We are excited to announce the final concert in the ALIVEMusica concert streaming series featuring the Cassatt String Quartet with Ursula Oppens filmed live at the Howland Cultural Center in Beacon, NY.
Tune in for the streaming premiere of an original piece by composer Victoria Bond. "Blue and Green Music" was inspired by a Georgia O'Keefe painting. The work was commissioned by the Cassatt Quartet through a Chamber Music America commissioning grant.
Sunday, May 23 at 8 PM (ET)
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Program is subject to change
Selections from Das Jahr Fanny Mendelssohn
Ursula Oppens, piano
Blue and Green Music (world premiere online) * Victoria Bond
Commissioned by Chamber Music America (1945 - )
Blue and Green
Piano Quintet in F-sharp minor Op.67 Amy Beach
Adagio - Allegro moderato (1867-1944)
Allegro agitato - Adagio come prima - Presto
Cassatt Quartet and Ursula Oppens, piano
* This commission has been made possible by the Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Program, with generous funding provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
Fanny Mendelssohn (1805 - 1847) Selections from Das Jahr (April; November)
Fanny Mendelssohn is one of the few female composers to actually grace the pages of music history books, and she certainly deserves to be there. Though Mendelssohn did not enjoy the immense fame of her brother Felix Mendelssohn as virtuoso pianist and composer, she was a highly accomplished pianist and composer in her own right. As a student of pianist Johann Philipp Kirnberger, who himself studied with Johann Sebastian Bach, Mendelssohn could play all of Bach’s 24 preludes and fugues from the first book of his Well Tempered Clavier from memory at the tender age of 13. Her compositional style was more Romantic than that of her brother, who was a staunch proponent for maintaining a Classical style of form, but with aspects of Romanticism.
Mendelssohn wrote the colossal piano cycle Das Jahr (The Year) in 1841. Comprised of 12 movements (plus epilogue), the work reflects the 12 months of an annum; specifically, it chronicles the happy year that she travelled abroad in Italy with her husband, Wilhelm Hensel. At 50 minutes in length, Das Jahr is one of the most substantial works written for solo piano. The selections to be performed today, “April” and “November,” present two beautifully contrasting characters within Mendelssohn’s (Hensel’s) travelogue. “April,” is marked capriccioso, and portrays the onset of spring with its con moto energy and beautifully bittersweet melody. “November” brings forth the beginning of winter with its desolate meandering in minor key, which leads to a fiery toccata in the style of Schubert.
Victoria Bond (1945 - ) Blue and Green Music
I. Blue and Green
IV. Dancing Colors
Writes the composer, "Blue and Green Music is the name of a painting by Georgia O’Keeffe on which I have based my string quartet. The painting is an abstract study in motion, color and form, with the interplay of those two colors that dance with each other in graceful, sensuous patterns. O’Keeffe was influenced by music and said, “Since I cannot sing, I paint.” Her painting is filled with music and it was my task to discover what it evoked. There clearly had to be two distinct motifs to express the two colors and once I had them, they developed their own sense of direction and form. Limiting myself to these two motifs, I have varied them during the course of this four-movement quartet to illuminate their many facets, from simple and austere through intense and forceful, concluding with a playful dance movement."
Blue and Green Music by Georgia O'Keefe
Amy Beach (1867 - 1944) Piano Quintet in F# Minor, op. 67
I. Adagio - Allegro moderato
II. Adagio espressivo
III. Allegro agitato - Adagio come prima - Presto
Like Fanny Mendelssohn, American composer Amy Beach (maiden name Cheney) is one of the few female composers who have made it into the music history textbooks. Beach is considered to be America’s first successful female composer, “the most performed composer of her generation.” She was recognized as a prodigious pianist from an early age but neither her parents, nor later her husband Henry H. Beach, supported her pursuing a professional career as a soloist. Beach reluctantly agreed to limit her performances and focused on composition instead, publishing her works under the name Mrs. H.H.A. Beach. Following her husband’s death in 1910, Beach did return to the stage, touring Europe and the U.S. with great success, performing her own music and championing other female composers.
Beach wrote the Piano Quintet in December 1907 and premiered the work with the Hoffman String Quartet in Boston in 1908. Critics describe the piece as “truly modern” and “distinctly rhapsodic […] in the fashion of our time.” Comprised of three movements and roughly 30 minutes in length, the quintet’s luscious harmonies and thematic development evoke the spirit of Brahms without the work sounding derivative. Throughout the piece, Beach showcases the piano with virtuosic Lisztian figures that float above unison lines in the strings, but thematic material is offered soloistically to all players.
The first movement is in sonata form and opens in a hushed and mysterious atmosphere before the first violin introduces the first theme, a distinct reference to Brahms’ piano quintet that returns in various disguises throughout all three movements. The piano takes over with the second theme and the music tumbles through highly dramatic development before the recapitulation brings the movement to an elegant close. The second movement, in D-flat major, is in ternary form; it opens with a heart-wrenchingly beautiful melody in the violin, as if in a dream. The contrasting B section intensifies with chromatic harmonies before returning to the tranquil serenity of the movement’s opening. The third movement bursts out of the gate with a feverish intensity. Pizzicato strings and fiery scalar runs in the piano create a sense of restlessness that only slows in the middle section with a reprise of the first movement’s adagio theme. The Brahms’ theme reappears in the coda, this time in octaves in the strings, and with it, a triumphant conclusion.
About the Artists
The Cassatt String Quartet was the first quartet chosen for Juilliard’s Young Artists Quartet Program. Since then, they have performed at New York’s Alice Tully Hall, and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris, and the Beijing Central Conservatory in China. At the Library of Congress, the Cassatt performed on the library’s matched quartet of Stradivarius instruments, and they performed the three complete Beethoven Quartet cycles at the University at Buffalo.
The Cassatt has been heard on NPR’s Performance Today, Boston’s WGBH, and New York’s WQXR and WNYC. They have 30 recordings, and were named three times to Alex Ross’ 10 best classical recordings of the year in The New Yorker magazine.
The quartet is named for the celebrated American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.
Ursula Oppens, a legend among American pianists, is widely admired particularly for her original and perceptive readings of new music, but also for her knowing interpretations of the standard repertoire. No other artist alive today has commissioned and premiered more new works for the piano.
Over the years, Ms. Oppens has premiered works by such leading composers as John Adams, Luciano Berio, William Bolcom, Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, John Corigliano, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Laura Kaminsky, Tania Leon, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Harold Meltzer, Meredith Monk, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Bernard Rands, Frederic Rzewski, Allen Shawn, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois V Vierk, Amy Williams, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen.
As an orchestral guest soloist, Ms. Oppens has performed with virtually all of the world’s major orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the American Composers Orchestra, the Boston Modern Orchestra Project (BMOP), and the orchestras of Chicago, Cleveland, San Francisco, and Milwaukee. Abroad, she has appeared with such ensembles as the Berlin Symphony, Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the Deutsche Symphonie, the Scottish BBC, and the London Philharmonic Orchestras. Ms. Oppens is also an avid chamber musician and has performed with the Arditti, Cassatt, JACK, Juilliard, and Pacifica quartets, among other chamber ensembles.
Victoria Bond leads a multifaceted career as composer, conductor, lecturer, and artistic director of Cutting Edge Concerts. Bond’s opera, Clara, premiered at the Berlin Philharmonic Easter Festival in Germany in 2019. Recent commissions include: The Adventures of Gulliver (American Opera Project through a commissioning grant from Opera America); Blue and Green Music (Chamber Music America commission for the Cassatt String Quartet); The Miracle of Light (The Young Peoples Chorus of NYC, commission, premiered by Chamber Opera Chicago).
Recent recordings include Instruments of Revelation (Naxos American Classics), Soul of a Nation: Portraits of Presidential Character (Albany Records), The Voices of Air (Albany).
Recent performances include: scenes from Mrs. President (Dell’Arte Opera Ensemble), scenes from Clara (The German Forum), Mrs. President (Rochester Lyric Opera).
Ms. Bond has composed eight operas, six ballets, two piano concertos and orchestral, chamber, choral and keyboard compositions. She has been commissioned by ensembles including the Houston and Shanghai Symphony Orchestras, Cleveland and Indianapolis Chamber Orchestras, Michigan Philharmonic, Cassatt String Quartet, Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Soli Deo Gloria Music Foundation, American Opera Project, Young Peoples’ Chorus of NYC, Manhattan Choral Ensemble, Choral Society of the Hamptons, American Ballet Theater, Pennsylvania Ballet, and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival. Her compositions have been performed by the Dallas Symphony, New York City Opera, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, Anchorage Opera, Irish National Orchestra (RTE), Shanghai Symphony and members of the New York Philharmonic and Chicago Symphony, among others. Victoria Bond is principal guest conductor of Chamber Opera, Chicago, a position she has held since 2008. Ms. Bond is the recipient of the Victor Herbert Award, the American Academy of Arts and Letters’ Walter Hinrichsen Award, the Perry F. Kendig Award and the Miriam Gideon Prize.
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