PLAYING ON THE EDGE 2 follows up Navona Records’ first Gramophone-lauded album in this series for string quartet. Like the first installment, the award-winning Sirius Quartet plays the entire catalogue to perfection.
Daniel Burwasser’s Puck’s Game is a cinematically illustrative characterization of Shakespeare’s mischievous sprite Puck from A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Rhythmic and exciting, the work is somewhat reminiscent of Shostakovich, but more light-hearted and humorous.
Today, Daniel is our featured artist in “The Inside Story,” a blog series exploring the inner workings and personalities of our composers and performers. Read on to discover his motives in bringing A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Puck to life in his piece.
When did you realize you wanted to be an artist?
My earliest fascination with music came through my early exposure to recordings, especially orchestral ones that were mainly provided by my parents, who played records all day long. Those recordings made me want to probe the music more deeply. I started piano lessons at 5 and can remember creating a replica of the Shrovetide Fair carousel from Petrushka at about the same age, as this music was so exciting to me and had left an indelible impression. When I was about 6 or 7, I looked on with envy at a live rock drummer for the first time and was immediately struck (no pun intended) with the way he played. I wanted to do that, and a year or so later I got my first drum kit, a Remco! My first compositions were marching drumline cadences for my middle school through the thoughtful encouragement of my wonderful band director. However, it wasn’t really until college that I became genuinely serious about composition. There, the interest in it sparked when I wrote a piece in the style of Bartok for a theory class. The rest is history.
Who were my favorite artists growing up?
I was pummeled by so many different listening experiences growing up that the artists and genres are too numerous to mention. Music was always playing in my house whether it was from a stereo system or live piano performances when my brothers and I all took lessons from an early age. My parents listened mainly to classical and opera (20th century Russian composers were a standout), although my mom also exposed me to folk music and musical theater. My older brothers always brought in the latest rock and jazz records of the day so I was also introduced and exposed to all of that. Listening to top 40 radio in the 60s and 70s (for better or worse) also helped shape my musical life. So to say that my favorite influences stretch anywhere from Stravinsky to Pete Seeger to Chick Corea to The Beatles would be a fair estimate as to my earliest inspirations and favorites.
If I could spend creative time anywhere in the world, where would it be and why.
To be perfectly frank, I mainly enjoy working on composition in my own home in New York as I have been for decades. A quiet seaside resort also wouldn’t be too shabby a place to write either, however.
What does this album mean to you personally?
This album is important to me because it contains a genre for which I have never recorded and which is played so masterfully by a wonderful group of musicians, the Sirius Quartet.
If you could instantly have expertise performing one instrument, what instrument would that be?
Piano is currently my secondary instrument, but it was the first instrument I learned to play. My interest in it waned a bit when I stopped taking lessons and as percussion became my principal interest. Today I am an adequate pianist but not an “expert.” For me, the piano has everything I need to use as a performer, composer, and educator.
Is there a specific feeling you would like communicated to audiences in this work?
Normally, I would like the audience to be moved in some way that is not necessarily prescribed by me or anyone. Although one can hear in the music the impish qualities of the main character, I would also like to point out the more tender moments that even a sprite like Puck might possess.