Cully Jazz festival 2016 – Switzerland gets down to bizniz (day 1)

Kaleidoscope String Quartet – Le Temple, Cully, 8/4/16
@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

Two violins, one viola and a cello make up the unconventional Kaleidoscope String Quartet who kicked off the first night of Swiss musical contributions at the prestigious Cully Jazz festival. Performing material from their second LP, ‘Curiosity’, their strictly acoustic set up was a perfect fit to the meditative church setting of Le Temple.

I was lucky to bump into violinist Tobias Preisig just before the band came on, he tipped me off with a few insights into the quartet: « I used to play with them in the early days. What they do is technically very hard, you have to be really connected as musicians. Their forte is how they swerve tradition, always looking for new ways to play their instruments ».

@JC-Arav

@JC-Arav

These words proved a useful interpretation tool. A string quartet inevitably conjures up very rigid ideas of genre, hence what makes this group interesting is how a variety of styles, rhythms and tones are woven into the classical string infrastructure. There’s a feeling of the experimental and the improvised even though they’re clearly a tightly rehearsed unit. Seamlessly the ball is passed from one member to the other as the violin is bent and shaped in all directions. Closing my eyes I could have sworn someone had sneaked in some Japanese pipes during track 3. Quasi pop refrains and folkloric riffs creep up when least expected to add colour and vibrancy.

@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

Admittedly, there were moments when some the barren plucking overstayed its welcome, (at a critical point in the musical tension I overheard someone muttering «sounds a bit like a swarm of mosquitoes » ), the bass tones of the cello proving a welcome contrast to the higher pitches of the violins. Possibly too many sparsely clad moments where the rowdy festival crowd outside the venue added more rhythmic movement to the music than the quartet itself.

 

@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

The higlights for me were the warm, swirling melodies that sprang suddenly out of the languid tones. Nothing gives the feeling of lift off and transportation quite like a set of strings, so to hear them setting off into fourth gear with dynamic, frenetic synchronisation was a delight – one track culminating with a joyful vocal shout! Amazing that a string didn’t break in the process.

Some questions and answers with KSQ bandleader and composer, Simon Heggendorn:
Is it important for KSQ to be seen as more than just a classical outfit?
@J-C Arav

@J-C Arav

Simon Heggendorn: In many ways, yes. From our point of view, a ‘classical’ string quartet mostly interpretes music, whereas we create the music ourselves – rather like a band – and are completely free in the style of interpretation. This gives us the possibility to have a unique ensemble sound defined by the music we write for it.

Did the fact you were playing in a church impact your choice of what material to play?

Simon Heggendorn: Not primarily, maybe the fact we played in a church had an influence on ‘how’ we played (tempi, improvisations, dynamics). We like to play completely acoustic, so Le Temple was a perfect set-up for us.

What’s your relationship to Cully Jazz?

Simon Heggendorn: We played at Cully Jazz in 2012 for the first time. Spots are limited so it’s always very special to be chosen. Since it’s a big festival, you get more press attention than with standard gigs. It’s important to get known on the scene and be exposed to a wider audience, maybe even internationally. Not to mention the unique atmosphere in the village during the festival and the effort of everybody working here – just amazing!

Band members:

Simon Heggendorn – violin & composition
Ronny Spiegel – violin
David Schnee – viola & composition
Solme Hong – cello

 

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