Friction Quartet and Jenny Q ChaiThe Friction Quartet and pianist Jenny Q. Chai play two piano quintets for Noe Valley Chamber Music this Sunday afternoon, one by Robert Schumann, and one that’s freshly written for them by Andy Akiho. It features a ‘prepared’ piano (and in one of the movements, the cello as well) with certain strings dampened by a kind of soft putty, which gives a kind of ‘muted bell sound.’

There’s more information at the Friction Quartet’s site, and the website of Noe Valley Chamber Music.

The new work was written with the members of the ensemble in mind: violinists Kevin Rogers and Otis Harriel, violist Taija Warbelow, and cellist Doug Machiz. “Andy got to know us very personally before he started writing the core of the music,” Rogers says. “And lots of different parts of the quintet reflect different parts of our personality. For example, Taija requested viola things with rhythmic play. And so Andy starts the piece with this huge viola solo with lots of syncopations and mixed meters, and if you just look at the fractions, It’s 7 over 3 over 2, and you don’t have to know music to know that’s complicated.” The two works use the same instruments (or start out using them) but Otis Harriel says the similarity stops there. “Where Schumann’s probably the most classic piano quintet you could possibly play, and everyone is almost playing the entire time, always together, and then you have a piece like this which is for prepared piano, so the sounds are very very different than what you’d expect out of a piano, and for prepared cello. And often we’re playing in duets, or we’re playing alone, solo… It’s a very different texture than the Schumann.”

Here’s the quartet playing another work by Andy Akiho (with the composer on the steel pan):