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The Mystery Program

I know you were shuffling through your program notes at Sunday’s concert.  I saw you.  You had no idea what Pacifica String Quartet – let alone Sharon Isbin – would be performing next, and, like me, you feel insecure when you don’t know who the composer is, how many movements there will be, when it will be time to applaud (or get caught out as the only person in the room who is doing so).  I know.  But I will let you in on a little behind-the-scenes wizardry/witchery that went on about an hour before the doors opened at 3:00.

You know that Pacifica and Sharon Isbin are incredibly talented musicians, right?  They don’t give those Grammys away like marshmallows at a camp out.  So about an hour before the concert began, first violin Simin Ganatra told a few of the board members that Pacifica and Ms. Isbin would like to make some changes in the program.  They would rearrange the sequences and could throw in a few surprises, if that would be ok.  And I’m standing there thinking, “Good grief!  What kind of versatility does it take to change a whole program only an hour before a  performance?!  How can they have practiced and prepared a whole basket of music that they can just draw out at will and perform?!”

... about an hour before the concert began, first violin Simin Ganatra told a few of the board members that Pacifica and Ms. Isbin would like to make some changes in the program. They would rearrange the sequences and could throw in a few surprises...

So that’s how the program got shuffled.  Now you know.  And I’ll bet you know something else, as well.  Pacifica has earned its stellar reputation for precision, lyricism and, yes, pure enjoyment.  Theirs is an almost ethereal  joy in performance, and tell me you didn’t really feel the pathos of the third movement of the Haydn.  The composer himself would have cried.

And then there’s Sharon Isbin.  It’s difficult for me not to repeat what’s been written time and time again about her uncanny ability to elicit thoughts of a Spain that we all imagined:  white marble, the scent of oranges, the swirly of color in dancers’ skirts and the haunting loneliness of a midnight street in Barcelona.  All of these and more ran through my mind as I listened to the brilliant tones and the smoky echoes of her truly magical guitar.  Centuries of exquisite sounds and rhythms tumbled out.  It was pure magic, don’t you agree?

I’m so glad you were there to enjoy this extraordinary concert with me, and I hope you’ll come back for more.   The New York based ensemble, Rebel Baroque, will weave more magic with the help of flutist Matthias Maute November 12.  I promise enchantment.

– E Doyle

Pacifica Quartet with Sharon Isbin

Pacifica Quartet

Recognized for its virtuosity, exuberant performance style, and often-daring repertory choices, over the past two decades the Pacifica Quartet has achieved international recognition as one of the finest chamber ensembles performing today.

Formed in 1994, the Pacifica Quartet quickly won chamber music’s top competitions, including the 1998 Naumburg Chamber Music Award. In 2002 the ensemble was honored with Chamber Music America’s Cleveland Quartet Award and the appointment to Lincoln Center’s CMS Two, and in 2006 was awarded a prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. Also in 2006 the Quartet was featured on the cover of Gramophone and heralded as one of “five new quartets you should know about,” the only American quartet to make the list. And in 2009, the Quartet was named “Ensemble of the Year” by Musical America.

The Quartet’s 2017-18 season features performances with the guitar legend Sharon Isbin, the complete Beethoven cycle for the University at Buffalo’s renowned Slee Cycle, and multiple performances of the Mendelssohn octet with the Dover Quartet. Highlights of the 2016-17 season included a return performance at New York’s famed 92nd Street Y; the culmination of a two-season residency at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston; tours with Johannes Moser, Jörg Widmann, and Marc-André Hamelin; and the debut of a new cello quintet by the Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Julia Wolfe.

Sharon Isbin

Hailed as “the pre-eminent guitarist of our time”, Sharon Isbin,  as a woman in a male-dominated field,  has been a trailblazer in more ways than most classical musicians could ever dream. She has appeared as soloist with over 170 orchestras and has given sold-out performances in the world’s finest halls.

Born in Minneapolis, Sharon Isbin began her guitar studies at age nine in Italy, and later studied with Andrès Segovia and Oscar Ghiglia. Her teachers also included the legendary piano doyenne Rosalyn Tureck. She’s the first guitarist to record with the New York Philharmonic. What’s more, Sharon Isbin has had no difficulty straddling the worlds of classical music and pop culture; her playing is on the soundtrack of the Martin Scorsese Academy Award-winning film The Departed. She has won multiple Grammys and has commissioned an impressive number of works for guitar, from composers of vastly different styles including Leo Brouwer (Cuban) , John Duarte (British) and Tan Dun (Chinese). A frequent guest on NPR’s All Things Considered and Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion, she has been profiled on television throughout the world. On September 11, 2002, Ms. Isbin performed at Ground Zero for the internationally televised memorial. Among other career highlights, she performed  at the White House for President and Mrs. Obama in November 2009, and was the only classical artist to perform in the 2010 GRAMMY Awards. She has been profiled in periodicals from People to Elle, The Wall Street Journal and The New York Times, as well as appearing on the covers of over 45 magazines. Her 2015 national television performances on PBS include the Billy Joel Gershwin Prize, Tavis Smiley, and American Public Television’s presentation of the acclaimed one-hour documentary on her life and work produced by Susan Dangel titled Sharon Isbin: Troubadour, seen by millions on nearly 200 PBS stations across the US, and the winner of the 2015 ASCAP Television Broadcast Award. The film was released with bonus performances on DVD/Blu-ray by Video Artists International. Watch the trailer at: www.sharonisbintroubadour.com

“The playing is nothing short of phenomenal.” Daily Telegraph, London

“Classical guitar’s reigning diva.” Dallas Morning News

Members:

Simin Ganatra (violin)
Austin Hartman (violin)
Guy Ben-Ziony (viola)
Brandon Vamos (cello)
Sharon Isbin (guitar)

Program

HAYDN
Quartet in G major, Op. 76, No. 1

CASTELNUOVO-TEDESCO
Guitar Quintet in F major, op. 143

VIVALDI
Concerto in D major for guitar and strings, RV 93

-Intermission-

PUCCINI
I Crisantemi

BOCCHERINI
Guitar Quintet No. 4 in D Major, G.448

Venue

Temple Beth-El
Address: 211 Belknap Place
Time: 3:15 PM

Female Guitarists

Try Googling “female classical guitarists.” You will find a few dozen citations of people you’ve probably never heard of. I wondered why. There are female pianists and violinists by the score, but classical guitarists? The citations sooner or later descend to pop icons. It’s not that Janice Joplin wasn’t capable of playing, say, an andante, but the washboard style of playing is not really conducive to cantatas. I looked through the names and photos and found that many of the women were also composers, lauded for their talents during their eras, but not particularly well known now. For example: Have you ever heard of Ida Presti? Neither had I, I am ashamed to admit. She was that vanishingly rare person, a female classical guitarist. She was 10 in 1935 when she played her first professional concert at the Salle Pleyel in Paris; she continued to perform and compose music for the acoustic guitar until her death in 1967. When she was 16 years old, she had the singular honor of playing Paganini’s guitar in a commemoration of his death in 1940. She appeared in films and was widely known for her prodigious talent. Do you recognize the name yet? No?

When you check out lists of classical guitarists, you will find not one woman’s name until you come to Catherina Josepha Pratten, identified only as a German guitar virtuoso, born in Mulheim in 1821 and laying her guitar to rest in 1895. Certainly you’ve heard of Mme. Pratten?

In the early 20th Century, we come to Maria Luisa Anido, better known for her compositions than for her performances. She was born in Morón, Argentina in 1907, and died in the “mid 80’s” in Tarragona, Spain. The only concert mentioned was her debut in Wigmore Hall in 1952.

At last, in this century, we begin to see a few female names among the listings of classical guitarists, but the vast majority of names are male.

The guitar is the quintessential musical instrument for a woman to play. It can shade emotion, it can soothe or scream. It can express a range of feelings that go far beyond six strings.

Makes you wonder. Are women not able to play an acoustic guitar? Perhaps their fingers are not strong enough – but have you ever watched a female harpist at work? Perhaps they constitutionally have trouble focusing on two hands doing different things at the same time. Ever seen a female pianist – or, for that matter, a mother with two-year-old twins? Perhaps the violin is more suited to female musicians. After all, the movements are graceful, the music is sweet. But the guitar is an instrument of passion, an accompanier of flamenco and wild Gypsy dances. The guitar is the quintessential musical instrument for a woman to play. It can shade emotion, it can soothe or scream. It can express a range of feelings that go far beyond six strings.

So I hope you remember, as you listen to Sharon Isbin, a modern guitar virtuoso, that this particular woman understands the guitar. You will hear an instrument singing unlike any you have heard before, an instrument capable of expressing connections between the artist and the audience. And that’s the whole point, don’t you agree?

Don’t miss Sharon Isbin, multiple GRAMMY Award winning guitarist, in concert with the Pacifica String Quartet on Sunday, October 15th, 2017, 3:15 p.m. at Temple Beth-El. You will wish the concert never ends.

– E Doyle

Opening The Curtain

Ta-dah!  No, not big enough.  Ta-DAH!!  Better, but not there yet.
TA-DAH!!!

That’s more like it. Ladies and gentlemen and all the ships from Canyon to Woodlawn Lake, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society of San Antonio, Texas will soon open the curtain on a season unlike any in our 75 (yes, 75) years! You have enjoyed the music we have presented for many, many seasons, I hope, but this season’s programme (yes, it deserves the double-m and the e) is the best yet. Hang onto your hats, get out your credit cards and calendars and order your tickets for this diamond jubilee season.

October 15, 2017

Pacifica String Quartet with Sharon Isbin, guitarist

During their two decades of stellar performances, the Pacifica has earned its international stature with its virtuosity and style.  We have had the pleasure of their company in past seasons and are delighted to welcome them back.   Performing with them is the incomparable Sharon Isbin,  often called “the Monet of classical guitar”,  multiple Grammy Award winner and founding director of the Classical Guitar Department at Juilliard.  This will be an opening concert to remember!

November 12, 2017

Rebel Baroque with Matthias Maute, flute

Bearing the name of French Baroque composer, Jean-Féry Rebel, this quartet began in the Netherlands and has performed in every corner of the world since then.  They are known and admired for their interpretations of 17th and 18th Century music performed on period instruments.  Matthias Maute is a virtuoso performer, conductor and composer who won a JUNO Award in the category of year’s best classical music. This concert promises Baroque music at its finest.

January 21, 2018

Chanticleer

Twelve incredible male voices comprise the “world’s reigning men’s chorus” (according to The New Yorker).  They’ve won Grammys, they’ve traveled the world and they consistently delight audiences with their seamless blends and original interpretations of the classical genre.  We thoroughly enjoyed their dazzling performance a few years ago, as they quite literally filled the house with song.  Chanticleer founder Louis A. Botto was born in Texas and was a graduate of Incarnate Word College here in San Antonio. In the early 1970’s he was the director of the First Repertory Company of San Antonio. We look forward to having  Chanticleer in our midst to celebrate San Antonio’s Tricentennial.

March 4, 2018

American Brass Quintet

Five remarkable musicians, two trumpets, a horn, a trombone and a bass trombone combine to form a glorious sound.  They have premiered – premiered – more than 150 contemporary brass works and won Chamber Music America’s highest award in the process.  They have been in residence at the Juilliard since 1987, and at Aspen Music Festival since 1970.  They definitely know how to polish brass to a gleaming, lustrous brilliance. To make this concert extra special – San Antonio Chamber Music Society, as a partner in SA300, the Tricentennial celebration of our city, have commissioned beloved San Antonio composer James Balentine to write a special work for this auspicious occasion. Be there to hear this gift from SACMS to you,  San Antonio!

April 15, 2018

Orion String Quartet

Closing out a season you’ll wish could last forever, our dear friends, the Orion.  The Quartet in Residence at Lincoln Center, the Orion is known for standing ovation evoking performances.  They are famous  for the diversity of their programs, their blending of classical and contemporary – and the devotion of their fans (count us in!).  You can plan on an afternoon of textures, surprises and just beautiful sounds.  (Note:  this concert will be at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church, 227 W. Woodlawn at Belknap Place.)

Are you ready to celebrate with us our Diamond Jubilee?  This San Antonio Chamber Music Society season will be extraordinary, over the top, fabulous, gorgeous – where’s my Roget’s when I need it?  But you get the picture, so get your tickets, better yet, get a season subscription because you won’t want to miss even one of these concerts.  Tickets are always available here at sacms.org,  or drop us a check at San Antonio Chamber Music Society, PO Box 12702, San Antonio, TX 78212.  And don’t forget – students and active duty military are admitted free to all concerts.

– E Doyle

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