The FLUX String Quartet, William & Mary’s Artist-in-Residence for 2010-11, will close out its academic-year concerts by performing Morton Feldman’s six-hour-long test of endurance and style, the String Quartet #2.
The concert, free and open to the public, will take place on Thursday, April 21, at 5 p.m. at the Sadler Center Chesapeake Room A. The FLUX String Quartet will take no breaks during the concert; audience members, on the other hand, are encouraged to walk in and out of the theatre. While it is the seventh time the group has performed Number 2, it will be the first time in four years that the group will undertake the composition.
According to records kept by Feldman historian Chris Villars, this will be the first time String Quartet #2 has been performed in Virginia. Since 1999, when Villars began keeping track of String Quartet #2 performances, the piece has been played just 31 times world-wide.
“We’re very psyched; it’s such a rare thing,” said FLUX String Quartet founder Tom Chiu. “We’re very thrilled to be bringing it to Williamsburg and William & Mary.”
The quartet will train for Feldman in much the same way as a runner trains for a marathon. No one runs 26 miles preparing for a marathon; likewise, the quartet will never practice all six hours in one sitting.
“We do not run the piece down, so to speak,” Chiu said. “We work on the piece and as we get closer to the concert day, like a marathon runner we build up to longer sections. Maybe a runner will run seven or ten miles; it’s a similar thing with us. We might pick an hour and a half or two-hour section of the piece to play.
“The obvious challenge is endurance, but what I would add to that is not just the physical endurance, but the mental endurance. The concentration and the focus that it takes are amazing.”
Chiu makes it clear that the six hours it takes to play Feldman’s work is not a gimmick.
“The piece is a beautiful piece,” he said. “The length of six hours is not really a gimmick. Certain movies are long for a reason, and they’re appropriately long for that reason. This piece is a very glacial matter; the length is appropriate in my opinion.”
The FLUX Quartet – Chiu and Conrad Harris (violin); Max Mandel (viola), and Felix Fan (cello) -- has performed to rave reviews at music centers throughout the United States, including Walt Disney Hall in Los Angeles, Da Camera of Houston, the Walker Art Center, the Library of Congress, the Kennedy Center, and Carnegie’s Zankel Hall.
It has also recently made two acclaimed international debuts: in Ireland at the Samuel Beckett Centenary Festival, and in Mexico at the Chihuahua International Arts Festival.
The FLUX Quartet has captivated audiences worldwide with a vivid repertoire balanced between notable pioneers as well as visionaries of tomorrow. From “classics” by Scelsi, Conlon Nancarrow, Anton Webern, and Iannis Xenakis, to new works by David First, Roscoe Mitchell, Matthew Welch, and John Zorn, a critic for The New York Times wrote that FLUX brings to all of its performances a “boundless, uninhibited energy.”
The spirit to explore and expand stylistic boundries is a trademark of the FLUX Quartet. Inspired in part by the 60’s Fluxus art movement, Chiu founded the FLUX Quartet with a quest similar to that of some of the original Fluxus artists: a search for a living art for all people with an embracing "anything-goes" spirit.