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Folk Inflections: Angela and Jennifer Chun
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This project is funded by the Mid Atlantic Arts Foundation, through the generous support of the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation.

+ About the Performance
This program was recorded 10/11/2012 at Symphony Space.

The intense, telepathic communication between the virtuosic Chun sisters makes for a powerful listening experience as they traverse Eastern European and other folk sources with music for two violins by Béla Bartók and Luciano Berio, and, joined by pianist Nelson Padgett, perform the rarely heard Phantasy for two violins and piano by British composer Edmund Rubbra.

A special art installation by Mahmoud Hamadani complemented the evening's performance.


"...gobs of style and glamour, and an intensity and sense of purpose that few music lovers can resist: Angela (plays) on a 1734 Domenico Montagnana and Jennifer on the 1662 Nicolo Amati known as the "Goding." This is "playing of both intensity and depth." -Laurence Vittes, Strings


"The Chun sisters' earthy performances, will bring out the Gypsy, Magyar, Slovakian or Ruthenian in your soul." -Dallas Morning News



Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

44 Violin Duos (1933)


1. Párosíto (Teasing Song)

5. Tót Nóta (Slovak Song 1)

3. Menuetto

8. Tót Nóta (Slovak Song 2)

7. Oláh Nóta (Romanian song)

16. Burleszk (Burlesque)

17. Menetelő Nóta (Marching Song)

25. Magyar Nóta (Hungarian Song 2)

14. Párnás Tánc (Pillow Dance)

22. Szunyogtánc (Mosquito Dance )

32. Máramarosi Tánc (Dance from Máramaros)

28. Bánkódás (Sorrow)

43. Pizzicato

37. Preludium és Kánon (Prelude and Canon)


—Angela and Jennifer Chun and Mahmoud Hamadani in conversation with Laura Kaminsky—


Luciano Berio (1925-2003)

Duetti per due Violini (1979-83)


1. Béla (Bartók)

2. Shlomit (Almog)

3. Yossi (Pecker)

4. Rodion (Schedrin)

6. Bruno (Maderna)

7. Camilla (Adami)

17. Leonardo (Pinzauti)

18. Piero (Farulli)

19. Annie (Neuberger)

25. Carlo (Chiarappa)

26. Henri (Pousseur)

27. Alfredo (Fiorenzani)

28. Igor (Stravinsky)

32. Maurice (Fleuret)


Edmund Rubbra (1901-1986)

Phantasy for 2 violins and piano, Op.16 (1927)


Béla Bartók (1881-1945)

Romanian Folk Dances (1915)

Arr. Angela and Jennifer Chun

1. Jocul cu bâtă (Stick Dance)

2. Brâul (Sash Dance)

3. Pe loc (In One Spot)

4. Buciumeana (Dance from Bucsum)

5. Poarga Românească (Romanian Polka)

6. Mărunţel (Fast Dance)

+ About the Artists

Angela and Jennifer Chun have forged a niche in the music world as a violin duo of uncommon distinction. Not content to tour with the Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins, the Chuns continually seek out both new music and new and unusual opportunities to perform. Since 2006 they have performed regularly at New York City Ballet star Jacques d’Amboise’s National Dance Institute, the arts education organization that recently opened a new home facility in Harlem.

In 2009, Angela and Jennifer premiered a work written for them, a two-violin concerto by George Tsontakis titled Unforgettable (based on the Nat King Cole song) at the Aspen Music Festival. In the coming seasons they will premiere a piece being written for them by Osvaldo Golijov. They have also worked with composers Behzad Ranjbaran and Sebastian Currier. In June 2011 they performed a collaborative program of Bartók and Prokofiev with the pianist Frederic Chiu at New York’s Tenri Cultural Institute. The Chuns have brought to light duo-violin music by composers including Berio, Schnittke, and Arvo Pärt. Their 2008 disc, Fantasy, features two pieces by Isang Yun, in addition to works by Martinu, Milhaud, and Shostakovich.

The sisters “play with an intensity and sense of purpose that few music lovers can resist,” according to Strings Magazine. Their two recent recordings on the harmonia mundi label, Fantasy and Bartók 44 Violin Duos (which was one of the label’s best-selling releases for 2010), shine a spotlight on the two-violin repertoire, prompting many to agree: “They play this music so well that it makes one regret that composers have not produced more for this winning combination” (All Music Guide).

Since 2007, Angela and Jennifer have been String Mentors at London’s Royal Academy of Music, a prestigious honor given to only a few highly accomplished artists.

The Chuns have worked with conductors including Ivan Fischer, André Previn, Thomas Sanderling, Zubin Mehta, and Gerard Schwarz, with orchestras including the Seattle Symphony, London Bach Orchestra, Mozarteum Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, and KBS Symphony Orchestra. At a concert featuring the Bach Double Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Leonard Slatkin not only conducted the performance but accompanied them on the harpsichord. Angela and Jennifer have also performed at the Mostly Mozart, Aspen, Ravinia, and the International Bartók Festivals.

Angela and Jennifer took up the violin at a very young age, playing in a children’s after-school orchestra growing up in Seattle, and studying with Hungarian violinist Denes Zsigmondy during their teen years. At The Juilliard School, Angela and Jennifer Chun studied with the legendary teachers Felix Galimir and Dorothy Delay, and later went to Switzerland for studies with Nathan Milstein, who has called them “not only wonderfully accomplished, but also dedicated to new music and new sound. They are rare jewels of classical music.”

Nelson Padgett has performed in major venues around the world with the Philip Glass Ensemble, has collaborated with violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Elmar Oliveira, and Pamela Frank, and records regularly for film and television. As a soloist, he won a silver medal at the William Kapell International Competition and a Beethoven fellowship from the American Pianists Association. A former student of Leon Fleisher at The Peabody Conservatory, Mr. Padgett has lived in New York City since 1987.

Mahmoud Hamadani is a visual artist. He has exhibited at the British Museum, New Museum of Contemporary Art in New York, New York University, and galleries in New York, Europe, and the Middle East. He is a recipient of a grant from the Pollock-Krasner Foundation. Hamadani earned a BA in Mathematics from the State University of New York and a Master’s degree in Public Administration from the Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University. He lives and works in New York City.

+ About the Music

Béla Bartók: 44 Violin Duos

These short pieces – only a handful over two minutes long – do not comprise a systematic violin method, in terms of technical development. Rather than technical studies, the Duos are études in musicianship and the integration of folk song in Bartók’s personal idiom. All but two of the themes are traditional – culled from tunes Bartók had gathered in his field work. The Duos present challenges to intonation, articulation, phrasing, and rhythmic acuity almost from the beginning.

The craft and imagination lavished on these little pieces are of the highest order. The collection could almost be called “The Art of the Canon,” so prevalent is the contrapuntal device in all its multifarious glories. Bartók’s love of variation is also apparent throughout, in skillful, organic permutations.

Above all, these are fully musical expressions, as well as pedagogical and ethnological wonders. The moods are as various as the human experience, from the sustained pathos of “Sorrow” (No. 28) to the exuberant spin of the “Rumanian Whirling Dance (No. 38). There are four very different Duos labeled “New Year’s Song,” an obsessively buzzing, muted “Mosquito Dance” (No. 22), a supple “Fairy Tale” (No. 19) mainly in a 3+3+2 meter, and several counting and game songs. Whatever the nature of the source material, sonority and spirit are perfectly matched in music of elemental poise.

Adapted from program notes by John Henken Copyright harmonia mundi usa.


Luciano Berio: Duetti per Due Violini

Italian composer Luciano Berio is one of the 20th century’s pioneers of experimental and electronic music. But he composed his 34 Duetti per Due Violini as a set of exercises in the spirit of Bartók’s 44 Violin Duos. The pieces offer an opportunity for students to play music with a contemporary rhythm that is not too technically demanding. Each of the duets is named for one of Berio’s close musical friends; composers, artists, and teachers including Béla Bartók, Pierre Boulez, and Igor Stravinsky. The duets display Berio’s trademark aesthetic concerns: the juxtaposition of folk influences and the serial tradition, suggestion, lyricism, and, always, an understanding of the instrument’s performance tradition.

Edmund Rubbra: Phantasy for 2 violins and piano, Op. 16

British composer Edmund Rubbra is known primarily as a symphonist and for his orchestration of Brahms’s Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel. While he was a major figure of British musical life during the second half of the 20th century, his music is not very well known abroad.

Rubbra wrote Phantasy in 1927, at the age of 26, and dedicated it to his composer friend Gerald Finzi. This is only his second work of chamber music, but he was already beginning to find his own compositional voice, one that rejected standard large-form musical architecture—such as sonata form—in favor of counterpoint and his own musical logic. He presents two related themes, first in the piano and second violin, and then in the first violin, developing them with much use of canon.


Béla Bartók: Romanian Folk Dances

Bartók, one of the greatest composers of the 20th century, is considered a founder of ethnomusicology. Bartók was particularly drawn to Romanian musical traditions because he felt that they had been more isolated from outside influences and were therefore more authentic. The material for his Romanian Folk Dances, Romanian tunes from Transylvania, was collected in 1910 and 1912; the original title was “Romanian Folk Dances from Hungary.”

This suite of six short pieces was written for piano in 1915 and later orchestrated by the composer for small ensemble in 1917. Hungarian violinist and composer Zoltán Székely created arrangements of the pieces for violin and piano that have become staples of the violin repertoire; for this program, Angela and Jennifer Chun have arranged the works for two violins and piano.

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