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On May 15th, pianist Shai Wosner will be performing a brand new Piano Concerto by Michael Hersch. Titled along the ravines, the piece will be making its first ever concert appearance with the Seattle Symphony at Benaroya Hall, Tuesday May 15th at 7:30 PM.

Shai explains how he came upon his interest for the new work. “When I was looking to commission a new work, thanks to the Borletti-Buitoni Trust of London, I was listening to all kinds of music from composers from different generations and I came across a couple of CDs with piano and chamber works by Michael Hersch. It was clear that he was pursuing his own path with a very strong, personal voice. Those pieces seemed to contain an explosive mix of wildness and melancholy”.

Wosner is another performer that likes to mix the classics with newer, contemporary works. “Programming is really one of the fun parts of being a musician, in my opinion. It’s always nice to fantasize about potential programming ideas, even if, like with any new idea, you may find yourself rejecting it wholeheartedly the next morning. When it comes to recital programs, I try to somehow look for a common thread among the pieces, which sometimes is obvious and sometimes is not. The goal is not so much to include pieces that are similar to each other, but rather a collection of works that are on one hand very different, but that may also resonate, shed light on each other and interact in the context of the program”.

I asked Shai if he would be bringing the new piece into the studio, and he had this to offer: “We hope to be able to record the concerto in the next couple of years. There are also plans for another solo CD and potentially a concerto CD as well that are being discussed. As far as programming is concerned, I am trying to find ‘organic’ ways to fit free improvisation into recital programs. There is nothing new in the concept, of course, and it used to be in fact part of tradition. But I am currently looking for a way to combine it with other repertoire in a meaningful way.”.

Click here for tickets to Shai’s concert with the Seattle Symphony at Benoroya Hall.

Shai Wosner.com

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Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern
Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble
Tsung Yeh, conductor
Zhang Weiliang, Artistic Director and xiao soloist
Alice Tully Hall at Lincoln Center, NY
May 7th. 2012

The biggest thing I can say about the Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble‘s program at Alice Tully is this: For the first 5 minutes or so when they came out and played the first piece Lang Tao Sha, which was a traditional piece, I couldn’t write a thing. It was an incredible rush that made me more fully appreciate not only the music of China, but music at its best, for its organic healing abilities, and for sounds that force you to take the time to consider them.

This concert, titled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern was very much what it describes, very prominent-sounding folk music that served as Eastern statements from the Chinese ensemble that were alternated with their take on the music of living American composers, Victoria Bond and John Mallia, whose works were being premiered on this occasion. The notation of the Chinese instruments being different from our system, it made me wonder how they were going to pull it off. I believe they did.
Chinese-American composer Wenhui Xie also had a traditional sounding piece titled Less, but More that had its World Premiere at this concert.

Mallia’s piece titled Nodes was a very Schoenbergian cacophony of a work whose atonal identity revealed itself even through the Chinese instrumentation, but the debut of an updated version of Victoria Bond’s Bridges was a marvelous treat not only for its brightness and upbeat presence on its own terms, but also because even the Chinese are quite capable of playing orchestral Gershwin Jazz, as evidenced in the final section of the piece! I very badly wanted to isolate the erhu from the rest of the ensemble just to hear how bluesy this instrument suddenly sounded.

It should be noted that Chai Shuai, who played both the erhu and erxian in this concert, played marvelously and passionately. I remember when I saw Hilary Hahn once playing a piece, I used to remark that I saw smoke coming from the fiddle in a way of describing the intensity of her performance, but Ms. Shuai’s erhu was indeed producing smoke. You can make of that what you will.

The meeting of Chinese and Western instruments was something that provided great insight into two different camps of hard-working musicians. There was such pungency and intensity of both the Western cello and Chinese instruments such as the zheng and the pipa, and all of these at times provided a clearer folk-sense that Western classical music doesn’t always capture fathfully.

Although it had only been happening in the second half, Tsung Yeh, the ensemble’s conductor, gave the audience some wonderful and thoughtful introductions to the works and had the composers present walk up to the stage for bows.

Zhang Weiliang, who is both the Artistic director of the ensemble and a soloist of the xiao (vertical-end-blown flute), came out and performed Wild Geese in The Sandbank as if it was a field recording of the species. It was a very natural performance that won Mr. Weiliang gracious appeal.

Another memorable moment was the ensemble’s reading of the Peking Opera piece Deep Night, which featured both erhu and Beijing erhu, which had a much higher-end sound, and the two together created this incredibly tasty ethnic harmony in what was an exciting traditional piece that received the biggest reception of the night.

To have seen this beloved event where we were given the opportunity to hear the most exciting music from China played on the instruments of their country was something to be extremely proud of, and I have to say that seeing an erhu being played alongside a Western violin is something akin to seeing two living kindred spirits meeting for the first time and bonding for life.

Tsung Yeh’s listing on ArtsEverywhere.com

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Experiments in Opera, the new collective founded by composers Jason Cady, Aaron Siegel, and Matthew Welch, presents its Spring Series on May 10 + 11 (Thursday and Friday) at Roulette in Brooklyn. Four new operas will be heard in workshop performances over the two evenings.

The May 10 program features a complete semi-staged, multi-media performance of Cady’s Happiness is the Problem, plus a semi-staged, work-in-progess presentation of To Scale by the creative trio known as Cough Button, and a concert excerpt from Siegel’s Brother Brother.
May 11 will be devoted to a semi-staged production of Welch’s Borges and The Other, heard in its premiere as a complete work. Both shows begin at 8 pm.

While highly divergent in style and tone, all four works engage in a provocative dialog with the fundamental assumptions of the operatic form. Laugh tracks, graphic novels, localized radio transmitters, characters that are (literally) two-dimensional, two pairs of singers portraying a single historical figure: all of these elements figure in EiO’s experiments. Yet their creators remain devoted to craftsmanship and the expressive power of music to tell a story, no matter how non-linear.

Cady, Siegel, and Welch, who met at Wesleyan University, describe Experiments in Opera as:

“…a composer- and performer-driven initiative, featuring recent and new works with unorthodox answers to the traditional questions about how to connect words, story and music. Our activities emerge from a pronounced need to nurture composers drawn towards extending their work beyond the standard concert experience and into the hybrid space of the theater, performance, installation, dance and storytelling arts.”

Thursday, MAY 10

Cady’s Happiness Is The Problem is a two-act opera buffa about idealism and disillusionment. It presents three young women who sell an elixir of happiness derived from the secretions of slugs which they market as “Euphoressence.” The Problem of Happiness, which has perplexed philosophers since Plato, is explored in lighthearted yet penetrating fashion. Cady’s musical idiom melds postmodernism and pop, with occasional interjections from a very canned laugh track. The script by Cady and Nadia Berenstein takes the form of a comic book drawn by Berenstein, which is projected as sopranos Christie Finn and Megan Schubert and mezzo-soprano Lisa Komara perform to pre-recorded tracks.
“It’s a 2-act opera, semi-staged and directed by Jeremy Bloom,” explains Cady. “We did the first act at Le Poisson Rouge, but this will be the full two-act performance.”.

Aaron Siegel speaks about the work on his piece Brother Brother:


“For the concert last January, I shared 2 selections that were for percussion instruments, and this coming week, I’ll be sharing 2 of the choral excerpts. This is a piece that is still in progress, and I’ve done a little bit of recording on these works just to be able to share them. This is the first time these pieces are to be performed live, and we’re not doing it with the full ensemble this time, just with piano reduction. So there will be about 20 mins. worth of music. I’m super excited to do a work that has some choral elements in it. It just adds a whole other dimension of possibilities when you’re doing a bigger work like this.”.

Cough Button‘s To Scale is a work-in-progress that details the relationship between an architect and his “scalies”–the two-dimensional characters who populate architectural models. Co-written by Cough Button members Lynn Levy, Dave Ruder, and Aliza Simons, To Scale explores the gap between creator and created. The piece will also play with novel techniques to bridge the gap between singer and listener, including the use of localized transmitters, picked up by radios in the audience. The cast includes Paul Pinto, Brian Rady, Lainie Fefferman, Dylan Widjiono, and Aliza Simons, accompanied by instrumentalists Karen Waltuch (viola), Vasu Panicker (keyboards), Lea Bertucci (bass clarinet), and Dave Ruder (electronics).

~~~~~

Friday, MAY 11

Matthew Welch’s Borges and The Other is based on the iconic writer’s life and work. It’s scored for two mezzos, tenor, and baritone, backed by Welch’s ensemble Blarvuster, which serves up a potent brew of Celtic sounds, raga, minimalism, and progressive rock. Says Welch, “In 2007, the first of [my] Borges mini-operas featured two mezzo-sopranos portraying an older and younger Borges meeting in a dream space. For a second act written for tenor and baritone, two additional Borges of differing ages meet yet again in a separate encounter of dreaming each other. In both acts, each Borges views his other in disbelief, hashing out self-loathing critique, whilst verifying biographical information.” Mezzo-sopranos Lisa Komara and Amirtha Kidambi, tenor James Rogers, baritone Jeff Gavett, and The EiO Chorus all portray Borges. Blarvuster consists of Leah Paul (flutes), Karen Waltuch (viola), Emily Manzo (piano), Taylor Levine and Matthew Hough (electric guitars), Ian Riggs (bass guitar), Joe Bergen (vibraphone), and Mike Pride (drums). Matthew Welch conducts.

Further information can be found at experimentsinopera.com.

Experiments in Opera
Thursday, May 10th and Friday, May 11th, 8 PM
Roulette
509 Atlantic Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(917) 267-0363
Roulette.org

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Pictured: Chai Shuai

Performing a program entitled Dialogue between the Traditional and the Modern, including folk and Chinese Opera works as well as contemporary works by both Chinese and Western composers such as Xie Wenhui and Victoria Bond, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble (pronounced HWA SHA) makes their Lincoln Center debut at Alice Tully Hall on Monday, May 7 at 7:30pm.

Founded in 1995, and currently touring the United States with performances in New York and Boston, the Chinese Hua Xia Chamber Ensemble of the China Conservatory has become one of the most dynamic and technically impressive chamber ensembles of China. Under the strong leadership of Professor Zhang Weiliang and Maestro Tsung Yeh, the ensemble has achieved international acclaim. Its musicians, who are mainly young conservatory teachers, have won numerous instrumental competition awards in China and abroad. Their repertoire ranges from traditional Chinese folk music and Chinese opera music to contemporary Chinese and international classical music. The ensemble has recorded several CDs and has performed in the United States, France, Portugal, Australia, and in Asia and Africa. For this performance, the program will feature six world premieres commissioned by the ensemble for this US tour.

The Program includes:

Lang Tao Sha (Traditional)
Feng Qiu Huang, by Liu Qing (World Premiere)
Five Impressions, by Gao Ping (World Premiere)
Wild Geese in the Sandbank (Traditional)
Graceful, by Wang Dan Hong (World Premiere)
Nodes, by John Mallia (World Premiere)
Deep Night (Traditional Chinese Opera)
Less, but More, by Xie Wen Hui (World Premiere)
Bridges, by Victoria Bond (World Premiere arrangement for this ensemble)

Victoria Bond talks about her piece Bridges and its newly expanded arrangement:

“Bridges is something I wrote for John Yeh, clarinetist for the Chicago Symphony. He is of Chinese ancestry, born in this country, and he and I have known each other ever since we were in school together. He also had an ensemble that was composed of both Western and Chinese instruments, so I wrote it orignially for him, for quartet–clarinet, bass clarinet, erhu, and pipa. Then, when I got a request from the China conservatory, I made an expanded arrangement so that now it encompasses several other Chinese instruments such as ediza (another flute) and a number of western instruments–violin, cello, piano and percussion, which consists of both Western and Chinese percussion instruments. Even though the title is really a philosophical one, bridging East and West, I decided to base it on several real bridges, such as the Brooklyn Bridge, the Golden Gate Bridge, the Stone Bridge in China, and a railroad trestle bridge, and the story behind that is that 2 of the Chinese instruments, the erhu and the pipa, sound to me like banjo and fiddle, and it reminded me of a connection to American bluegrass and country music. It uses both American folk and Chinese folk music which are both largely related through the pentatonic scale, so making a merger between those two musics was not that far-fetched, both because of the timbre and of the nature of the music itself.”

Performers include: Huang Mei (guqin); Wang Yidong (Chinese percussion); Mark Baekbum Yee (cello); Chai Shuai (erxian & erhu); Qiu Ji (zheng); Ge Yong (pipa); Chen Yue (flute); Wu Huanghuang (yangqin); Huang Mei (ruan); Chen Yue (flute); Tomoya Aomori, Justin Doute (western percussion); Zhang Weiliang (xiao); Han Shi (violin), Eric Umble (clarinet), Sun Pei (piano). Tsung Yeh, conductor, Zhang Weiliang Artistic Director. Zhao Talimu, President of China Conservatory, serves as leader of this delegation.

Read the rest of this entry »

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New York-based new music collective West 4th (aka W4) are garnering a wonderful reputation in being very active and decisively creative in concepts for their concert series. This coming June 8th, they will put on an all-cello program titled “Cellophilia” where they will feature music not just for solo cello, but for multiple cellos of 2-8 at a time. There are eight cellists scheduled to appear, among them are
Mariel Roberts, who is also a co-producer of the concert, and Bang On a Can All-Stars’ Ashley Bathgate.

The concert is being funded via Kickstarter. Please click here or on the link at the bottom to donate.

Composer and W4 co-founder Molly Herron (pictured second from left; although her music is not featured in this concert, she’s also co-producer for the show) and cellist Mariel Roberts (pictured below) both sat down and spoke to me via Skype about the upcoming concert. “It was basically an idea”, stated Molly. “We like to do themes for our concerts, give something to tie it together with something to sink your teeth into, and so the theme for this concert was just ‘works for cello ensemble’. We’ve got a couple of solos on there, but it’s mostly groups of cellos. We’ve got 2 octets, a septet, a quartet, two duets–We just wanted to get together big hunks of cellos, and create new music together”.

The works that are scheduled to be performed (along with pieces by W4′s charter members Matt Frey and Tim Hansen) are written by composers such as Sarah Kirkland Snider, John Zorn and Michael Gordon.
The repertoire is a mix of new and pre-existing pieces. Steve Reich’s Cello Counterpoint makes a rare appearance, and was perfect for a concert of this criteria.

Molly explains. “We really wanted to do the Reich piece for eight cellos, which is so rarely done live with everybody there, and Mariel really helped us a lot with what was already established”. Read the rest of this entry »

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Music/Words
presents
Inna Faliks (piano)
Clarice Assad (piano and vocals)
Samantha Malk (soprano)
and Irina Mashinski (poet)
Cornelia Street Cafe, NYC
April 22nd, 2012

Written by Kyle Lynch

Last Sunday evening, pianist Inna Faliks closed the fourth season of her Music/Words series at the West Village institution, Cornelia Street Café, in New York City. It was an intimate affair in the Café’s cozy basement theatre, and Inna was joined by soprano Samatha Malk, Brazilian pianist and singer Clarice Assad, and poet Irina Mashinski. The potpourri of solo piano, songs, and poetry readings hearkens back to old European salons of the turn of the century. Yet the evening was thoroughly enjoyable and modern.

Irina Mashinski set the mood of the first half of the concert with the opening poem “The Room” preceding piano works by Ludwig van Beethoven and Arnold Schoenberg. In the poem, a lady carefully furnishes and arranges a room—only to prepare for “an explosion.” Beethoven’s Fantasia in G minor, op. 77 presents a loose set of variations that continually drifts abroad to far reaching keys, different tempos and moods. If Beethoven was preparing later generations of composers to push the limits of tonality, then Schoenberg set the explosion of tonality with the early atonal work, Three Pieces for Piano, op. 11, when he “emancipated the dissonance” the year before in 1908. Read the rest of this entry »

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Music/Words, an interdisciplinary series founded and curated by NYC-based pianist Inna Faliks, continues its fourth season on Sunday, April 22, 2012, at 6 PM with a performance at New York’s Cornelia Street Cafe featuring Faliks and guest pianist Clarice Assad at the piano along with soprano Samantha Malk and poet Irina Mashinski. The program will explore the sensuousness of early Schoenberg (with the Stefan Georgy poetry used in the songs), along with the passion of Mashinski’s poetry and Assad’s Brazilian music. The program includes Schoenberg’s Drei Klavierstucke, opus 11, his songs from Book of Hanging Gardens, and various improvisations by Ms. Assad based on Brazilian piano music. Read the rest of this entry »

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Ear To Mind
presents
Pianist Jenny Q. Chai in Recital
Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC
April 19th, 2012

Jenny Q. Chai walked out onstage for the first half of her Carnegie Hall debut in a red and black dress and performed for the first half of that first half a mix of Debussy‘s and György Ligeti‘s piano etudes (Debussy: #’s 3 & 6; Ligeti: #’s 2 & 1, Book I). Despite the huge generation gap between these two, the intertwined listing of Debussy and Ligeti had the two composers’ styles offsetting one another in such a way that an unassuming listener would have thought this was one cycle of pieces from the same composer. Read the rest of this entry »

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Cutting Edge Concerts
presents
Great Noise Ensemble
Conducted by Armando Bayolo
Guest soloist, Cornelius Dufallo
Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space, NY
April 16, 2012

DC’s Great Noise Ensemble made a vibrant and yet intimate New York debut at Symphony Space. The contemporary music ensemble, performing in the smaller room known as Leonard Nimoy Thalia, and the ensemble not having its full lineup on this occasion, presented a night of works for varied paired-down ensemble setups. Each of these selections was presented by composer Victoria Bond, who acted as emcee and conducted interviews with each composer of the program’s works that was present (Save for the absent Marc Mellits, who conductor/composer Armando Bayolo spoke for–Bayolo also interviewed Bond for her piece).

The most memorable moments during the evening were the world premiere of Cornelius Dufallo’s short violin (with pickup and loops) concerto Paranoid Symmetry. Written for Great Noise and inspired by a real story involving someone in his family, the piece is Neil’s meditation on one’s sanity and examines human conditions that range between paranoid delusion, psychosis and love. The 15-minute piece displays great dynamics in both virtuosity and versatility, going from the 1st movement’s post-modern layered drone, to a classical arpeggio during the cadenza, to blues-oriented phrases during the coda.

Marc Mellits’ Five Machines, originally written for the Bang On a Can All-Stars, was in equally capable hands on this occasion. Mellits’ work, with some superb percussion and wild time signatures, reminded me that there was a reason that progressive rock had to happen at some point in history.
I even had gooseflesh from the duet between the cello and bass violin.

The Way of Ideas, composed by Baltimore’s Alexandra Gardner, was an ornate piece reminiscent of her own Electric Blue Pantsuit, sans the electric loops and featuring more players, and is reflective of the process from a composer’s point of view.

Victoria Bond’s Coqui was another throwback to classics for me for its violin yelps reminiscent of Prokofiev’s 1st Violin Concerto, except here they represent the voice of the Puerto Rican tree frogs.

Another favorite piece was Carlos Carrillo’s De la brevedad de la vida (The Brevity of Life), a chilling meditation kicked off perfectly with a wavering clarinet.

The dry, intimate sound of the Thalia seemed to serve these pieces and their settings fittingly. Great Noise made a great New York debut, and I hope to hear their brand of noise many more times in these parts.

Great Noise Ensemble.com

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New music pianist Jenny Q. Chai is making a special appearance at Carnegie Hall’s Zankel Hall on April 19th at 7:30 PM playing some great pieces by
Ligeti, Marco Stroppa, György Kurtág, Messiaen, and even Schumann (guess they’re trying to make him sound young again) as well as two world-premiere pieces by composers Ashley Fu-Tsun Wang and Inhyun Kim.
She had some time to talk with me about that upcoming show and her musical path. Read the rest of this entry »

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