For 25 years, the award-winning SOLI Chamber Ensemble has been in the vanguard of contemporary music in South Texas. Over the years, they’ve premiered more than 60 commissioned works from new and emerging composers, including Ned Rorem, Robert X. Rodriguez, Steven Mackey, and many others.
The chamber group's season opens on Monday, October 1 at 7:30 p.m. at Jazz, TX with a program called "Traces," which will be repeated on Tuesday night at 7:30 p.m. at Ruth Taylor Concert Hall on the Trinity University campus.
SOLI’s violinist, Ertan Torgul, and cellist, David Mollenauer, recently visited the TPR studios to talk about their first 25 years, and offer a preview of the opening concert of their 25th anniversary season, with friends Sarah Silver Manzke and Rita Porfiris. The music you'll see in the video below, "Valencia," is part of this week's program, and was written by Caroline Shaw, the youngest recipient of the Pulitzer Prize for Music.
Below, a partial transcription of the in-studio interview. For the full audio, use the audio player.
Nathan Cone: Do you think the idea of what modern music and classical music is has changed over those 25 years? Do you look for different things now than you did 25 years ago?
David Mollenauer: Well, I don't know. I think 25 years ago, and coming out of conservatory, the idea of modern music was really edgy, very cerebral, almost mathematical. I think you know Schoenberg or make you think of all kinds of composers that that you know the music was seemed to be atonal was atonal or bitonal, just really kind of you had to be in the right place to listen to it. That music still exists and still very valid. But I think the palette has changed quite a bit over the last 25 years. You get music now that's more approachable right off the bat may use some of these elements of atonal ism and polyrhythms, all kinds of different techniques. But there seems to be a little bit more broad based than it was the focus was 25 years ago.
Nathan Cone: As musicians, are you looking for that, or do you do you think “I really want something to both challenge myself and the audience.” What are you looking for?
David Mollenauer: Well, I think we do look for things that are challenging for us and hopefully those challenges will come across to the audience. I don't think we want to favor any sort of genre, or type of music. I think the idea is to present it as best we can and let the audience, or the people listening, decide whether they like it or not. Really, our mission is to just bring it to the public as best we can. And that goes for any sort of modern music.
Nathan Cone: You've commissioned so many pieces over these 25 years as well. Have you found that there are certain works that y'all have premiered, and they go over differently in concert than you thought they would?
Ertan Torgul: Completely, yeah! It happens, both positive and negative. I think there are some pieces that we fell in love with, and didn't get as much of the audience's attention. And there were other pieces that, you know, we were delivering well, but weren't quite sure about certain things… If people were going to like it…. and those ended up being some of our audience’s favorites. So it happens.
Nathan Cone: The thing I love about your concerts and about your repertoire though is that there is and you communicate this in concert. There is a joy in discovery. There's so much fun involved with listening and performing at your shows.
Ertan Torgul: Yeah that's one of the key factors of SOLI, I think. For 25 years, we've been able to keep that up. It really is a joy for the four of us to get together and create something from scratch, basically. Something that was written just yesterday. The joy of that alone is enough. But to be able to present it to a group of diehard SOLI fans, you know, every year, three to five concerts that's really been incredible fun. And we like to keep the concerts fun so that everybody can speak their minds about what they've heard and have their own opinions, and we don't try to influence them. We just present it the way we present it, we tell them what we think and then they make up their own minds which is really a lot of fun. Those conversations after performances are really fun to listen to.