By soundcollective, Feb 27 2017 01:49PM
With our CD of alternative string quartet music by Lydia Kakabadse now being released we thought we'd ask Lydia a few questions about the works on the album.
Daniel Regan posed the questions to Lydia.
1. Could you tell me more about your choice and usage of a somewhat unconventional string quartet grouping - and why this is so fertile for your chamber music-related compositional endeavours?
All my string quartets are scored for violin, viola, cello and double bass rather than the traditional 2 violins, viola and cello. With the great richness and abundance of colour it adds to the sonority of a quartet, the bass features in almost all my chamber works. Its deep, distinctive tone and unique pizzicato sound cannot be replicated by the cello and I feel the bass is deserving of a place in small chamber ensembles such as a string quartet, where this timbral combination works well. Also, there is limited repertoire for the bass, especially in small chamber ensembles. Having started piano lessons at the age of five, I went on to study the bass during my teens under the late Ida Carroll OBE. I played in numerous youth orchestras and ensembles and I discovered first-hand what a difference a bass can make to an orchestra/chamber ensemble. Following the release in 2011 of my Naxos CD The Phantom Listeners, which included 2 string quartets – Arabian Rhapsody Suite and Russian Tableaux - I received a number of emails from bass students (and a cello student) from different parts of the world, telling me how much they enjoyed playing my string quartets and asking for more! Russian Tableaux was played on BBC Radio 3 on March 8th 2015 to mark International Women’s Day. Arabian Rhapsody Suite remains a favourite particularly on Swedish radio.
2. How did you find working with sound collective, and the performers themselves? What was your opinion on their realization of your works (i.e. did certain aspects come alive or spring out that weren't readily apparent or highlighted beforehand)?
I am very fortunate to have been working together with Sara Trickey, Sara-Jane Bradley and Ben Griffiths (and a variety of cellists) for about the past nine years. They have performed in a number of my concerts and recordings, so they are very familiar with my type of music within my non-conventional quartet grouping. I was introduced to cellist Tim Lowe by Sara-Jane last year and he quickly became well versed with my music. These four players instinctively interact with each other so well, have an excellent rapport and complement each other beautifully. As individual players they are very strong and skilful, each having outstanding technical ability. Collectively, they play as one creating a unified chamber sound, yet remaining individuals, which is a true measure of their artistic contribution. Regarding the Concertato recording, there were certain pieces/passages, which were masterfully brought alive by sound collective that weren’t readily obvious e.g. in the very atmospheric 2nd movement of The Coachman’s Terror the fast contrary motion scales as well as the fast runs one tone apart representing swirling snows and biting winds; in the Dance of the Clockwork Toys (3rd movement of Dance Sketches) bringing each of the toys to life; in the duet Concertato creating a striking display of showmanship through imaginative interpretation.
3. Do you feel like you have a particular affinity to the genre of chamber music (amongst others) - and what pieces/composers would you feel have a particular influence upon your approach to composition/timbral awareness in this area?
I feel very at home writing chamber music for smaller ensembles rather than for large orchestral groups where individuality is lost in the sheer number of players. Chamber music is a natural vehicle for me to express my ethnic origins and incorporate non-western music elements as an integral part of my works. It’s not so much particular composers/pieces which have influenced my chamber music writing, but rather different eras/regions/styles of music, such as: Medieval music (including Gregorian chant; parallel organum), folk music (including drones), Middle Eastern music (including the double harmonic scale, florid and highly embellished melodies, syncopated rhythms), Greek Orthodox and Russian Orthodox church music (including antiphons & responses, open triads). My extra musical influences in this area are drawn from a number of diverse sources and include Greek and Middle Eastern dance (which I previously taught), poets of the first half of the nineteenth century (particularly Edgar Allan Poe, Thomas Hood, Emily Bronte, Alexander Pushkin) as well as mysteries and the Gothic genre.
4. Could you tell me more about how Greek/Middle-Eastern melodies, rhythms and harmonies have influenced the compositions on this CD?
By way of background I am of Russian/Georgian and Greek/Austrian parentage and was brought up in the Greek Orthodox & Russian Orthodox faith and inherited from my parents a love of different genres of western and non-western music. After I left University, I taught Greek and Middle Eastern dancing and the rhythmic and melodic features of these genres of dance served to widen my creative writing. You can hear the Middle Eastern influences - characterized by the use of the double harmonic scale (also known as the “Arabic scale”), frequent accidentals and an emphasis on melody and rhythm rather than harmony - permeating through each of the works on the CD. Rhythms are often syncopated, melodies embellished and passages ornamented. In Cantus Planus and Recitativo Arioso the double bass, with its fast, arpeggio like pizzicato accompaniment, simulates the pulsating throb of the tabla (drum). In Cantus Planus the strings alternate with each other in Greek Orthodox antiphonal style and in Spellbound the drone to the melody simulates the Greek lyra.
5. Do you feel that there is a centrepiece to this album - and if so, what gives the particular piece such qualities? (I assume it's Concertato, but I could be wrong obviously!)
Your assumption is quite correct! I feel that the centrepiece to this album is indeed the duet Concertato for cello and bass, insofar as “concertato” (originating from the Latin “concertare”) means to fight or contend with and the cello and bass clearly contrast and vie with each other throughout this technically difficult duet. The term concertato was sometimes used in early Baroque music, involving “rivalry” or “contrast” between groups of singers/players. Whilst each instrument contrasts and vies with the other(s) in the quartets, it is to a lesser degree than in the duet.
6. Are there any plans for future recording projects, and if so - what works are you thinking of involving in such plans?
Yes, I am planning to record my choral work I Remember (words by Thomas Hood) together with new choral works, which I am currently working on. I Remember was commissioned by Forest School last year and premiered by Forest School Choir in April 2016 at the Bellevue Education Northern Music Festival 2016 held at the RNCM. Unlike my choral album Cantica Sacra released by Divine Art in May of this year, my new choral album will be made up of non-sacred/liturgical music.
7. Do you have any future chamber works planned?
Once I have completed my new choral album (referred to in point 6 above) I would like to get back to writing more chamber works. I am contemplating the inclusion of the Greek bouzouki (type of lute) in such future works.
Thank you Lydia!
The CD is out on the Divine Art label.
Please check out Lydia's website for more information about her compositional output.