In his new work “Addio,” renowned composer Richard Danielpour explores the relationships that exist within families and how they change over time. The Grammy Award-winning Ying Quartet, which has performed at the Sydney Opera House and Carnegie Hall, will debut this work, which was commissioned by the Institute for American Music, in Spaulding Auditorium at the Hopkins Center this Friday as part of a music department residency.
Danielpour, in an interview with The Dartmouth, said that one of his long-standing desires has been to compose a work that calls to mind family members saying goodbye to one another in various ways, including through death.
“Death is when we pass from this earth and, shedding this mortal coil, some might think we’re going home and going to the root of all things,” he said.
The title, “Addio,” reflects the work’s theme, Danielpour said.
“Addio’ means goodbye’ [in Italian], and if you separate the syllables, it means, to God,'” he said.
Danielpour said he specifically wanted a family-based quartet to perform the work.
The Ying Quartet was originally composed of four siblings: Timothy and Janet Ying on violin, Philip Ying on the viola and David Ying on the cello.
The quartet formed in 1988 while the Yings were studying at the Eastman School of Music at the University of Rochester.
“Our parents believed that music was a really important part of a well rounded education,” Phillip Ying said in an interview with The Dartmouth. “They not only had us taking music classes, but gymnastics as well, the idea coming from Greek culture. But I don’t think they imagined that any of the four of us would play music professionally.”
With support from the Institute of American Music, the Ying Quartet commissioned Danielpour to compose what became “Addio.”
Danielpour set to work on “Addio” at the Centro Studio Liguria, an artists’ retreat on the Italian coast not far from Genoa. Danielpour was accompanied by his wife Kathleen, but after eight days she returned home to New York.
“What was so fascinating to me, taking my wife to the airport, was she didn’t want to travel by herself, yet I didn’t want to leave,” he said. “Everyone else is also going home, saying goodbye and going home.”
Danielpour completed “Addio” in 22 days, beginning on the day of his wife’s departure.
Despite its focus on the theme of departure, “Addio” is not necessarily a sad work, Danielpour said.
He said he believes that a great work of music should cover a spectrum of emotions, and that any composer who spells out emotions for his audience is a “musical fascist.”
Ironically, while the quartet practiced and developed Danielpour’s piece, the group’s first violinist, Timothy Ying, chose to leave the group.
Phillip Ying said the experience has allowed the quartet to bring new meaning to “Addio.”
“I really like it because it reflects the complexity of our relationship as colleagues and family members,” he said. “It’s also inspired by Haydn’s Farewell Symphony.’ Each of the players stop one by one until just the cello is left.”
In April 2009, Frank Huang replaced Timothy Ying as the group’s first violinist. Huang had studied with the siblings in the past with the Cleveland Quartet.
The group will also perform Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Quartet No. 9″ (1964) and Beethoven’s “Quartet in C Major” (1808) on Friday night.