The Grammy-nominated string orchestra A Far Cry performs with pianist Simone Dinnerstein on September 11 at the Lensic Performing Arts Center in a concert that features “Piano Concerto No. 3” by Philip Glass, a new work that Glass wrote specifically for Dinnerstein.
“It’s wonderful to know a piece this well,” says Megumi Stohs Lewis, a violinist in A Far Cry. “Things that were hard in the beginning are easier now. Also, I am more aware of the concerto’s middle voices, which have been influencing how I play the piece lately.”
The concert draws its repertoire from the album “Circles” that A Far Cry and Dinnerstein recorded last fall containing music by Glass and J.S. Bach.
During the past concert season, A Far Cry and Dinnerstein played works from “Circles” in venues throughout the U.S. and Canada.
In the album’s liner notes, Glass says, “I can say that Bach’s music was not consciously in my mind as I composed this new concerto, but in a way it’s unavoidable. My basic musical formation was influenced by the study of Bach for years during my studies with Nadia Boulanger. Inasmuch, while this piece itself is not directly influenced by Bach, his music is by definition a part of mine.”
A Far Cry, one of the groups that co-commissioned the piano concerto, is an 18-member, Boston-based orchestra founded in 2007 by a small group of graduate students interested in getting together on their off-hours to read music for fun. It’s the Chamber Orchestra-in-Residence at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.
A Far Cry takes a democratic approach to music-making, working without a set conductor or leader. Every instrumentalist also functions as an arts administrator by doing such tasks as sending out e-blasts, going over venue seating charts, meeting with donors and figuring out microphone setups. The musicians curate their own programs, making sure that everyone’s input is heard.
“Playing with A Far Cry is much more intense and stressful than playing with other groups that don’t operate this way,” Lewis adds. “But the performances are so exciting. Everyone’s antenna are up. It’s a very dynamic experience.”