The journal of a Kentucky culture vulture
The Lexington Philharmonic Orchestra and Chamber Music Festival of Lexington have tapped Adam Schoenberg, whose credits already include commissions for the Atlanta and Kansas City symphonies, as the 2013-14 Saykaly Garbulinska Composer-in-Residence.
Schoenberg, 32, is the second composer in the commissioning collaboration between the orchestra and chamber festival. He will write an original work to be premiered at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington in August at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion, and then he will return in early 2014 with a new commission for the Philharmonic.
In a statement released by the Philharmonic, Schoenberg said, “It will be an honor to work with these organizations and share my music with the community for the first time. On a side note, I’m also excited to experience the bourbon trail.”
Schoenberg was born in Northhampton, Mass., studied at The Juilliard School with composers John Corigliano and Robert Beaser, and now teaches composition and orchestration at the University of California Los Angeles. He has won ASCAP’s Morton Gould Young Composer Award, Juilliard’s Palmer-Dixon Prize for most outstanding composition, and the 2006 Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. He is in the midst of a year as composer-in-residence with the Kansas City Symphony, which will premiere his latest work the first weekend in February.
Philharmonic music director Scott Terrell and Schoenberg met as students at the Aspen Music Festival.
The Saykaly Garbulinska partnership, created by Dr. Ronald Saykaly and his wife Teresa Garbulinska, who died last year, was announced in 2010. The first composer, Daniel Kellogg, worked with the 2011 festival and the Philharmonic in 2012.
Before we completely move on from the 2012 Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, here’s video of guest violinist Jasmine Lin and pianist Alessio Bax performing Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D Major for violin and piano on the final afternoon of the festival.
We’re back in the perch for the final performance of the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington for 2012. Sunday afternoon is typically a more casual concert, and while it does not seem we have the skits and hijinx of some previous Sunday concerts planned, it does look like a program of shorter pieces with some players set to step center stage all by their lonesome.
First up is pianist Alessio Bax (above) playing his own arrangement of Sergei Rachmaninov’s Vocalise.
Opening the curtain speech, festival president Charles H. Stone says, “This is an extraordinarily strong crowd for a Sunday afternoon when there are other things happening in the Commonwealth,” referring to the University of Kentucky-University of Louisville football game, set to tee off during the second half of this performance.
The forlorn Vocalise was an ideal opener for a concert on an afternoon when we finally got some of the predicted rain from Hurricane Isaac. Originally written for a solo soprano to sing using a vowel of her choosing, Bax’s adaptation was gentle, conveying a sense of resignation.
Piping in with a bit more force was guest artist Andrew Bain, with two works for solo horn.
Between his performances of Bernard Krol’s Laudatio for solo horn and Richard Strauss’ Till Eulenspiegel, arranged by Eric Terwilliger, Bain explained that the first piece was designed to show off the capabilities of the horn, while the second was a reduction of a 20-minute orchestral piece down into a minute-and-a-half piece for solo horn.
Till didn’t come across as quite as crazy as you might expect for a piece of that description, but did show a mastery of technique and timing for the guest artist. The presence of these and several other iconic horn pieces show what a welcoming host the Chamber Festival is.
Guest violinist Jasmine Lin maybe even exemplified more how welcoming the festival has become to guest musicians. At numerous times through the weekend, Cole ceded the first violin spot or the violin chair altogether to the Chicago-based chamber musician — even bowing out of last night’s world premiere performance of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music. Sunday afternoon, he again let Lin take the lead on Rogerson’s String Quartet No. 1, (below, with cellist Priscilla Lee and violoist Burchard Tang) something he explained earlier in the week was part of the natural growth of the Festival.
When the festival began, Cole was sort of the star, being the hometown kid made good with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. But now, as the festival has grown, the audience has gotten to know the core players and Cole has moved on to responsibilities as first associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he said Tuesday he did not feel a need to be in the spotlight as much as he originally was, and he said he likes to sit back and listen to what he has brought together.
That said, there have been star turns for Cole, including this afternoon’s first-half closing performance of Maurice Ravel’s Tzigane: Rapsodie de concert for violin and piano with Bax.
Among those very happy with what Cole has brought together is Stone, who said before today’s concert that he is “over the moon,” with the performances and response to this year’s festival. Stone says he thinks Saturday night’s concert was the strongest crowd ever for a CMFL performance, which he says attracts 350 to 400 people on its strongest nights — the festival does not count heads as, in addition to ticket sales, festival patrons are issued free tickets they can use or not use at their discretion.
After six years, Stone says he thinks the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington has reached a pinnacle many arts groups only dream of attaining: having an audience that trusts it enough to turn out regardless of what is being played. That has shown, he says, in the popularity of its concerts that include world premiere works commissioned by the festival and a steady diet of modern works in addition to centuries-old classics.
“The mix is great,” Stone says. “It would be pretty tiresome if we only played the classics.”
Referring to Friday night’s performance of Alfred Schnittke’s Moz-Art for 2 violins, which had Cole playing from outside the hall over a microphone while Lin played on stage, creating surreal effects, Stone says, “That was extraordinary.
“What we need to do now is get the word out around the country about this.”
As UK and Louisville are kicking off on the gridiron, Lin is on stage at Fasig-Tipton doing her own brand of kicking in Sergei Prokofiev’s Sonata No. 2 in D Major for violin and Piano.
Lin has shown a flair for the dramatic and a physical style of playing all week, and it is again coming out in this performance with Bax, featuring dizzying runs and softer passages she still plays like a sprite.
For fans of full circles, the Chamber Music Festival gives us a nice one, closing with Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-flat major, the work that inspired the festival opener, Philip Jeremy Hall’s horn quintet. Like the other work, it was written for two violas, requiring Cole to pick up his instrument’s big brother.
“I always feel like a pitcher stepping into the batter’s box when I play next to Burchard, who is an actual violist,” Cole says to the audience.
Cole also made reference to being used to playing with Bain in the L.A. Phil, “though I’m usually not this close to him.”
It is a little reminder that after giving Lexingtonians an extraordinary week of music, these musicians head back to their real worlds.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington presented the world premiere performance of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music Saturday, Sept. 1, 2012, at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion. This is violinist Jasmine Lin, cellist Priscilla Lee, violist Burchard Tang and pianist Alessio Bax peforming a portion of the final movement, Sleep.
The final performance of the festival is 2 p.m. Sunday at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion. I will be live blogging from there.
Well, tonight must be a big deal because the WEKU guys are up here in the perch with me at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion. Once again they are broadcasting the world premiere concert at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington, this year featuring the debut of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music, which the composer says was designed to be evocative of its title. (above: WEKU’s Roger Duvall and John Hingsbergen begin their broadcast from Fasig-Tipton.)
That is after intermission. First up, some more Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.
If the overarching theme of this year’s festival has been new music, the underlying theme has been Mozart, which maybe isn’t as odd as it sounds. In his program notes, University of Kentucky music professor emeritus Alan Hersh made the point that last night’s Alfred Scnittke piece, Moz-Art for Two Violins and Amplification made you consider what Mozart would have been doing today, and it was possible to imagine he might find other places to go given tools like microphones and amplifiers.
One thing we associate with Mozart was youth and bravado, thanks in particular to a certain 1980s movie. What the festival does anytime it presents Mozart, as it is doing tonight with his String Quartet in d minor is put his music in the hands of youth — I struggle to recall if CMFL has ever presented a performer over 40, or even 35. That these musicians embrace Wolfie with such enthusiasm is a testament that music that endures is as important as music that’s new. (below, violinists Nathan Cole, Jasmine Lin, cellist Priscilla Lee and violist Burchard Tang perform Mozart.)
But we are about to re-enter the 20th Century, and then the 21st.
Introducing George Antheil’s work with the normal-sounding title Sonata No. 2 for Violin and Piano, violinist and festival artistic director Nathan Cole explains that the directions in the piece are things like “swagger” and “sweet” and “sour.” “We don’t know what he means by any of those things, which is part of the fun of it,” Cole explains.
And it was fun and oddly delightful, folkish and naughty with pianist Alessio Bax at one point thundering on his piano like the storms we were supposed to have seen this weekend and then turning around to make his CMFL debut as a percussionist.
After the intermission comes the main event, the world premiere performance of Chris Rogerson’s Summer Night Music.
Rogerson (above, onstage with CMFL president Charles Stone) explained to the audience that he was trying to evoke summer evening sensations, including a movement called Fireflies (no, not the Owl City song), sleep in its good and bad forms and an elegy to his recently passed grandfather.
Now, I am sure I am not alone in regarding Samuel Barber’s Knoxville Summer 1915 as something of a gold standard of summer music, particularly portraying summers we know here in Southern/Midwestern America (and particularly when Dawn Upshaw is singing it). Barber did have the advantage of words. Rogerson has the advantage of an imagination that sometimes allows him to think out of the instrumental box. We have moments like Pricilla Lee’s fluttery notes off the cello and Bax manually muting strings on the piano. The composer is accessing all aspects of summer, including the haunting nature of the season in which more beings can wander under the cover of darkness. It is also filled with passages of joy and playfulness, which the musicians handle with flair. At Thursday night’s preview concert, Rogerson said he felt his work was in good hands, and it was.
After the premiere, we had the only appearance of the evening by this year’s guest artist, Andrew Bain on horn playing Johannes Brahms’ Horn Trio in E-Flat Major. Once again he brought his beautiful, lingering tone to the proceedings in a virtuoso performance by himself, Bax and Cole (above). Those wanting more horn should come Sunday afternoon, which opens with Bain playing two pieces for solo horn.
After the concert, on WEKU, Rogerson seems very pleased with the performance of his new work and his week in Lexington. He notes that his piece that the festival will present Sunday, a 2009 string quartet, is quite different from the dreamy world premiere.
Were you at the show? Click here to see if you ended up in our Snapped! gallery.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington opened Aug. 31, 2012, at the Fasig-Tipton Pavilion with music by Alfred Schnittke, Dmitri Shostakovich and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. This is the third movement of Philip Jeremy Hall’s “Horn Quintet” performed by violinist Jasmine Lin, cellist Priscilla Lee, horn player Andrew Bain, and violists Burchard Tang and Nathan Cole.
No sooner do you arrive and sit down at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington than you are reminded by the program of some major losses to the Festival and Lexington arts in general this year. The seventh page of the program contains a tribute to Franklin and Marilyn Moosnick, the original chairs of the six-year-old festival, and Teresa Garbulinska, who provided the funds to establish the composer-in-residence program with her husband Dr. Ronald Saykaly. The Moosnicks and Garbulinska passed away in the year since the last festival.
“Think of them this weekend and know that the Festival would not be where it is today were it not for their early contributions,” Festival President Charles H. Stone says in an address before the first notes were played.
Then the evening opens, appropriately, with quite a bit of new and relatively-recent music (we say relatively recent, because in the classical world, the mid-20th Century qualifies as modern, to many). It is not the world premiere by this year’s composer-in-residence Chris Rogerson, which is slated for Saturday night, but the 2007 Horn Quintet by Philip Jeremy Hall. (Click here for video from that performance.) Hall is a former colleague of this year’s guest artist, Andrew Bain, principal horn of the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra. A horn player himself, Hall created a work that played on all of the horn’s haunting glory, with sumptuous, enthralling passages. (In the photo above, Bain and violists Nathan Cole and Burchard Tang perform the piece.)
In the programming, the Horn Quintet is echoing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Horn Quintet in E-Flat Major that is slated to close the festival, Sunday, and uses the same two-viola format of Hall’s piece. But Hall’s work also proves an apt lead-in to the rest of the first half of Friday’s concert filled with slightly off kilter 20th Century music.
The evening continues with two idiosyncratic violin duos by Alfred Schnittke, tributes to Mozart and Dmitri Shostakovich. Moz-Art is a mind-bender, taking us through tunes and signatures that flow and then twist with the re-tuning of an instrument. It is followed by a piece that puts guest violinist Jasmine Lin (above) alone on stage while Cole, now back to his regular instrument, plays in the upstairs lobby of the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion over a microphone. Some in the audience find a few moments of the piece funny, particularly as Lin stands on stage while Cole’s part swirls above her. At times, it seems maybe Lin’s part is being looped. But the performance is a not-simple, masterful triumph for the duo, beautiful in in a gothic sense.
Lin, in particular, is well suited to this stuff as she shows in the next work, Shostakovich’s Trio No. 2 for Violin, Cello and Piano.
Frequently moving like a faltering dance, the trio of Lin, pianist Alessio Bax and cellist Priscilla Lee (above) demonstrate the kind of teamwork that can make chamber music such a thrill.
But there are those who prefer their chamber music to be a delight, and for that, we have some Mozart in the second half.
Part two of Friday’s concert is devoted entirely to Mozart’s Divertimento for String Trio, performed by the three of the Festival’s original core quintet players: Cole, Lee and Tang (below). This may sound like a recipe for classical comfort food, and it is aurally soothing, though certainly demanding a similar teamwork to the Shostakovich — the sound is just players working with as opposed to against each other.
The Mozart feels like a bit of a look back to when the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington was young. But part one of the event was a huge reaffirmation that, as Cole said at Thursday’s preview concert, the festival musicians believe new and relatively recent music is important, and it won’t be isolated in their programming to just the annual world premiere, as sweet as that is.
And that’s what we have to look forward to tomorrow night.
One of the things that I will miss at Sunday’s casual concert at the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington is the presence of The Apples in stereo frontman Robert Schneider and his family front and center. It was a presence that reaffirmed a genuine interest in music and music making, particularly as the Sunday concert usually provides a forum for the guest composer to talk about his craft. But perpetual curiosity, it seems, has led Schneider to move South.
The indie musician, also a co-founder of The Elephant 6 Recording Company and a highly-regarded producer, has relocated from Lexington to Georgia to pursue a PhD in mathematics at Emory University in Atlanta. This comes as little surprise to people who have followed the career of Schneider, whose mathematical studies included developing a “Non’Pythagorean” musical scale for the 2007 album New Magnetic Wonder and 2010′s Travellers in Space and Time, composed a score based on prime numbers for a play by mathematician Andrew Granville and has experimented with a mind-controlled synthesizer and a mathematical board game. He has also been a sought-after speaker at mathematical conferences.
“I realized the beauty of mathematics in my studio while repairing a 16-track tape machine, with schematic diagrams spread around me on the floor,” Schneider said in a news release. “I came across Ohm’s Law in a book on electronics, the equation that describes the flow of electricity in circuits, and it blew my mind. Somehow, this simple equation was responsible for the things I found most magical in life — electric guitars, analog synthesizers, stereophonic sound and the joy of making music with my friends.
“To me, my interest in mathematics feels similar to my interest in music: exploring beautiful patterns and ideas beyond the reach of words.”
At Emory, Schneider will be studying under revered number theorist Ken Ono. In the release, Schneider said he will continue to write and make music while pursuing his doctorate. But his presence in the Lexington music scene will be missed.
So, if you were wondering where in Portofino Restaurant the Chamber Music Festival of Lexington would stage its preview concert, it wasn’t in the restaurant proper. Rather it was in a meeting and event room whose front door empties out onto Main Street — the one you’ve walked by and thought, “I didn’t know Portofino is that big.”
Groups gathered around tables, swirling wine in their glasses while a few rows of chairs were set for those of us traveling solo, or in insufficient numbers to justify grabbing a table. The musicians, save for pianist Alessio Bax (not Baxter, AutoCorrect), who had no instrument to play, backpacked in shortly after 6.
The concert steps in for the open rehearsals that the chamber festival musicians had presented previous years. Artistic director Nathan Cole said earlier this week the change was in part because they found the musicians had been practicing all day and we a little tired of practicing. It also seemed they were interested in a little Portofino dinner and wine.
And as it turned out, this was a real preview of what the weekend will be like. First message: arrive on time Friday night because the formal concerts at the Fasig-Tipton Sales Pavilion will start off with a sumptuous piece of music in Phillip Hall’s Quintet for Horn and Strings. It was inspired by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s own horn quintet, both of which were written for two violas. That gave guest artist Andrew Bain a chance to rib Cole for being able to play anything, because he pulled out the viola and joined Burchard Tang on the deeper strings for both pieces.
Here’s the cool thing we learned about Cole when he is playing his chosen instrument, the violin. As associate concertmaster of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, he is playing Jack Benny’s old Stradivarius.
According to Cole, the L.A. Phil has three Stradivari, and he has second refusal after concertmaster Martin Chalifour. Making the Jack Benny connection sweeter for Cole is his grandfather Robert Cole, who played with Benny when he was a flutist with the Philadelphia Orchestra.
The other big preview of the evening was a taste of the music of Chris Rogerson, this year’s composer-in-residence whose Summer Night Music will have its world premiere Saturday night. We didn’t get to hear that because it is a piano quartet and, as we established earlier, no piano. But we did get a taste of his String Quartet No. 1. Now, while this was a concert as opposed to an open rehearsal, violinist Jasmine Lin and Tang noted to the audience that they had just read through the piece once. Still, they seemed to have little trouble negotiating the dangerous curves of Rogerson’s raucous dance.
After all, in rehearsal or performance, they are professionals, eh?
For more on the festival, visit it’s website.
The Chamber Music Festival of Lexington ended its Wednesday night master classes with a performance of ‘Spring’ from Antonio Vivaldi’s ‘The Four Seasons’ with musicians from the Central Kentucky Youth Orchestras. CKYO alum and Chamber Fest artistic director Nathan Cole was the conductor and soloist. This is the final portion of ‘Spring,’ ‘Allegro Pastorale.’ The festival runs through Sunday, Sept. 2. Visit chambermusiclex.com for more information.
About Rich Copley & Copious Notes
Raised by opera-loving parents in a rock ’n’ roll world, Rich Copley has parlayed his broad interests into his career writing about arts and entertainment. Since 1998, he has covered performing arts, film and faith-based popular culture for the Lexington Herald-Leader, the daily newspaper in Lexington, Ky. MORE | E-mail Rich