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Cassatt Quartet & Ursula Oppens
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.




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+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 05/06/2011 at Symphony Space.

Symphony Space All-Stars Ursula Oppens and the Cassatt Quartet tackle the masterful Brahms Piano Quintet, at the heart of this all-quintet program that also features the world premiere of Fang Man's Images of a Snow Lake (commissioned by Symphony Space), Joan Tower's Dumbarton Quintet, and Gabriela Lena Frank's Ghosts in the Dream Machine.

 

PROGRAM

 

Gabriela Lena Frank (1972)

Ghosts in the Dream Machine (2005)

I. Nocturne -- Sonatina

II. Night Scenes

 

Fang Man (1977)

Images of Lake Eerie (2010-11)

World Premiere, Commissioned by Symphony Space for the Cassatt Quartet and Ursula Oppens

I. Images of the Snow Lake

 

Joan Tower (1938)

Dumbarton Quintet (2008)

 

Johannes Brahms (1833-1897)

Piano Quintet in F minor, op. 34

I. Allegro non troppo

II. Andante, un poco adagio

III. Scherzo: Allegro

IV. Finale: Poco sostenuto -- Allegro, non troppo -- Presto, non troppo

+ About the Artists

Acclaimed as one of America’s outstanding ensembles, the Manhattan based Cassatt String Quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe, and the Far East, with appearances at New York’s Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the Théâtre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and Maeda Hall in Tokyo.

Formed in 1985 with the encouragement of the Juilliard Quartet, the Cassatt initiated and served as the inaugural participants in Juilliard’s Young Artists Quartet Program. Their numerous awards include a Tanglewood Chamber Music Fellowship, Wardwell Chamber Music Fellowship at Yale (where they served as teaching assistants to the Tokyo Quartet), First Prizes at the Fischoff and Coleman Chamber Music Competitions, two top prizes at the Banff International String Quartet Competition, two CMA/ASCAP Awards for Adventurous Programming, a recording grant from the Mary Flagler Cary Charitable Trust, and commissioning grants from Meet the Composer and the National Endowment for the Arts. In 2004, they were selected for the centennial celebration of the Coleman Chamber Music Association in Pasadena, California.

The Cassatt celebrated its twentieth anniversary in 2006 with a series of world-premieres and a performance at the Library of Congress on the Library's Stradivarius Collection. Recently, the Cassatt offered concerts for the American Academy in Rome, Cornell and Syracuse Universities, were guest clinicians at the the Texas Music Educators Association and gave mini-residencies at the Centro National de las Artes in Mexico City, Vassar College and the University of Texas at Austin.

This season the Cassatt makes their debut in Lincoln, Nebraska, Sanibel, Florida, Bargemusic in Brooklyn, NY and at the Big Sky Festival in Montana. They join forces with pianist, Ursula Oppens at New York’s Symphony Space, Bargemusic and Music Mountain, Connecticut and together record Daniel S. Godfrey’s Piano Quintet written for the Cassatt’s twentieth anniversary. Next season they return for their fifth annual Texas high school educational residency, Cassatt In The Basin! which includes intensive workshops, coachings and rehearsals of a commissioned work by Dan Welcher for Triple Quartet, in a side-by-side performance of students with the Cassatt.

Equally adept at classical masterpieces and contemporary music, the Cassatt has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists/composers including pianist Marc-André Hamelin, soprano Susan Narucki, flutist Ransom Wilson, jazz pianist Fred Hersch, didgeriedoo player Simon 7, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, distinguished members of the Cleveland and Vermeer Quartets, and composers Louis Andriessen and John Harbison. With a deep commitment to nurturing young musicians, the Cassatt, in residencies at Princeton, Yale, Syracuse University, the University at Buffalo and the University of Pennsylvania, has devoted itself to coaching, conducting sectionals and reading student composers’ works, while offering lively musical presentations in music theory, history and composition. Selected by Chamber Music America, they recently served as guest artists for their New Music Institute; a series to help presenters market new music to their audiences. Summer finds them in residence at the innovative Seal Bay Festival of Contemporary American Chamber Music and Hartwick College Summer Music Festival.

This season, the Cassatt adds to its extensive collection of premiere recordings with the release of release of their new CD on the Albany Label of music by John Duffy with saxophonist, Glenn Morrisette, bassist, Tomoya Aomori and narrator, Isaiah Schaffer.

The Cassatt has recorded for the Koch, Naxos, New World, Point, CRI, Tzadik and Albany labels and is named for the celebrated American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.

Pianist Ursula Oppens, one of the very first artists to grasp the importance of programming traditional and contemporary works in equal measure, has won a singular place in the hearts of her public, critics, and colleagues alike. Her sterling musicianship, uncanny understanding of the composer’s artistic argument, and lifelong study of the keyboard’s resources, have placed her among the elect of performing musicians.

Recent highlights include appearances with the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, recitals for the Van Cliburn Foundation, Music Toronto, and at Baylor University, et al. In 2008/09 Ursula Oppens performed Messiaen’s Visions de l’amen at Symphony Space, where she also returned for a solo recital of Beethoven and John Corgliano in the spring. She joined Mark Morris Dance Group for “Mozart Dances,” appearing in Toronto, New Zealand, and the Kennedy Center. In 2008, Ms. Oppens celebrated the 100th birthday of her friend and colleague, Elliott Carter, with critically acclaimed performances of his complete works for solo piano at the Boston Conservatory of Music, Symphony Space, and San Francisco Performances; and with appearances at Ravinia, Tanglewood, and Merkin Hall. Her recording of these works, Oppens plays Carter received a 2009 GRAMMY nomination for best solo classical album and was named on “Best of 2008” lists in the New York Times, New Yorker magazine, and the Chicago Tribune.

Other dates include a featured appearance at the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s renowned Green Umbrella Festival; Lou Harrison’s Piano Concerto at the Pacific Symphony Orchestra’s American Composers Festival; Carter’s Dialogues at the Tanglewood Festival; her world-premiere performance of William Bolcolm’s Ballade at the newly re-opened Merkin Hall; Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated at Berkeley’s EdgeFest; and recitals at Philadelphia Chamber Music Society, Columbia University’s Miller Theater, Zankel Hall, and the International Keyboard Institute and Festival at the Mannes College of Music.

An enduring commitment to integrating new music into regular concert life has led Ms. Oppens to commission and premiere many compositions, including works by Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Tania León, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois V Vierk, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen. A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, Ms. Oppens has an extensive recording catalogue and has received three Grammy nominations for: Oppens plays Carter, her Vanguard recording of Frederic Rzewski’s The People United Will Never Be Defeated, and for American Piano Music of Our Time.

Ursula Oppens studied piano with her mother, the late Edith Oppens, as well as with Leonard Shure and Guido Agosti. She received her master's degree at The Juilliard School, where she studied with Felix Galimir and Rosina Lhévinne. After 14 years as the John Evans Distinguished Professor of Music at Northwestern University, Ms. Oppens is now a Distinguished Professor on the faculty of Brooklyn College Conservatory of Music and CUNY Graduate Center.

Identity has always been at the center of Gabriela Lena Frank’s music. Born in Berkeley, California, to a mother of mixed Peruvian/Chinese ancestry and a father of Lithuanian/Jewish descent, Frank explores her multicultural heritage most ardently through her compositions. Inspired by the works of Bela Bartók and Alberto Ginastera, Frank is something of a musical anthropologist. She has traveled extensively throughout South America and her pieces reflect and refract her studies of Latin-American folklore, incorporating poetry, mythology, and native musical styles into a western classical framework that is uniquely her own. She writes challenging idiomatic parts for solo instrumentalists, vocalists, chamber ensembles, and orchestras. Moreover, she writes, “There’s usually a story line behind my music; a scenario or character.” While the enjoyment of her works can be obtained solely from her music, the composer’s program notes enhance the listener’s experience, for they describe how a piano part mimics a marimba or pan-pipes, or how a movement is based on a particular type of folk song, where the singer is mockingly crying. Frank’s compositions also reflect her virtuosity as a pianist — when not composing, she is a sought-after performer, specializing in contemporary repertoire.

A 2009 recipient of a prestigious John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship to assist in research and artistic creation, Frank’s upcoming premieres include a new song cycle for Dawn Upshaw and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, a new work for Yo-Yo Ma and the Silk Road Ensemble, Hilos for the ALIAS Chamber Ensemble, a new ballet for Ballet Hispanico, and Escaramuza for the Huntsville Symphony Orchestra. Her Inca Dances won a 2009 Latin Grammy Award for Best Classical Contemporary Composition.

Hailed as “inventive and breathtaking” by New York Times critic Steven Smith, Fang Man’s original concert music has been performed worldwide by notable orchestras and ensembles such as the Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra New Music Group, American Composers Orchestra, Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestra, National de Lorraine (France), Minnesota Orchestra, Peabody Symphony Orchestra, and Music from China.

She is the recipient of commissions from Koussevitzky Foundation, Los Angeles Philharmonic Association, Underwood/ACO New Music, Dolce Suono Ensemble Mahler-Schoenberg Project, Meet the Composer, and Asian Young Composers (Taiwan), the Toru Takemitsu Award (Japan), Music from China Award, Olin and Sage Fellowships (Cornell University), Cecil Effinger Fellowships (University of Colorado Boulder), and the ASCAPlus Award. Her music has been performed at Carnegie Hall, Miller Theater, Merkin Hall, Walt Disney Hall, Espace de Projection of IRCAM-Centre Pompidou (Paris), Tokyo Opera City Concert Hall, Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts (Philadelphia), Friedberg Concert Hall (Baltimore), Bank of America Tower (Seattle), and the Beijing Concert Hall. She has been invited to new music festivals such as the Darmstadt International Summer Course for New Music (Germany), Centre Acanthes (Avignon and Metz, France), Festival Blurred Edges (Hamburg, Germany), Global Ear Festival (Dresden, Germany), Sinus~Ton Festival (Magdeburg, Germany), Cabrillo Festival, Aspen Music Festival, Gaudeamus Music Week (Amsterdam), June in Buffalo, and Bowdoin Summer Music Festival. She has been invited as a resident composer at the Hermitage Artist Retreat in Florida as well as at the Aldeburgh Music Centre in the UK.

Fang Man’s primary teachers include Steven Stucky and Roberto Sierra at Cornell University, where she obtained the Master of Fine Arts degree in 2006 and Doctor of Musical Arts degree in 2010. She was chosen to participate in the one-year Computer Music and Composition courses at IRCAM (Institut de Recherche et Coordination Acoustique/Musique), Centre Pompidou between 2006 and 2007, where she studied composition with Brian Ferneyhough, Jonathan Harvey, Mauro Lanza, Mikhail Malt, Yan Marez, and Tristan Murail. She has also studied with Richard Toensing and Michael Theodore at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Before moving to the United States in 2000, she obtained her Bachelor of Music degree from Central Conservatory of Music, Beijing where she studied with Du Ming-Xin and Ye Xiao-Gang. In 2010, Fang Man was appointed as Composer-in-Residence and Assistant Professor of Music at Baldwin-Wallace Conservatory of Music.

Joan Tower
is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. Her works have been commissioned by the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets, soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, John Browning, and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of 65 orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008. The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies include Orchestra of St. Luke’s (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). Tower studied piano and composition at Bennington College and Columbia University. Her earliest works were serial in concept, but her music soon developed the lyricism, rhythmic drive, and colorful orchestration that characterize her subsequent works. She co-founded the Da Capo Chamber Players in 1969 as pianist — its accolades included the 1973 Naumburg Chamber Music Award — but also wrote several well-received pieces for the ensemble. She is currently Asher Edelman Professor of Music at Bard College, where she has taught since 1972. Her music is published by Associated Music Publishers.

+ About the Music

Ghosts in the Dream Machine derives its inspiration from the creative mind of Simon Dinnerstein. I find his artwork to be fantastically evocative, casting ordinary objects in a decidedly unordinary light. Simon accesses that imaginative spirit tucked away in the recesses of our dream world, and the recurring themes of mystery, night, and wonder are what drive this quintet. Originally, I held Modest Mussorgsky’s Pictures at an Exhibition as a blueprint. As a musical work, it likewise finds inspiration in artwork and as a result, encompasses many short and rather direct movements. I worked a good while with this model…to no avail. In subsequently looking at the drawings that inspired Mussorgsky, I was able to identify my conundrum: Mussorgsky’s pictures of Russian daily life are straightforward and pictorial. Two old men. An oxcart. Chicks playing. On the other hand, Simon’s work is complex and even elusive without being coy, much like a dream. One minute, it is serene, the next, highly disturbing. This chimera-like quality cries for music that is psychologically rich, and in reworking my initial ideas, I found that a two-movement work encompassing large dimensions and focusing intensely on mood and color was more fitting than a collection of miniatures dancing lightly over multiple themes. In this way, I hope to have succeeded in musically rendering the potency of Simon’s art.
--Gabriela Lena Frank

Images of Lake Erie, Movement I: Image of the Snow Lake As a composer, I always seek inspiration from nature. Consequently, water has become one of the major themes in many of my works. The timing of this commissioned piece corresponded with my recent move to Cleveland, Ohio. The beautiful Lake Erie immediately caught my attention and became the inspiration for this piece.

The first movement, Image of the Snow Lake, highlights the virtuosity of the piano. Its serene and hidden energy is expressed by various fast rhythmic textures. The subsequent two major themes by contrast are slower in tempo and more expressive. They are placed either under the rhythmic textures throughout the piece, or stand out by themselves in the middle and the concluding sections. Another characteristic of this piece is the use of percussion instruments, which aims to enhance the colors of the image and add some fun for the players and listeners alike.

The first movement of this Piano Quintet “Image of the Snow Lake” is commissioned by Symphony Space for the Cassatt Quartet and pianist Ursula Oppens.
--Fang Man

Dumbarton Quintet
Following Stravinsky and Copland as the third commissioned composer by the Dumbarton Oaks Estate is of course quite daunting — particularly since these are two very strong composers that had an enormous influence on me. Their sense of musical continuity and profiling of ideas puts them in the category of musical geniuses. I have, in fact, dedicated two pieces to them: Petroushskates (to Stravinsky) and Fanfare for the Uncommon Woman (to Copland). My musical debt to these two great composers is profound.

The Dumbarton Quintet is a piano quintet dedicated to Susan Feder, my long time publisher at G. Schirmer and Associated Music Publishers. (She is now with the Mellon Foundation). It was commissioned by the Dumbarton Oaks Estate.

It is a 14-minute work in one movement that travels through several themes with different emotional contents. The first is a flowing line that is cast in a narrow space of smaller intervals first soft, then loud but with a restrained kind of intensity that finally “bursts out” into a more “forward” and visceral type of intensity. This shifting between intensities, in fact, is part of the “dna” of the work and as the piece progresses, each side tends to take on more and more extremes of expression. At particular points, the “softer” material becomes almost romantic, consonant and singing in its expression whereas the “louder” passages become the opposite — manic and aggressively dissonant.
--Joan Tower

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