Cellist Matt Haimovitz, clarinetist David Krakauer and beat writer Socalled came together to create a new project centered around Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time. Given that this piece was composed in a prisoner of war camp in the midst of tremendous world upheaval, and that the subject matter of the quartet describes cataclysmic events ( the end of time itself ), Haimovitz and Krakauer are interested in creating a program of music surrounding and commenting on this aspect of the Messaien. The point of departure is the fact that the clarinetist, Henri Akoka, who gave the premiere in the prison camp was Jewish. Metaphorically, to focus on Akoka’s story (not literally, but rather poetically through music) is to bring out the human aspect of this composition seen through the “eyes” of one individual caught up in terrifying events beyond his control. The Messiaen work is bookmarked between two new compositions in a way that “lifts” it out of the polite confines of a normal chamber music performance. The 70-minute program, which proceeds without intermission, opens with a structured improvisation composed by David Krakauer with a raw quality that anticipates some of the musical gestures that we will hear in the Messiaen. Immediately following the whole Quartet for the End of Time will be performed in its entirety. And finally to conclude is a composition by Canadian hip-hop artist and producer Socalled mixing beats, sequences and samples with the acoustic playing of the ensemble including menacing and violent sound images, to comment on and frame the turbulence of the Quartet in a contemporary 21st century context. Indeed, as the forces of fundamentalism, intolerance and violence intensify in today’s world, this project seems all the more timely.
This brilliantly inventive recording pays tribute to Henri Akoka, the Algerian-born clarinetist who egged on Messiaen to compose when both were prisoners of war in a German camp during World War II. Framing a vivid rendition of the “Quartet for the End of Time” are two musical flights of fancy, an improvisation by the extraordinary clarinetist David Krakauer, and an electronic remix of the quartet by Socalled. (Fonseca-Wollheim, New York Times)