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Parker String Quartet

Parker String Quartet

April 26, 2020

“…exceptional virtuosity [and] imaginative interpretation…” 
The Washington Post

Inspiring performances, luminous sound, and exceptional musicianship are the hallmarks of the Grammy Award-winning Parker Quartet. Renowned for its dynamic interpretations and polished, expansive colors, the group has rapidly distinguished itself as one of the preeminent ensembles of its generation, dedicated purely to the sound and depth of their music. The Quartet has appeared at the world’s most important venues since its founding in 2002.

Following a 2019 summer season that had the ensemble crossing North America for appearances at music festivals from Banff to Bard, the Parker Quartet began its sixth year as faculty members of Harvard University’s Department of Music in the group’s role as Blodgett Artists-in-Residence. Recent seasons included performances and residencies around the United States and Europe, including at the University of Iowa, the University of Chicago, the Wigmore Hall, the University of South Carolina, the Schubert Club, Skidmore College, and Kansas City’s Friends of Chamber Music.

The Quartet has been influential in projects ranging from the premiere of a new octet by Zosha di Castri alongside the JACK Quartet at the Banff Centre for Arts and Creativity; to the premiere of Augusta Read Thomas’s Helix Spirals, a piece inspired by the Meselson-Stahl DNA replication discovery; to the “Schubert Effect,” in collaboration with pianist Shai Wosner at the 92nd Street Y. Other recent highlights include appearances at Carnegie Hall, the Library of Congress, the Slee Series in Buffalo, and New York’s Lincoln Center Great Performers series. The Quartet also continues to be a strong supporter of their friend and frequent collaborator Kim Kashkashian’s project Music for Food by participating in concerts throughout the United States for the benefit of various food banks and shelters.

The Quartet has been particularly focused on recording projects this past year. For ECM Records, they recorded Dvořák’s Viola Quintet, joined by Kim Kashkashian, as well as Kurtag’s Six Moments Musicaux and Officium breve in memoriam. Under the auspices of the Monte Carlo Festival Printemps des Arts, they recorded a disc of three Beethoven quartets, due to be released this fall. The Quartet’s recording featuring Mendelssohn’s Quartets Op. 44, Nos. 1 and 3, was widely lauded by the international press, and their debut commercial recording of Bartók’s String Quartets Nos. 2 and 5 for Zig-Zag Territoires won praise from Gramophone: “The Parkers’ Bartók spins the illusion of spontaneous improvisation… they have absorbed the language; they have the confidence to play freely with the music and the instinct to bring it off.” Their Naxos recording of György Ligeti’s complete works for string quartet won the 2011 Grammy Award for Best Chamber Music Performance (the last string quartet to win this category).

Recent collaborations include those with acclaimed artists like violist Kim Kashkashian, featured on their recent Dvořák recording; violinist Nadja Salerno-Sonnenberg; pianists Anne-Marie McDermott, Orion Weiss, Vijay Iyer, and Shai Wosner; members of the Silk Road Ensemble; Kikuei Ikeda of the Tokyo String Quartet; clarinetist and composer Jörg Widmann; and clarinetists Anthony McGill and Charles Neidich.

Founded and currently based in Boston, the Parker Quartet’s numerous honors include winning the Concert Artists Guild Competition, the Grand Prix and Mozart Prize at France’s Bordeaux International String Quartet Competition, and Chamber Music America’s prestigious Cleveland Quartet Award. Now Blodgett Artists-in-Residence at Harvard University’s Department of Music, and also in-residence at the UofSC School of Music, the Quartet’s numerous residencies have included serving as Artists-in-Residence at the University of St. Thomas (2012–2014), Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Minnesota (2011– 2012), Quartet-in-Residence with the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra (2008-2010), and as the first-ever Artists-in-Residence with Minnesota Public Radio (2009-2010).

The Parker Quartet’s members hold graduate degrees in performance and chamber music from the New England Conservatory of Music and the Juilliard School, and the Quartet was part of the New England Conservatory’s prestigious Professional String Quartet Training Program from 2006–2008. Some of their most influential mentors include the original members of the Cleveland Quartet as well as Kim Kashkashian, György Kurtág, and Rainer Schmidt.

Program

SALONEN
Homunculus

SZYMANOWSKI
Quartet No. 2, Op. 56, M64

-Intermission-

BEETHOVEN
Quartet in A minor, Op. 132

Members

Daniel Chong, violin
Ken Hamao, violin
Jessica Bodner, viola
Kee-Hyun Kim, cello

Venue

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

“Passages that demand ensemble precision were flawlessly balanced, perfectly tuned and sheathed in lustrous textures.”

- New York Times

“Pinpoint precision and spectacular sense of urgency.”
- Boston Globe

Music Mysteries

I sincerely hope you heard the VOCES8 concert Sunday.  Like me, you may have thought about some eight-part mysteries:

1. First and foremost, how do they do that?? 

There are eight vocalists, performing everything from medieval madrigals to jazz and never missing a beat – literally.  Not only maintaining the sometimes intricate rhythms, they managed to do it without so much as a snapped finger or obvious beat-keeping.  The music just flowed, in a manner of speaking.

2. Second, how do they do that, part II?? 

The harmonies and the discords were exquisite with each voice contributing perfectly to the whole.  We’ve all heard a Capella groups, but I don’t think I’ve ever heard one where I there was not one misstep, not one sound of “soprano stretch” nor “basso bumble.”  It’s so unusual to hear eight very distinct voices blending into one glorious sound.

3. Third, how many of them were there? 

It seemed sometimes like I was listening to a full choir; other times, I heard one voice.  This is the tricky part of choral singing, and I know because I am an abject failure at it!  We learned at the post-concert dinner that there is a very extensive winnowing process for applicants to VOCES8.  Each time the word has gone out that the group is interviewing for a particular voice, they receive hundreds of applicants.  After about 14 months of getting down to two or three hopefuls, they choose someone who not only has the right voice and skills (“Can you sing madrigals?”) but whose talents blend into the whole.  The eight people we heard are the absolute best of the best.  You can tell.

4. How do they select their music? 

The variety, the colors of the music performed perfectly suited this group and amply demonstrated their skills.  I can’t imagine how many hours were spent finding everything from the composition of Gibbons (simple, elegant) to the music of Britten (complex, rhythmically complicated and satisfying).  I wonder if, like prospective singers, they sift through hundreds of candidates.

5. What happened to our audience?

I heard not a sound, not a rustle, not a beep or ping during the whole concert.  The audience was more than quiet; they were taken up into this incredible music.  I think “rapt attention” would describe the reaction.

I often eavesdrop on conservations as our patrons leave the Temple, and everything I heard on Sunday was positive.  The only complaint was that the concert seemed too short, and I would agree.  I could listen to this group for hours.

I hope we’ll see you at our last concert of the season.  On April 26th, we will enjoy the artistry of the Parker String Quartet.

– E Doyle

VOCES8

VOCES8

March 1, 2020

“The singing of VOCES8 is impeccable in its quality of tone and balance. They bring a new dimension to the word ‘ensemble’ with meticulous timing and tuning.” Gramophone

The British vocal ensemble VOCES8 is proud to inspire people through music and share the joy of singing. Touring globally, the group performs an extensive repertory both in its a cappella concerts and in collaborations with leading orchestras, conductors and soloists. Versatility and a celebration of diverse musical expression are central to the ensemble’s performance and education ethos.

VOCES8 has performed at many notable venues including Wigmore Hall, Bridgewater Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Cité de la Musique, Vienna Konzerthaus, Tokyo Opera City, NCPA Beijing, Sydney Opera House, Mariinsky Theatre Concert Hall, Victoria Concert Hall Singapore, Palacio de Bellas Artes Mexico City and many others. As the group celebrates its 15th season they will perform in fourteen countries in the UK and across Europe, in Russia, in the USA and Japan, as well as make its debut visit to New Zealand. Keen musical collaborators, this season will see concerts with the Academy of Ancient Music, the Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and with baroque violinist Rachel Podger, with whom the critically acclaimed ‘Guardian Angel’ project will continue.

With an on-going programme of recordings, videos and live broadcasts, VOCES8 is heard regularly on albums, international television and radio, as well as maintaining a vibrant web performance presence. The ensemble is a Decca Classics artist and has released acclaimed recordings that have all reached the top of the classical charts. Their latest release is ‘Enchanted Isle’, released in January 2019. This season sees planned releases with Decca Classics as well as the group’s own label.

VOCES8 is passionate about music education and is the flagship ensemble of the music charity the VOCES8 Foundation. Engaging in a broad range of outreach work that reaches up to 40,000 people a year, the group runs an annual programme of workshops and masterclasses at the Foundation’s home in London, the VOCES8 Centre at St Anne & St Agnes Church. Dedicated to supporting promising young singers, the group awards eight annual choral scholarships through the VOCES8 Scholars initiative. These scholarships are linked to the annual Milton Abbey Summer School at which amateur singers of all ages are invited to work and perform with VOCES8. Through the separate VOCES8 USA Foundation there is another set of 8 talented Scholars. The ensemble is proud to be the Associate Ensemble for Cambridge University and delivers a Masters programme in choral studies.

VOCES8 has premiered commissions from Jonathan Dove, Roxanna Panufnik, Alexander Levine, Alec Roth, Ben Parry, Ola Gjeilo, Philip Stopford, Graham Lack, Thomas Hewitt Jones and Owain Park. 2019/20 will see Roxanna Panufnik as the group’s Composer-in-Residence, and Jim Clements as Arranger-in-Residence. As ambassadors for Edition Peters the ensemble publishes educational material including the ‘VOCES8 Method’. Developed by Paul Smith, co-founder of VOCES8, this renowned and unique teaching tool is available in four languages and adopts music to enhance development in numeracy, literacy and linguistics. Also available are two anthologies of its arrangements, and an ever-expanding ‘VOCES8 Singles’ range.

Program

BYRD
Sing Joyfully

TALLIS
O Nata Lux

SIBELIUS
Be Still My Soul (Finlandia)

RUNESTAD
Let My Love be Heard

PANUFNIK
Love Endureth

GIBBONS
Drop, Drop, Slow Tears

PÄRT
The Deer’s Cry

ELGAR
Lux Aeterna

-Intermission-

BRITTEN
Hymn to St Cecilia

WEELKES
As Vesta Was from Latmos Hill Descending

DI LASSO
Dessus le Marché D’Arras

TRADITIONAL
Danny Boy

RUSBY
Underneath the Stars

MacLEAN
Caledonia

MORRISON
Moondance

Members

Andrea Haines, soprano
Eleonore Cockerham, soprano
Katie Jeffries-Harris, alto
Barnaby Smith, countertenor
Blake Morgan, tenor
Euan Williamson, tenor
Chris Moore, baritone
Jonathan Pacey, bass

Venue

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

“The slickest of the lot… fans of a cappella ought to hear this.”
- CD Review

BBC Radio 3

“Eight beautifully integrated solo voices… Every number here has something particularly arresting within it, all supported by persuasive and committed singing.”
- BBC Music Magazine Choral and Song Choice

A Purcell Collection

Vibrant & Mellow

Vibrant:  full of energy and enthusiasm, bright and striking

So says Google, and the definition certainly applies to this young quintet.  Okay, I admit to confusion, even bafflement when the five musicians launched into “Splinter,” but by the time they got to the fourth movement, “Cherry,” understanding was starting to seep into my brain.  I could admire the precision with which they played and their connections both to the score and to one another was remarkable.  I admired the difficulty of performing dissonance in perfect meter – selections such as theirs, very modern, sometimes atonal and often bouncing among the instruments seemingly without rhyme or reason – elicits admiration (even among the most diehard Brahms/Beethoven set).

Did you notice that the second selection ended with a movement titled,  “A Field of Reeds?”  Would that be clarinets and bassoons, was that a serendipitous selection, or was it just a reference to the Egyptian concept of paradise as a field of reeds (saxophones and oboes)?  The music certainly brought to mind the beautiful reeds bending in the wind (aided by the subtle sound effects produced by the bass clarinet).

Mellow:  pleasantly smooth or soft, free from harshness, pleasing

Sorry Google, this was not my impression of “mellow” in the context of the concert performed by Akropolis.  Their version of “mellow” is the sonorous sounds of reed instruments:  totally unexpected, surprising even.   When they performed the Nina Simone, “For All We Know,” I thought of her mellow voice singing the words.  The next time I hear it, I will think of the sounds of reeds scaling the heights and exploring the valleys of that mellow sonority.

“Sprocket,” for all its devil-may-care ‘tude, was a masterpiece of timing.  The audience enjoyed the antics (as they were meant to), but I thought that, just like really good comedy, the secret of success is timing – and they never missed a beat.  I would love to hear it performed as it was written (for bicycle, of all things).  The final selection, “Homage to Paradise Valley,” had some passages of aching loss and remembrance.  We all have a paradise valley in our lives, and we miss its vibrancy and the memories it spawned.  The quintet captured this memory of a unique place in their home town.

Finally, members of the quintet did a great job of explaining what they were about.  Since the music was unfamiliar, their introductions were helpful and appreciated by the audience.

Bravo, Akropolis!  You are golden.

– E Doyle

Akropolis Reed Quintet

Akropolis Reed Quintet

January 26, 2020

“…infallible musicality and huge vitality…”

The Akropolis Reed Quintet is an internationally acclaimed music ensemble of five musicians performing on wind instruments. Celebrating their 10th anniversary and hailed by Fanfare Magazine for their “imagination, infallible musicality, and huge vitality,” the Akropolis Reed Quintet was founded in 2009 at the University of Michigan and has won seven national chamber music prizes including the Fischoff Gold Medal and Fischoff Educator Award. The San Francisco Chronicle dubbed Akropolis’ recent third album release, The Space Between Us, “pure gold.”

A nonprofit organization supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and numerous foundations and individuals nationwide, Akropolis delivers more than 120 annual performances and workshops. Akropolis has given collaborative concerts with David Shifrin, Jennifer Frautschi, the Dover Quartet, BodyVox Dance, YAK, New Music Detroit, HarperCollins-published author and scientist Vic Strecher, Arabic language poets Abdulrahman Alhumairy and Saeed AlMehrzi, and others.

A maverick of new wind music, Akropolis is committed to showcasing the vast possibilities of the reed quintet through their adventurous repertoire spanning over 400 years of musical history. Having premiered over 50 works for the unique combination of oboe, clarinet, saxophone, bass clarinet, and bassoon, Akropolis is devoted to expanding the existing reed quintet repertoire with imaginative arrangements and the continued development of new works by emerging and established composers. From the dozens of professional reed quintets actively performing around the world, to the hundreds of student ensembles forming at universities around the United States alone,  this collection of their ever-growing repertoire continues to help inspire reed quintet growth around the globe.

In the 2019-20 season, Akropolis will premiere 10 commissions including Storm Warning, the first concerto for reed quintet and wind band by Roshanne Etezady; CANE, by Jenni Brandon with guest bassoonist Monica Ellis of Imani Winds; Homage to Paradise Valley by Jeff Scott with support from the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Fund, celebrating the history of Detroit’s displaced Black Bottom neighborhood; and Sprocket, for reed quintet and rideable percussion bicycle by Steven Snowden.

Akropolis has premiered more than 70 new works and was selected to adjudicate and premiere the 2018 Barlow Prize funded by the Barlow Endowment, the first time the prize was given for a reed quintet work. Akropolis’ members are the first of any reed quintet to judge major chamber music competitions including the Fischoff Junior (2018) and Chamber Music Yellow Springs (2019) competitions.

 Each June in Detroit, Akropolis presents its own 16-event festival Together We Sound, featuring multidisciplinary collaborators, a workplace concert series, and educational outreach. Akropolis reaches more than 5,000 K-12 students annually, including a school year-long residency with students at three Detroit high schools.

Program

MARC MELLITS
Splinter

STACY GARROP
Rites for the Afterlife

NINA SIMONE
For All We Know

-Intermission-

STEVEN SNOWDEN
Sprocket

JEFF SCOTT
Homage to Paradise Valley

Members

Kari Landry, clarinet
Andrew Koeppe, bass 
Ryan Reynolds, bassoon
Matt Landry, saxophone
Tim Gocklin, oboe

Venue

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

“Pure gold, shot through with tenderness and grace.”

- Joshua Kosman

San Francisco Chronicle

“This group of super talented musicians takes listeners on an amazing, interactive musical adventure. The Reed Quintet is innovative, youthful, and full of enthusiasm. Given the young, energetic musicians, the interactive quality of the concert, and the quintet’s amazing musical ability, this was one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.”

- Pamela Steinik

Maryland Theatre Guide

A Musical Conversation

We often speak of chamber music as being a conversation among musicians.  In order to carry on an interesting conversation there is respect one for the other, contributions from one or another that carry the conversation forward and a sense of commonality, community and harmony.  So when you are privileged to hear such a conversation rendered in music, it’s easy to imagine that this is precisely what the composer had in mind.  Such was the musical conversation we heard last Sunday, the 10th of November.  The Ariel String Quartet, augmented but never overpowered by the artistry of San Antonio Symphony Principal Clarinetist Ilya Shterenberg, performed not just intensely, but interestingly.

 The Quartet led off with Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 8.  The Program Notes said that in July, 1960, he was supposed to write the score of a film about the horrible firebombing of Dresden; instead, he composed the achingly sad Quartet No. 8 which he dedicated to victims of war.   Somewhere at the depth of this performance, I reflected on the nationalities of the artists – not something that usually draws my attention.  But the fact that they represented cultures that had been scarred by war made the music all the more poignant.  The two Largo movements, performed with so much soul (for want of a better word) were simply heart-breaking.

For the Mozart Clarinet Quintet and for the Weber Clarinet Quintet, Ariel was joined by a master of the clarinet, Ilya Shterenberg.

For the Mozart Clarinet Quintet and for the Weber Clarinet Quintet, Ariel was joined by a master of the clarinet, Ilya Shterenberg.  To the great good fortune of San Antonio, Mr. Shterenberg is a major artist in our own Symphony Orchestra and it was a pleasure to experience his magic at such close range. He has performed with the Ariel previously and knows each musician and this friendship was evident in the blending and joyful conversations among the quartet and the virtuoso.

Finally, the Ariel Quartet performed a very familiar composition, Schubert’s Quartet in D minor (“Death and the Maiden”).  They didn’t just dust if off and launch into the well-known movements; they made it their own, interpreting Schubert’s lyricism and bringing this beautiful composition to life.  The saddest aspect of this music was not the death of the young girl but the death of the composer, at age 31, shortly after this complex and masterful expression of genius was written.

Continuing this stellar season of the San Antonio Chamber Music Society, we invite you to join us for the Akropolis Reed Quintet Sunday, January 26, 2020, at 3:15 p.m.  The prize-winning Akropolis is an ensemble of five young and energetic performers whose performance has been described as “pure gold.”  You may just change your mind about the versatility and artistry of reed instruments!

– E Doyle

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