Most ensembles use many different instruments to create their music, but one group performing on the grounds this week only needs one: the guitar.
A classical guitar quartet dedicated to presenting new music, Dublin Guitar Quartet will take the stage at 4 p.m. today in Elizabeth S. Lenna Hall for the Chautauqua Chamber Music Guest Artist Series.
The idea of forming a guitar-only quartet came to fruition among four friends attending the Dublin Conservatory of Music and Drama.
Brian Bolger, Pat Brunnock, Chien Buggle and Tomas O’Durcain make up the group all playing eight- and 11-string guitars.
The quartet has dedicated their careers to performing contemporary pieces and have developed an original catalog of guitar arrangements.
Founded in 2001, DGQ continues to be the only classical guitar ensemble of its kind. The Irish Times called them a “quartet with a difference.”
“We thought it would be cool to create a guitar quartet that performed contemporary classical music only,” Bolger said. “There are string quartets that do this … but not guitar quartet, strangely enough. We also wanted to hear what the music of our favorite living composers sounded like … Philip Glass, Steve Reich and the like.”
This afternoon’s program will include DGQ’s transcriptions of music by Glass, Arvo Part, Marc Mellits, Bryce Dessner and Gyorgy Ligeti.
Bolger said the ensemble tends to choose a variety of music that they enjoy playing and that showcases the versatility of the guitar, instead of creating a common theme.
“We have a pure-music approach,” he said. “We play music by composers we like. … Most of these composers are from the minimalistic-influenced world as opposed to the more experimental avant-garde side of contemporary music. … That’s just our personal preference as listeners. And most of the music we perform are our own transcriptions because there’s very little out there.”
Bolger said there are very few pieces created specifically for guitar-only classical ensembles. Because of this, DGQ commissions many of their own pieces. Inspired by their favorite composers, DGQ also transcribes and develops the music they perform, including works by Ligeti, Igor Stravinsky and Michael Nyman.
Bolger said culturally, the guitar is an “interesting instrument” that has had the “widest impact.”
“There aren’t many instruments that are fundamental to most of the major genres,” Bolger said. “It’s present in all the different periods of classical music, jazz, folk music, blues, rock, thrash metal, punk, reggae … and we can draw on the associations to these other genres in our choices and interpretations, and it sounds natural to the fundamentals of the instrument.”
DGQ has also garnered attention from the world’s leading composers. The group has released an album on Glass’ Orange Mountain Music label and a new commission by Michael Gordon.
Making tour stops in Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and New York earlier this year, the quartet has performed alongside Grammy Award-winning LA Guitar Quartet, Conspirare and the Texas Guitar Quartet.
Glass himself referred to the group as “a wonderful ensemble” and is “delighted that (his) music is part of their repertoire,” according to DGQ’s website. The group “has carved a place for (themselves) in the world of classical music.”