the Minnesota Orchestra which commissioned his Sinfonia Concertante, and by leading chamber ensembles such as the Mirò Quartet, the Eroica Trio, eighth blackbird, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.
Lento Assai was commissioned by the Cypress Quartet as part of its Call and Response commissioning project, a program through which composers write works inspired by masterpieces in the standard repertoire.
“My piece was to be placed between Beethoven’s Quartet op. 135 and Mendelssohn’s Op. 13 quartets. Like Mendelssohn, who drew deep inspiration from the late quartets of Beethoven and in some cases quoted them literally, I found a wellspring of ideas flowing from the slow movement of Beethoven’s Op. 135,” says Puts.
Beethoven begins that movement with the introductory building of a D-flat major chord followed by a haunting melody played by the first violin. The first several minutes of Lento Assai can be heard as an expansion of these two ideas.
“I begin in exactly the same manner and then elaborate on Beethoven’s opening by continuing to build chords of my own in a “glacially” deliberate manner. Once returning to D-flat, my melody begins like Beethoven’s and then takes its own path,” explains Puts.