August 30, 2012
2012-13 Cornish Music Series
: Gabriela Lena Frank . Photo by Sabina Frank.
The Cornish Music Series, in the intimate setting of PONCHO Hall, opens Sept. 14 with a celebration of John Cage’s 100th birthday, followed by our first chamber music concert on Sept. 23, And Then I Knew ‘Twas Wind: Chamber Music for a Changing Season. Aaron Grad gives us a glimpse into this concert with this preview article.
Has the end of summer left you with a case of wanderlust? Dreaming of France or Spain, Japan or Peru? A globetrotting night of chamber music may be just the ticket.
Cornish College of the Arts invites you to experience four evocative works from the past hundred years, performed by some of Seattle’s finest ambassadors for modern chamber music. The diverse program “ties together, stylistically and historically, in an unusual way,” notes flutist Paul Taub, “reflecting a global look at chamber music.”
If any one composer can provide a worldly perspective, it is Gabriel Lena Frank, born in 1972 in California to a mother of Chinese and Peruvian ancestry and a father from Lithuanian-Jewish origins. Frank’s champions include cellist Yo-Yo Ma and soprano Dawn Upshaw, and she counts a Latin Grammy award and a Guggenheim Fellowship among her recent accolades. She composed Rapsodia Andina for a consortium of seven commissioning organizations, including Cornish, which presents the premiere performance of this work in the Pacific Northwest. The new score for flute, viola, cello and harp evolved out of an earlier duo, composed in 2006 during a period of illness and great personal challenge. Frank intended to “revisit the material…and fully do it justice,” a process that culminated with this “Andean Rhapsody,” completed in 2011. The work conjures the atmosphere of the Andes Mountains through a sequence of seven colorful fragments, among them Hombre-Pájaro (Man-Bird) and Zampoña Rota (Broken Panpipes).
Three gems of twentieth-century chamber music precede Frank’s premiere. Representing France is Maurice Duruflé (1902-1986), a composer best known for his works for organ and for chorus, chiefly his heart-wrenching Requiem. The lone example of chamber music in Duruflé’s catalog is the Prelude, Recitative and Variations, composed in 1928. Paul Taub hails the trio as “an unknown masterpiece, centered right in the style and era of French impressionism.”
While Duruflé extended the musical lineage of Claude Debussy in France, the self-taught Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu (1930-1996) fused Debussy’s dreamy sound world with the spare and precise tradition of Japan’s native music and art. Takemitsu’s atmospheric trio for flute, viola and harp, And then I knew ’twas wind, takes it title from an Emily Dickinson stanza. Takemitsu wrote that the trio “has as its subject the signs of the wind in the natural world and of the soul, or unconscious mind (or we could even call it ‘dream’), which continues to blow, like the wind, invisibly, through human consciousness.”
The Spanish composer Manuel de Falla (1876-1946) also circulated in Debussy’s French orbit, but his finest work emerged once he embraced the culture of his homeland. He composed a set of folksongs in 1914, the year he returned to Spain after seven years in Paris. These songs, re-arranged for cello and piano, constitute the Suite populaire espagnole. The vivid melodies showcase the diversity of Spanish cultures, from the Moorish conquests in the south, to the ancient Celtic settlements in the north, and, running through all, the fiery Romani (“gypsy”) streak that manifests in flamenco music.
The performance features a virtuoso lineup of musicians: Paul Taub (flute), Mara Gearman (viola), Paige Stockley Lerner (cello), Valerie Muzzolini Gordon (harp) and Peter Mack (piano), colleagues who cross paths at Cornish, the Seattle Symphony, the Seattle Chamber Players, and beyond. On this night, the sure-fire destination for vibrant chamber music is Cornish—which is, as Taub aptly professes, “a very exciting place to be right now.”
Aaron Grad is a Seattle-based writer, composer and guitarist.He has written program notes for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, National Symphony Orchestra and Mariinsky Orchestra, and has reviewed concerts for The Washington Post.
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