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…And Beethoven smiled

You’ve seen the drawings of Beethoven:  unsmiling, looking somewhat suspicious of the world, hair that looks as though it has endured many years of mismanagement and finger-combing.  He doesn’t really look like a happy man.  His visage is just short of a scowl.  This is the familiar Beethoven, but last Sunday (April 15, 2018) at the Orion String Quartet concert, there was a different Beethoven.  I caught a glimpse of him, perched on the organ bench – and he was – wait for it – smiling.  He was pleased at what he heard; he liked what the gentlemen of Orion had done with his String Quartet No. 14.  Okay, he didn’t actually slap his knee, but he did tap his foot.  Really.

So what did Orion do that made the master smile?  Simple.  They played the composition as it was intended to be played:  with emotion, with soul-felt love for each beautiful note, with enthusiasm and joy for the complexities of the composition.  (I’m reasonably certain that Sebastian Currier and Anton Dvořák were also enjoying this concert, perhaps perched on the crossbeams of this beautiful old church.)

I’m reasonably certain that Sebastian Currier and Anton Dvořák were also enjoying this concert, perhaps perched on the crossbeams of this beautiful old church.

Why is it that some groups do a perfectly workmanlike job of playing these wonderful musical compositions and others bring a special quality that goes beyond mere artistry to a profound understanding of the work and the ability to express the composer’s notes allowing the audience to rejoice with them?   Well, that’s Orion.  Thirty years together this group, so they communicate with one another on the level of performance DNA.

They take their name from Greek mythology.  Orion the Hunter, Orion the Warrior, Orion which can be seen from almost any point on earth.  The Quartet is cutting-edge in its interpretation of contemporary works (therefore, the sword) and muscular in its interpretation of the classics.  The four gentlemen of Orion have been visible and praised in every corner of the world and their reputation gleams and glitters in the musical firmament.  Besides performers, they are also teachers, generously passing their skills to a new generation of violinists, violists, cellists and string quartets.

We of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society are thankful that their light shone on us for one memorable Sunday afternoon and I am perfectly certain that Beethoven, Currier and Dvořák enjoyed the music, too!

And while we’re talking enjoying music, have a look at next season, the 76th.  You will find music to enjoy, but only if you subscribe.  The cost is the same, students and active duty military are still admitted free and I am certain that you will find some smile-worthy Sunday entertainment.

– E Doyle

Orion String Quartet

Since its inception, the Orion Quartet has been consistently praised for the extraordinary musical integrity it brings to performances, offering diverse programs that juxtapose classic works of the standard quartet literature with masterworks by twentieth and twenty-first century composers. The Quartet remains on the cutting edge of programming with wide-ranging commissions from composers Chick Corea, Brett Dean, David Del Tredici, Alexander Goehr, Thierry Lancino, John Harbison, Leon Kirchner, Marc Neikrug, Lowell Liebermann, Peter Lieberson and Wynton Marsalis, and enjoys a creative partnership with the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company. The members of the Orion String Quartet—violinists Daniel Phillips and Todd Phillips (brothers who share the first violin chair equally), violist Steven Tenenbom and cellist Timothy Eddy—have worked closely with such legendary figures as Pablo Casals, Sir András Schiff, Rudolf Serkin, Isaac Stern, Pinchas Zukerman, Peter Serkin, members of TASHI and the Beaux Arts Trio, as well as the Budapest, Végh, Galimir and Guarneri String Quartets. The Orions serve as Artist Members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and Quartet-in-Residence at New York’s Mannes School of Music, where they are featured in a four-concert series each year.

The 2016-17 season also brings the Orion Quartet’s return to the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center for programs of Haydn and Bach, and of Puccini, Hugo Wolf and Giovanni Rota, which CMS LC also presents at Hugh Hodgson Concert Hall in Athens, Georgia. Soprano Tony Arnold joins the Orion at Washington, DC’s Library of Congress for Schoenberg’s String Quartet No. 2 and Brett Dean’s Quartet No. 2 “And once I played Ophelia.” New School Concerts presents the Orion twice, first in collaboration with the Dover Quartet in Mendelssohn’s Octet and Mozart’s Viola Quintet K. 516, and then in Haydn’s The Seven Last Words of Christ. The Quartet is also being presented by the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society at Benjamin Franklin Hall, and by the Chamber Music Society of Westchester. The Orion concludes the season with their annual return to the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, where they have become distinguished for commissions of unusual works by major composers.

The ensemble celebrated its 25th anniversary in the 2012-2013 season with a collaboration involving the Bill T. Jones/Arnie Zane Dance Company at New York City’s Joyce Theater, for a special two-week project which featured music by Mozart, Mendelssohn, Ravel and Schubert, plus a specially commissioned Beethoven arrangement. WQXR’s The Greene Space presented a live-broadcast of the collaboration, including a performance and a conversation with the Quartet and Bill T. Jones.

Heard often on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, the Orion has also appeared on PBS’s Live from Lincoln Center, A&E’s Breakfast with the Arts, and three times on ABC-TV’s Good Morning America. Additionally, the Quartet was photographed with Drew Barrymore by Annie Leibovitz for the April 2005 issue of Vogue.

Formed in 1987, the Quartet chose its name from the Orion constellation as a metaphor for the unique personality each musician brings to the group in its collective pursuit of the highest musical ideals.

“A noisy standing ovation is nothing rare… but silence can be an even better indicator of a powerful performance. These musicians manage to seduce a rustling, coughing, whispering audience into utterly silent awe.”

The New York Times

“The group’s playing and interpretation was consistently beguiling and technically impeccable.”

The Los Angeles Times

Members:

Daniel Phillips (violin)
Todd Phillips (violin)
Steven Tenenbom (viola)
Timothy Eddy (cello)

Program

CURRIER
New Work for String Quartet

BEETHOVEN
String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130

-Intermission-

DVORAK
String Quartet No. 14 in A-flat Major, Op. 105

Venue

Laurel Heights United Methodist Church
Address: 227 West Woodlawn
Time: 3:15 PM

Review: The Brass Masters

You could have spent last Sunday glued to the television and watching the Oscar hoopla – or you could have enjoyed some real talent at the American Brass Quintet concert.  You could have paid homage to the little gold-plated statue at the Oscars – or you could have enjoyed some real, honest-to-goodness brass, learned something about canons (no, not the kind that fire cannon balls) and listened to music and poetry that go right to the heart.  You could have.

Just in case someone stole your pickup truck with your favorite hound in it, or Aunt Mattie over in Floresville was stuck in a tree, or your flu had come back so bad you couldn’t raise your head from the pillow – just in case, you poor soul, you missed this concert, I’ll be kind and tell you what you missed:

First there’s just the sound, the Temple-filling, soul-filling sound of five brass instruments.  Think about this:  can you imagine what honey or molten gold would sound like if they could sound?  Well, that’s what these five instruments in concert sounded like.  The tones and the harmonies blended and then flowed separately, then blended again.  You would have heard centuries’ worth of songs, music that would have been familiar to Queen Elizabeth I or King James I; music that would have been heard in old St. Petersburg; music that celebrates the common man and the joy of the everyday in the 20th century.

Can you imagine what honey or molten gold would sound like if they could sound?  Well, that’s what these five instruments in concert sounded like.

And there was a special treat:  music composed around a breathtakingly poignant poem by Carmen Tafolla, San Antonio’s own poet laureate.  The poem spoke ever so simply and ever so eloquently of the river, our river and, as recited by the author, it would have just broken your heart.  The music, composed by James Balentine, was equally simple and eloquent.  Performed as it was by this particular group, the music spun out the story of the poem in a universal language of pure beauty.  By the way, it was also a world premiere of the work and was commissioned for San Antonio’s 300th birthday. Take that, Hollywood!

And then the canons of the 16th century.  Imagine the great castle halls and the cathedrals with this glorious music resounding in the vast spaces.  Imagine the pleasure of following the musical lines through their twists and turns, counterpoints and harmonies, understanding the inherent structure where there seems to be none.  How do they do that?  I think it’s magic, pure and simple.  Finally, the composition by American composer Eric Ewazen, a work dedicated to the American Brass Quintet on the occasion of their 30th anniversary, demonstrated the artistry and complete versatility of these five musicians.  In three movements, the music went from languid to playful to joyous to sonorous.  Pick your adverb; it was all of that and more.

Michael Powell, the ABQ trombonist, described brass players as “plumbers,” since their artistry depends on pipes and tubes and conduits, but I assure you that if the ABQ are plumbers, then I am in line for a Pulitzer.  Just sayin’. No, these gentlemen, all teachers of the next generation of premiere artists, are truly brass masters.  Don’t say I didn’t tell you…

In three movements, the music went from languid to playful to joyous to sonorous. Pick your adverb; it was all of that and more.

And don’t forget the last concert of this exceptional, sparkling season:  the Orion String Quartet, a group that has become the standard of excellence in the world of chamber music, will perform April 15th at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church, 227 W. Woodlawn (corner Belknap).  Buy Aunt Mattie a ladder and be there!

– E Doyle

 

American Brass Quintet

The American Brass Quintet is internationally recognized as one of the premier chamber music ensembles of our time, celebrated for peerless leadership in the brass world. As 2013 recipient of Chamber Music America’s highest honor, the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award for significant and lasting contributions to the field, ABQ’s rich history includes performances in Asia, Australia, Central and South America, Europe, the Middle East and all fifty of the United States; a discography of nearly sixty recordings; and the premieres of over one hundred fifty contemporary brass works.

ABQ commissions by Robert Beaser, William Bolcom, Elliott Carter, Eric Ewazen, Anthony Plog, Huang Ruo, David Sampson, Gunther Schuller, William Schuman, Joan Tower, and Charles Whittenberg, among many others, are considered significant contributions to contemporary chamber music and the foundation of the modern brass quintet repertoire. The ABQ’s Emerging Composer Commissioning program has brought forth brass quintets by Gordon Beeferman, Jay Greenberg, Trevor Gureckis, and Shafer Mahoney. Among the quintet’s recordings are eleven CDs for Summit Records since 1992 including the ABQ’s 50th release State of the Art—The ABQ at 50 featuring recent works written for them.

Committed to the promotion of brass chamber music through education, the American Brass Quintet has been in residence at The Juilliard School since 1987 and the Aspen Music Festival since 1970. Since 2000 the ABQ has offered its expertise in chamber music performance and training with a program of mini-residencies as part of its regular touring. Designed to offer young groups and individuals an intense chamber music experience over several days, ABQ mini-residencies have been embraced by schools and communities throughout the United States and a dozen foreign countries.

The New York Times recently wrote that “among North American brass ensembles none is more venerable than the American Brass Quintet,” while Newsweek has hailed the ensemble as “the high priests of brass” and American Record Guide has called the ABQ “of all the brass quintets, the most distinguished.” Through its acclaimed performances, diverse programming, commissioning, extensive discography and educational mission, the American Brass Quintet has created a legacy unparalleled in the brass field.

To commemorate SA300 – the San Antonio Tricentennial, the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, as a SA300 Community Partner, has commissioned beloved San Antonio composer James Balentine to write a special work for the American Brass Quintet. Mr. Balentine puts it this way: ‘I was inspired by a poem by San Antonio’s first Poet Laureate, Carmen Tafolla – the poem is “This River Here“, and the title of the piece is “the river remembers“, a partial quote from the introduction to the poem, which Carmen graciously allowed me to use as the title for this piece. The poem is a wonderful reflection on the history and flavor of San Antonio.’ This special commission is a gift from the San Antonio Chamber Music Society to our city on its 300th birthday, and will be given it’s world premiere in San Antonio by the American Brass Quintet. We will also be honored by the presence of Ms. Tafolla, who will be reading her poem at this concert.

“The quintet’s clear sound and precise articulation let the music speak with big-time personality.”

Harvey Steiman, The Aspen Times

“The high priests of brass.”

Newsweek

Members:

Kevin Cobb (trumpet)
Louis Hanzlik (trumpet)
Eric Reed (horn)
Michael Powell (trombone)
John D. Rojak (bass trombone)

Program

Consort Music of Elizabethan and Jacobean England
(edited by Louis Hanzlik)

Suite from 19th Century Russia
(ed. Kevin Cobb)

LASSER
Common Heroes, Uncommon Land

-Intermission-

BALENTINE
the river remembers
Special Commission for the San Antonio Tricentennial
(World Premier)

Canons of the 16th Century
(ed. Ray Mase)

EWAZEN
Frost Fire

Venue

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

WOW10th!

What can I say that hasn’t already been said about the fabulous Chanticleer.  It is simply hard to believe that 12 men can produce the music, sounds, sheer entertainment that this group so ably can.  I sincerely hope you were at the San Antonio Chamber Music Society’s January 21st presentation of Chanticleer.  Only 500+ music lovers filled Temple Beth-El for this alternately moving, sentimental, humorous concert – and everyone left humming the encore presentation, “Bei mir bist du Schön.”

The true art of Chanticleer is the production of a musical fabric, in this case “Heart of a Soldier.”  The first songs dated from the 14th Century to the 20th, and covered battle-connected poetry and songs created through all those ages.  Chanticleer wove these into a fabric with voices blending and moving through scales of harmonies.  As I listened, I realized that what Chanticleer was weaving was a tapestry:  each thread with a voice, each voice with a color.  The whole cloth told stories of praise, of fear, of reliance on a greater power and of comradery.

Chanticleer was weaving was a tapestry:  each thread with a voice, each voice with a color.

Still keeping with their theme of soldiers’ hearts, the second half of the program moved into the 20th century with wartime popular music that (for some of us elders in the audience) brought back visions of the Andrews Sisters as well as of Peter, Paul and Mary.  Their rendition of “My Buddy” tugged at my own memories of military funerals, red poppies in lapels and the solemn white markers at Arlington.  “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” was a Vietnam-era song, so poignant in its simplicity and so meaningful to all the young men and young women who faced tragedy in those years.  Chanticleer made a hymn to peace out of Pete Seeger’s pop song.

As we all knew, this was a concert that would be special – and indeed it was.  It elicited a range of emotions just as the voices of these remarkable musicians created a range of harmonies.  The fact that they were also performing in several languages simply attests to their skill.  I hope you were there to enjoy this most remarkable vocal concert.

And don’t forget another concert that promises a wonderful afternoon of musical bliss:  the American Brass Quintet performs for our 75th season March 4th at Temple Beth-El.  Having experienced the magic of 12 incredible voices, you won’t want to miss the magic of these wizards of brass!  Remember, you can use any ticket from this season’s concerts or bonus tickets for either the American Brass or Orion String Quartet on April 15th at Laurel Heights United Methodist Church.  Hope to see you there!

– E Doyle

Chanticleer

Chanticleer

Called “the world’s reigning male chorus” by the New Yorker, the San Francisco based GRAMMY® award-winning ensemble Chanticleer will celebrate its 40th Anniversary in 2018. The group’s founder, Louis A. Botto, was born in Texas and educated in San Antonio: he attended St. Anthony Academy and was a graduate of Incarnate Word College (now UIW).  So it is doubly fitting that Chanticleer is here to help us celebrate our city’s Tricentennial. During its 2017-18 Season, Chanticleer will perform 51 concerts in 21 of the United States, 27 in the San Francisco Bay Area, and 8 in Poland, Germany, France and Spain.   Praised by the San Francisco Chronicle for its “tonal luxuriance and crisply etched clarity,” Chanticleer is known around the world as “an orchestra of voices” for its seamless blend of twelve male voices ranging from soprano to bass and its original interpretations of vocal literature, from Renaissance to jazz and popular genres, as well as contemporary composition.

Chanticleer’s 2017-18 Season is the third under the direction of Music Director William Fred Scott. The Season will begin with Heart of a Soldier, featuring new compositions by Mason Bates and John Musto in a program about the art of soldiering, the pageant of war, the absurdity of battle, the loves left behind and the hope of peace.  Included are new arrangements by ensemble members Brian Hinman and Adam Ward.  Chanticleer’s popular A Chanticleer Christmas will be heard this year in Virginia, Pennsylvania, New York, Illinois and Indiana before coming home for 13 performances in the Bay Area and Southern California. A Chanticleer Christmas is broadcast annually on over 300 affiliated public radio stations nationwide. Looking back to its roots in early music and its 40 years of performing music written for the Missions of New Spain, Chanticleer offers Saints Alive in March and April in the Missions Santa Clara, Santa Cruz, San Francisco, San Jose and Sonoma.  In June, Then and There, Here and Now will take a panoramic look back at Chanticleer’s favorite composers and repertoires, along with a world premiere by Matthew Aucoin. A post-season concert on June 27, 2018, will commemorate the 40th Anniversary or the first San Francisco performance of Chanticleer in the Old Mission Dolores.

With the help of individual contributions, government, foundation and corporate support, Chanticleer’s education programs engage over 5,000 young people annually. The Louis A. Botto (LAB) Choir—an after-school honors program for high school and college students—is now in its eighth year, adding to the ongoing program of in-school clinics and workshops; Youth Choral Festivals™ in the Bay Area and around the country; Skills/LAB–an intensive summer workshop for 50 high school students; and master classes for university students nationwide.  Chanticleer’s education program was recognized with the 2010 Chorus America Education Outreach Award.

Since Chanticleer began releasing recordings in 1981, the group has sold well over a million albums and won two GRAMMY® awards. Chanticleer’s recordings are distributed by Chanticleer Records, Naxos, ArkivMusic, Amazon, and iTunes among others, and are available on Chanticleer’s website.

In 2014 Chorus America conferred the inaugural Brazeal Wayne Dennard Award on Chanticleer’s Music Director Emeritus Joseph H. Jennings to acknowledge his contribution to the African-American choral tradition during his 25-year (1983-2009) tenure as a singer and music director with Chanticleer. The hundred plus arrangements of African-American gospel, spirituals and jazz made by Jennings for Chanticleer have been given thousands of performances worldwide—live and on broadcast—and have been recorded by Chanticleer for Warner Classics and Chanticleer Records.

Chanticleer’s long-standing commitment to commissioning and performing new works was honored in 2008 by the inaugural Dale Warland/Chorus America Commissioning Award and the ASCAP/Chorus America Award for Adventurous Programming. Chanticleer has commissioned over eighty composers in their history.

Named for the “clear-singing” rooster in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Chanticleer was founded in 1978 by tenor Louis A. Botto, who sang in the Ensemble until 1989 and served as Artistic Director until his death in 1997. Chanticleer became known first for its interpretations of Renaissance music, and was later a pioneer in the revival of the South American baroque, recording several award winning titles in that repertoire. Chanticleer was named Ensemble of the Year by Musical America in 2008, and inducted in the American Classical Music Hall of Fame the same year. William Fred Scott was named Music Director in 2014. A native of Georgia, Scott is the former Assistant Conductor to Robert Shaw at the Atlanta Symphony, former Artistic Director of the Atlanta Opera, an organist and choir director.

“the world’s reigning male chorus”

The New Yorker

“The singing of Chanticleer is breathtaking in its accuracy of intonation, purity of blend, variety of color and swagger of style.”

The Boston Globe

Members:

Eric Alatorre (bass)
Zachary Burgess (bass-baritone)
Brian Hinman (tenor)
Tim Keeler (countertenor)
Matthew Knickman (baritone)
Matthew Mazzola (tenor)
Cortez Mitchell (countertenor)
Gerrod Pagenkopf (countertenor)
Alan Reinhardt (countertenor)
Logan S. Shields (countertenor)
Andrew Van Allsburg (tenor)
Adam Ward (alto)

Program

Heart of a Soldier: 

This program will resonate with special poignancy in San Antonio, “Military City USA”. The hearts of soldiers burst with every emotion. Expressed in music from the Renaissance to the present day, these sentiments ranging from extreme pain to extreme joy are universal.  “Heart of a Soldier” will feature early music of war and peace from Byrd, Tomkins, Jannequin and Dufay.  Stirring martial music from Russia includes works by Glinka and traditional songs sung by ordinary soldiers.  New works for Chanticleer are contributed by Mason Bates and John Musto, joining celebrated choruses from Jennifer Higdon’s “Cold Mountain” and lighthearted music from the home front.

Venue

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

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