Music in May, 2013 Season
Friday, May 17, 2013
Alberto Ginastera, Pampeana No. 2, Rhapsody for Cello & Piano (1950)
Enrique Granados, Piano Quintet G Minor, Op. 49 (1895)
Saturday, May 18, 2013
Samuel Barber, String Quartet, Op. 11 (1936)
Edward Elgar, Piano Quintet A Minor, Op. 84 (1918)
- Rebecca Jackson, violin
- Amy Yang, piano
- In Sun Jang, violin
- Sarah Rommel, cello
- Alexandra Leem, viola
Musicologist in Residence
Hailed as “riveting” by The San Francisco Examiner, founder and artistic director of Music in May, Korean-American Rebecca Jackson (violin), is a native of California. Ms. Jackson received her B.M. from The Juilliard School and received a graduate degree from UC Santa Cruz. She is a member of the Cabrillo Festival and Sarasota Opera Orchestra and has performed with the San Francisco Opera and Ballet. Rebecca is a founding member of A-R-C piano trio and has also performed with EOS Ensemble, Gold Coast Chamber Players, Walden Chamber Players, and as part of the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival’s Outreach program. Always looking for a good cause, Ms. Jackson has performed in numerous benefit concerts that have raised a total exceeding $100,000. In addition to classical she has performed with Barbra Streisand & Josh Groban. Ms. Jackson’s acting and original composition was featured April 2010 at Exit Theater (San Francisco) in the production, “The Wind and Rain.” In addition to being an age group triathlete, she served as Miss Santa Cruz County 2005.
Hailed by The New York Concert Review as “a magnificent artist and poet”, pianist Amy Yang is a seasoned performer and collaborator. In the exciting 2011-12 season, she played seventy concerts with highlights including performing a debut with the Great Hall Chamber Orchestra, a tour in Spain, two world premieres by Ezra Laderman and Caroline Shaw at Yale and Princeton Universities, and concerts across the U.S. in spaces such as Merkin Hall, Detroit Institute of the Arts, Turkish Embassy in Washington D.C. and the Kravis Center. Upcoming concerts include solo, chamber, and orchestral engagements in the U.S., Europe, and China with highlights that include recitals at Weill Recital Hall, on the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society series, residencies at SUNY University, Washington and Lee University, and New Hampshire Music Festival, and debuts with the Shenyang Conservatory Orchestra in Schumann’s Piano Concerto and Mansfield Symphony and Chorus in Beethoven’s Choral Fantasy. This summer, she will return to Music in May and Newburyport Festivals and at the Curtis Institute of Music, she will continue to serve as Program Director and faculty for the Young Artist Summer Program at Curtis Summerfest.
An experienced performer, Ms. Yang has concertized in many major halls in the United States and abroad in Turkey, Spain, Poland, and China. First prize winner of competitions including the International Corpus Christi Young Artists’ Competition and the Kosciuszko National Chopin Piano Competition, she has soloed with the Houston Symphony, Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra, Corpus Christi Symphony, and Richardson Symphony, among others. She was a quarterfinalist the Thirteenth International Van Cliburn Piano Competition.
Passionate about chamber music, she has collaborated with such extraordinary artists as Richard Goode, David Soyer, Peter Wiley, Arnold Steinhardt, Michael Tree, Ida and Ani Kavafian, David Shifrin, Tara O’Connor, Miriam Fried, Philip Setzer, Fred Sherry, Paul Neubauer, Anne-Marie McDermott, and Kim Kashkashian. She has toured with Musicians from Ravinia and Curtis on Tour. Festival appearances include Marlboro Music Festival, Ravinia Festival, Prussia Cove Masterclasses, Verbier Academy, Music Academy of the West, Music from Angel Fire, Chamber Music Northwest, OK Mozart, and Olympic Music Festival.
She is the founder of The Schumann Project, a special series of concerts to present Schumann’s major solo piano, chamber, and vocal works. 2012 saw the exciting release of a new album of chamber music with clarinetist Jose Franch-Ballester (iTinerant Records, Spain).
Ms. Yang is a graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music, The Juilliard School, and The Yale School of Music, where she received the Parisot Prize for an Outstanding Pianist as well as the Alumni Association Prize. Her principal teachers are Timothy Hester, Claude Frank, Robert McDonald, and Peter Frankl. She’s currently working as a chamber music coach within the Curtis Institute of Music’s Young Artists’ Initiative. She loves literature, poetry, psychology, art history, and drawing caricatures. www.amyjyang.com
In Sun Jang
In Sun Jang, a top prize winner at the International Henryk Szeryng Violin Competition, made her Japanese recital debut in 2004, playing for sold-out audiences at the Airefu Hall in Fukuoka and at the Cultural hall in Shiida, Japan. She has appeared as a soloist with the New World Symphony, the Puchon Philharmonic Orchestra, the Nanpa Festival Orchestra.
In 2001, by special invitation of the late Isaac Stern, Ms. Jang performed at Carnegie Hall as part of the Isaac Stern Chamber Music Workshop. She has collaborated with some of the world’s top artists, performing with Menahem Pressler and Orion String Quartet. Her numerous engagements as a chamber musician have taken her to venues such as Jordan Hall in Boston, Miyazaki Prefectural Arts Center in Miyazaki, Japan and the LG Art Center in Seoul, Korea.
A native of Seoul, Korea, Ms. Jang began studying violin and piano at the age of four. She graduated from the Juilliard School and the New England Conservatory, where she studied with Donald Weilerstein. Prior to joining San Francisco Symphony, she was a concertmaster with the New World Symphony.
Twenty-three-year-old cellist Sarah Rommel is a prizewinner in the Eastern Connecticut Symphony Competition and the Settlement Music School’s Concerto Competition. She has been the recipient of several awards and grants including a Frank Huntington Beebe Fund Grant, Anna Sosenko Trust Grant, and Jack Kent Cooke Young Artists Award, which led to a subsequent appearance on NPR’s “From the Top”.
Ms. Rommel has given solo performances and recitals in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Seattle, Aspen, Santa Barbara, France, and Italy. She has also participated in the Piatigorsky International Cello Festival and Academie Muiscale de Villecroze. She has worked closely with Gary Hoffman, Frans Helmerson, Ralph Kirshbaum, Peter Oundjian, Carter Brey, Paul Katz, and members of the Emerson, St. Lawrence, Orion, and Takács Quartets in master classes.
An enthusiastic chamber musician, Ms. Rommel won the silver medal in the 2007 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as a member of the Newman Quartet. She has been invited to perform at the Fountainebleau School of Music in France and Music from Angel Fire, NM. Ms. Rommel has collaborated with composer John Adams in concert at the Kennedy Center and has most recently collaborated with members of the Philadelphia Orchestra, Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Orpheus Chamber Ensemble, and the Guarneri and Orion String Quartets.
Ms. Rommel began her musical studies on the piano at age nine and was later introduced to the cello at age twelve. She is a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, where she pursued a Bachelor of Music degree under the tutelage of Peter Wiley. Previous teachers include Efe Baltacigil and Hans Jørgen Jensen. She currently studies with Ralph Kirshbaum at USC Thornton School of Music.
Violist Alexandra Leem is a graduate of the Eastman School and Yale University. A recipient of the Yale University scholarship, she worked closely with Tokyo quartet during her Yale quartet in residency graduate program. From 1997 until 2010 she was Principal viola of the Concerto Soloists and Chamber Orchestra of Philadelphia, performing with many influential conductors and soloists and herself as soloist on many occasions. She was also a member of the Opera Company of Philadelphia and substitute for the Philadelphia Orchestra. She has performed with numerous orchestras and festivals in US and in Europe, more recently with PA Ballet, Orchestra 2001 and Network for New Music and is an active chamber and contemporary musician. She has recorded for Philadelphia’s Larry Gold Studios as their principal violist, appearing on countless projects of all genre ranging from Gospel’s Kirk Franklin to Rap’s Jay Z on MTV Unplugged.
She is currently a member of the Santa Fe Opera and San Fracisco Chamber Orchestra and resides in California with her husband and their three very active boys.
Kai Christiansen is a musicologist specializing in classical chamber music. Based in San Francisco, Mr. Christiansen writes and lectures throughout the Bay areas working regularly with such organizations as Music at Kohl Mansion, Monterey Bay Chamber Music, Music in May and the San Francisco Community Music Center as well as a number of international chamber music presenters. Leveraging a multi-decade career in software engineering and technical training, Mr. Christiansen is also the founder of earsense.org, an extensive online chamber music exploratorium featuring one of the world’s most comprehensive databases of chamber music literature spanning 500 years of history. While living in Santa Cruz for over a decade, Mr. Christiansen hosted a weekly radio show on KAZU in Pacific Grove, an educational exploration of Blues and Jazz. For relaxation, Kai plays cello and guitar for his cat.
César Franck, 1822-1890
Sonata for Violin and Piano in A major, 1886
The Belgian composer César Franck represents the rise of the French school of chamber music that began to blossom in full colors towards the end of the 19th century. Franck’s music is romantic, dramatic and lush, but also poetic, poised and transparent, a distinctive hallmark of nearly all French music. The Violin Sonata in A finds Franck at his peak, overflowing with lyrical inspiration and virtuosity for both players. At times, one even hears relaxed harmonic watercolors suggestive of 1960’s jazz. Characteristic of Franck, a melody from the first movement is used, subtly, as a cyclic link across all four movements, sometimes just hinted with a wisp of oblique recall. The finale is a beautiful smile beginning with a sweet canon between violin and piano. An immensely influential teacher for the next generation of French composers, Franck possessed, among other things, an unmistakable gift for melody.
Alberto Evaristo Ginastera, 1916-1983
Pampeana No.2, Rhapsody, Op. 21, 1950
Alberto Ginastera is perhaps the most famous Argentine composer of “classical” music. A 20th century composer, he absorbed nearly all the modern trends or compositional “schools” but blended much of his modernism with Argentine folk influences paving the way for younger composers like Astor Piazzolla whose music shares a kindred dialect. The Pampeana No. 2 is a ravishing rhapsody sonata for cello and piano that vividly illustrates Ginastera’s compelling blend of urban drive and Latin rhythm. Rhythm and “percussion” is a foremost element of Ginastera’s art with passing suggestions of the Tango. Although it is a “single movement” piece, it clearly follows a three-part form with rich, soft center featuring a sinuous, intimate lament with a smoldering passion, another possible Latin tinge. The title “Pampeana” refers to the vast grasslands in Argentina known as the pampas.
Enrique Granados, 1867-1916
Piano Quintet in g minor, Op. 49, 1895
Enrique Granados was one of several Spanish composers who rose nearly in conjunction with the late 19th century French composers and shared a palette of sensibilities, rhythm and color forming a magical amalgam of Franco-Iberian impressionism with nationalistic folk inspirations. This Piano Quintet in G minor belongs with all the great quintets by Schumann, Brahms, Franck, Dvorak and Elgar. The first movement is a mighty sonata with a bold, primary melodic motif throughout the texture, erupting in a grand development with a magisterial fugue. The slow movement is a marvel of expression with its ancient evocations and its utter sonic sensuality. The spicy finale recalls the driving “Gypsy” rondo from the Brahms quintet, a manic folk propulsion finely spin into a tensile chamber matrix.
Claude Debussy, 1862-1918
Sonata for Cello and Piano, 1915
Claude Debussy is one of the history’s great musical miracles. Among the most original composers of time, he appeared in the 1890’s with a whole new conception of sound, color, harmony and form. He would become known as the father of musical impressionism casting a spell of influence over numerous other French, Spanish, English and American composers that leads into Gershwin and jazz. From gigantic orchestral canvases to poetic piano miniatures, Debussy created an intoxicating body of work with a handful of chamber masterworks. Among his last is the Sonata for Cello and Piano that explores all of Debussy’s finest characteristics in a kind of late, rarefied form. Again, the Franco-Iberian dialect of music forms amazing connections with the music of Franck, Granados and even Ginastera but here rendered with Debussy’s indescribable individuality. The work lays out in three parts with two vibrant, flowing outer movements cradling a spiky, pointillistic scherzo where Debussy writes quirky musical epigrams like Erik Satie. The motoric drive of the finale speaks of modern times with a jazzy verve. Despite a “three movement” plan, the music continually shape shifts into fresh moods and sensations, a series of evocative impressions.
Samuel Barber, 1910-1981
String Quartet, Op. 11, 1936
Samuel Barber was a gifted American composer accomplished in several genres of classical music including a handful of chamber works that are solidly embraced in the standard repertoire. But he is universally famous for a single work of astonishing, ineffable power now known as the “Adagio for Strings”, music you are sure to recognize from any number of contexts. Normally played by a full string orchestra, the Adagio began life as the middle, slow movement of Barber’s String Quartet, Op. 11. Compared with the orchestral transcription, the bare, intimate texture of a string quartet gives this nearly sacred piece a special poignancy and vulnerability. Mostly lost for words, commentators have called this the “saddest” piece of music ever written, while others regard it as spiritually transcendent. Its musical mysteries seem to draw from the ancient Renaissance and Gregorian chant while its epic yearning suggests Wagner, Schoenberg and Strauss. The vast, central adagio is surrounded by two bookends, a supremely crafted opening movement and a shorter reprise of the same with conclusive elaborations for a finale. More angular and kinetic than the miraculous adagio, the outer shell is more akin to late Viennese expressionism but also reveals a poignant lyricism with premonitions of the timeless adagio nestled within.
Edward Elgar, 1857-1934
Piano Quintet in a minor, Op. 84, 1918-1919
Edward Elgar was the first truly important English composer since Henry Purcell in the late 1600’s. His music established a “modern” school of British classical music in a late romantic style with a tendency for a kind of noble, pastoral character that relates to French impressionism in mood, poise and color. Primarily associated with orchestral music, Elgar spent his final years writing chamber music including the magnificent piano quintet. Yet another outstanding piano quintet, it belongs squarely among those of Schumann and Brahms with its epic scale, vast sonic power, superb craftsmanship and its penetrating emotional effects. A sweeping first movement is nearly orchestral in its muscular grandiosity but begins with eerie stirrings and features a towering fugue as well as a recurring ghostly salon dance tune like a vein of colored mineral running through craggy, mountainous rock. The middle movement is an elegy of profound melancholy, passion and grace. All three movements display rich thematic transformations where a few musical ideas artfully expand and explore a long-range narrative. Like a memory, the eerie unrest at the beginning recurs at the end; likewise, the ghostly waltz. Almost “cinematic”, there is a deep, autumnal nostalgia about the whole work that seems to project an elegy for Elgar, England and the twilight of 19th century European culture.