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New Classical - Juri Seo: Respiri (Innova Recordings - May 24 2019)

New Classical
Juri Seo: Respiri
(Innova Recordings - May 24, 2019)

Composer Juri Seo: Respiri, Suite for Cello; String Quartet (Infinite Season)
Performers: Argus Quartet, Joann Whang

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Composer and pianist Juri Seo paints with a full palette of colours in this second release on the Innova label, spotlighting her compositions for strings. Through the affecting and evocative music, Seo explores universal notions of life, death, memory, and change.

The opening track, Respiri, is Seo's homage to the late British composer Jonathan Harvey, who was a practising Buddhist. Seo uses Harvey’s signature musical concept, which was to emulate the sound of breathing, while expanding on the idea. The music is meditative in nature, building melodically to a peaceful release from life.

The Argus Quartet plays with a wonderful sense of expression and superb phrasing. After a two-year collaboration with Seo, they clearly understand and are fully immersed in her music. While not traditional in structure or musicality, there are nonetheless flashes of recognizable melody along with sonic experimentation, and the quartet handles all the changes in a seamless flow.

The Suite for Cello is a virtuoso turn for soloist Joann Whang. She plays with wonderful abandon, squeezing a surprising range of sounds and moods from the instrument. The piece, in five movements, is Seo's exploration of memory and identity. It's appropriately both cerebral and emotional in tone, with contrapuntal elements that are subverted by deconstruction. Whang plays with a lovely and affecting sensitivity that reaches a dramatic crescendo in the final movement. She takes on the composition's challenges and many mood changes from meditative and melodic to insistently energetic with conviction.
Composer & pianist Juri Seo
Seo's String Quartet: Infinite Seasons examines the transitions of the seasons in four movements  - Winter to Spring, Spring to Summer, and so on. It's evocative music with a joyful sense of exploration. Seo says in the liner notes that she was inspired by the sounds of nature, and the suite lets the Argus Quartet showcase its delicacy and versatility of approach, alongside their ability to produce a delightful array of colours and tones, from the sweetest high notes of the birds to the buzzing of insects, all woven into the swell of the music.

As a whole, the suite is romantic in its wide emotional and colouristic range. The main musical motive in the first movement is the musical equivalent of the call of a black-capped chickadee, and a number of bird songs appear in the second movement, Spring-Summer, which ends with the hum of cicadas. The call of the snow bunting resonates through the end of Fall-Winter.

Juri Seo, a Guggenheim fellow and a Koussevitsky Commission recipient, is a composer and pianist based in New Jersey. She teaches music at Princeton University.

The Argus Quartet is a first prize winner at the Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition, as well as the 2017 M-Prize Chamber Arts Competition, and has served as the Graduate Resident String Quartet at the Juilliard School and the Fellowship Quartet in Residence at the Yale School of Music.

String Quartet (Infinite Season) : IV. Fall-Winter


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