The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center:

Modern Voices

Our online concert for August from the Chamber Music Society

of Lincoln Center includes works of Alexander Scriabin, Claude Debussy and Dmitri Shostakovich.  The program will be available for streaming on demand from August 1 through August 7.

  Scroll down for full program listings, program notes

and artist information. 

Be sure to join us for another online concert presentation

from September 1 through September 7.

 

Escher String Quartet 2.jpg
The Escher String Quartet, who will perform the Debussy quartet as part of this month's performance from Lincoln Center

     PROGRAM                            

 

Alexander Scriabin (1872-1915)
Selected Preludes (arr. for Clarinet and Piano) (1894-95, arr. 1986)

Op. 11, No. 23 in F major

Op. 16, No. 1 in B major

Op. 16, No. 2 in G-sharp minor

Op. 16, No. 4 in E-flat minor

Anthony McGill, clarinet; Gloria Chien, piano

 

Claude Debussy (1862-1918)
Quartet in G minor for Strings, Op. 10 (1893)

Animé et très décidé

Assez vif et bien rythmé

Andantino doucement expressif

Très modéré—Très mouvementé et avec passion

Escher String Quartet (Adam Barnett-Hart, Brendan Speltz, violin; Pierre Lapointe, viola; Brook Speltz, cello)

 

--INTERMISSION (discussion with the artists)--

                                       

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975)
From Jewish Folk Poetry for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Piano, Op. 79 (1948)

Lament over the Death of a Small Child

The Loving Mother

Cradle Song

Before a Long Separation

Warning

The Forsaken Father

Song of Misery

Winter

The Good Life

Song of the Girl

Happiness

Mané Galoyan, soprano; Sara Couden, alto; Miles Mykkanen, tenor; Gilbert Kalish, piano                                           

 

 

​​

NOTES ON THE PROGRAM                  

 

 

Selected Preludes (arr. for Clarinet and Piano) (1894-95, arr. 1986)
Alexander Scriabin (Moscow, 1872 – Moscow, 1915)


These fleetingly short preludes are the products of hundreds of years of music history. Keyboard preludes began in the Renaissance as short improvised introductions to warm up and test the instrument. Over time they were increasingly written down, with the most famous being Bach’s 48 preludes and fugues from The Well-Tempered Clavier, two sets of 24 preludes and fugues in every major and minor key. By the Romantic period, preludes became the main attraction, standing alone rather than introducing contrasting music. The practice was popularized by Chopin, the master of the keyboard miniature, who wrote 24 preludes in the 1830s. Chopin’s preludes inspired Ferruccio Busoni to write his own in 1880 and soon after Russian composers became fascinated, starting with Scriabin, who published his Op. 11 set of 24 preludes in 1897. Rachmaninov and César Cui wrote their own prelude sets soon after. Unlike the other composers, Scriabin continued writing preludes for the rest of his life, completing 90 in total, even as his style evolved from Chopin-inspired virtuosity to an idiosyncratic transcendental atonality.

 

The four selected preludes are from Scriabin’s early period, with one from the original Op. 11 set and the other three from Op. 16, a group of five preludes written at the same time as Op. 11. The arrangement for clarinet and piano is by Willard Elliot, a composer and bassoonist who played with the Chicago Symphony for 32 years.



 

Quartet in G minor for Strings, Op. 10 (1893)
Claude Debussy (St Germain-en-Laye, 1862 – Paris, 1918)

 

This string quartet is a departure from Debussy’s usual style. It is one of his few pieces of absolute music, not inspired by nature, literature, painting, or poetry. Even the title is highly unusual: it’s the only work he gave an opus number and the only of his works that lists the key. This technical-sounding title, rather than Debussy’s usual poetically descriptive monikers, is a nod back to the string quartet tradition of Beethoven by way of César Franck. Franck was a proponent of cyclic form, where a theme from the first movement returns in later movements to tie things together. Franck had many devoted followers in Paris, and he was a founder of the Société Nationale, the organization that presented the premiere of Debussy’s quartet. Debussy thoroughly applies Franck’s principle. The quartet is tightly unified around the opening theme—it frequently reappears in its original form and in various transformations in the sonata-form first movement, and in the traditional series of movements that follow: scherzo, slow movement, and quick finale with slow introduction.

 

But Debussy also gives us his personal take on this long-established form. The iconoclastic composer was working on the atmospheric Prélude à l'après-midi d'un faune around the same time, and the quartet luxuriates in the beauty of sound, using different string techniques to create a vast palette of tone colors. The music also doesn’t unfold in a goal-oriented, driven way, building and releasing harmonic tension, but rather keeps a level-headed poise throughout. Though the quartet is a staple of the repertoire today, it met with tepid reviews at its premiere on December 29, 1893 by the Ysaÿe Quartet. Many reviewers were mystified by the piece, with one asking, “Is it a work? Can one say? Is it music?” It wasn’t until later, when Debussy had written many more compositions in his distinctive style, that his earlier works received a second look and this quartet earned its rightful place in the repertoire.

 


From Jewish Folk Poetry for Soprano, Alto, Tenor, and Piano, Op. 79 (1948)
Dmitri Shostakovich (St. Petersburg, 1906 – Moscow, 1975)

 

Shostakovich seems to have first been inspired by Jewish music when he orchestrated Veniamin Fleishman’s opera Rothschild’s Violin in 1943. Based on a story by Chekhov, the opera is a dark tale about a coffin maker who reluctantly moonlights as a violinist for a klezmer band. Shostakovich took up the project after Fleishman, his student, died defending St. Petersburg against the Germans in 1941. Shostakovich completed the project in 1944 and almost immediately felt its influence in his own work. His Second Piano Trio from the same year incorporates an angry, dancing Jewish-inspired melody in the final movement. It was the first of a handful of his works, including the First Violin Concerto and Fourth Quartet, to use Jewish themes. These oblique references probably reflect the composer’s personal way of processing the Holocaust and the Soviet Union’s own brutally anti-Semitic practices.

 

Soviet censorship was relaxed during the war so the Second Piano Trio premiered immediately, but Shostakovich’s other Jewish-inspired works had to wait until the thaw of the 1950s. Things were particularly bad in early 1948, when a new crackdown on “formalist” music targeted Shostakovich and other composers, forcing him to publicly apologize and churn out a large volume of state-sanctioned patriotic music. When he was out of the harsh spotlight, however, he began writing some of his most honest, personal music. From Jewish Folk Poetry deals with hunger, abandonment, and death, though it has lighter moments as well. The texts are from a 1947 collection titled Jewish Folk Songs but the melodies are original. Shostakovich may have desired a public premiere at the time the pieces were written—the songs are in the simple, tuneful style approved by the authorities and the poetry collection had been cleared by the censors just the previous year. He also added three upbeat songs after writing the original eight. However, a wave of arrests of Jewish artists and intellectuals in 1948, including the writers who put together the collection, may have changed Shostakovich’s mind. The songs were performed privately when they were written and the public premiere came seven years later, on January 15, 1955 with the composer at the piano.

 

Notes by Laura Keller, CMS Editorial Manager
© Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

 

 

 

ABOUT THE ARTISTS

 

Taiwanese-born pianist Gloria Chien has a diverse musical life as a noted performer, concert presenter, and educator. She was selected by the Boston Globe as one of its Superior Pianists of the year. She made her orchestral debut at the age of 16 with the Boston Symphony Orchestra with Thomas Dausgaard, and performed again with the BSO with Keith Lockhart. In recent seasons she has performed as a recitalist and chamber musician at Alice Tully Hall, the Library of Congress, the Phillips Collection, the Kissinger Sommer festival, the Dresden Chamber Music Festival, and the National Concert Hall in Taiwan. She performs frequently with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and is an alum of CMS’s Bowers Program. In 2009 she launched String Theory, a chamber music series at the Hunter Museum of American Art in downtown Chattanooga that has become one of Tennessee's premier classical music presenters. The following year she was appointed Director of the Chamber Music Institute at the Music@Menlo festival, a post she held for the next decade. In 2017, she joined her husband, violinist Soovin Kim, as Co-Artistic Director of the Lake Champlain Chamber Music Festival in Burlington, Vermont. The duo serves as the new Artistic Directors at Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, Oregon. Ms. Chien received her bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music as a student of Russell Sherman and Wha-Kyung Byun. She is an artist-in-residence at Lee University in Cleveland, Tennessee and is a Steinway Artist.

 

Praised by Opera News for her “unusually rich and resonant” voice, contralto Sara Couden has already established herself as a premiere interpreter of operatic, chamber, and song repertoire. In 2021, she debuts with Portland Baroque Orchestra in a program of early Italian music, tours Stravinsky's Three Songs from William Shakespeare and Gubaidulina's Ein Engel with Musicians from Marlboro, sings Junon in Platee in a Mark Morris Dance Group and Philharmonia Baroque co-production, and performs Kindertotenlieder at the Staunton Music Festival. She has appeared as Testo in Stradella’s La Susanna with Heartbeat Opera and Opera Lafayette, Israelitish Man (Judas Maccabaeus) with Philharmonia Baroque, Third Lady (Die Zauberflöte) with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Dryade (Ariadne auf Naxos) with West Edge Opera, and the Alto Soloist in Mahler’s Second Symphony with the Santa Cruz Symphony. She recently completed the Lindemann Young Artist Program at the Metropolitan Opera and made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Albine (Thaïs) in 2017. She has been a fellow at the Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, Music Academy of the West, and the Institute for Young Dramatic Voices, and holds a Master’s of Music with Honors in Opera from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and an AD in Early Music, Chamber Music, and Oratorio from Yale University.

 

The Escher String Quartet has received acclaim for its profound musical insight and rare tonal beauty. A former BBC New Generation Artist, the quartet has performed at the BBC Proms at Cadogan Hall and is a regular guest at Wigmore Hall. In its home town of New York, the ensemble serves as season artists of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, where it has presented the complete Zemlinsky quartet cycle as well as being one of five quartets chosen to collaborate in a complete presentation of Beethoven’s string quartets.
 

The Escher Quartet has made a distinctive impression throughout Europe, with recent debuts including the Amsterdam Concertgebouw, Berlin Konzerthaus, London’s Kings Place, Slovenian Philharmonic Hall, Les Grands Interprètes Geneva, Tel Aviv Museum of Art, and Auditorium du Louvre. The group has appeared at festivals such as the Heidelberg Spring Festival, Budapest’s Franz Liszt Academy, Dublin’s Great Music in Irish Houses, the Risør Chamber Music Festival in Norway, the Hong Kong International Chamber Music Festival, and the Perth International Arts Festival in Australia.

 

Alongside its growing European profile, the Escher Quartet continues to flourish in its home country, performing at the Aspen Music Festival, Bowdoin Music Festival, Toronto Summer Music, Chamber Music San Francisco, Music@Menlo, and the Ravinia and Caramoor festivals. The Escher Quartet is also currently in residence at Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas, the Tuesday Musical Association in Akron, and the University of Akron.

 

Recordings of the complete Mendelssohn quartets, released on the BIS label in 2015-17, were received with the highest critical acclaim, with comments such as “…eloquent, full-blooded playing... The four players offer a beautiful blend of individuality and accord” (BBC Music Magazine). The Escher’s most recent recording, beloved quartets of Dvořák, Borodin, and Tchaikovsky, was met with equal enthusiasm. The quartet has also recorded the complete Zemlinsky String Quartets in two volumes, released on the Naxos label in 2013 and 2014.

 

Within months of its inception in 2005, the ensemble came to the attention of key musical figures worldwide. Championed by the Emerson Quartet, the Escher Quartet was invited by both Pinchas Zukerman and Itzhak Perlman to be Quartet in Residence at each artist's summer festival: the Young Artists Program at Canada’s National Arts Centre; and the Perlman Chamber Music Program on Shelter Island, NY. The quartet has since become one of the very few chamber ensembles to be awarded the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant. The Escher Quartet takes its name from the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher, inspired by Escher’s method of interplay between individual components working together to form a whole. 

 

 Armenian soprano Mané Galoyan recently completed her residency with the Houston Grand Opera Studio. In the 2019-2020 season, she made her Metropolitan Opera debut as Prilepa/Chlöe in Pique Dame, conducted by Vasily Petrenko. She also returned to Houston Grand Opera to sing Gilda in Rigoletto, debuted with Hawaii Opera Theatre as the Countess in Le Nozze di Figaro, and finally, performed the role of Giannetta and covered Adina in L’elisir d’Amore with the Glyndebourne Festival. Highlights elsewhere included a solo recital with Cypress Creek FACE and with Musical Bridges. Her extensive concert performances include Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater, Schubert’s Mass in G and Mass in C, Vivaldi’s Gloria, and Haydn’s Lord Nelson Mass, all with the Armenian National Chamber Orchestra, as well as the Fauré Requiem with the Armenian National Philharmonic Orchestra. She is a winner of numerous international competitions, including First Prize in the 27th Eleanor McCollum Competition and Concert of Arias with Houston Grand Opera, Third Prize in the XV International Tchaikovsky Competition, and first prize in the Bibigul Tulegenova International Singing Competition in Kazakhstan. Ms. Galoyan is a graduate of the Houston Grand Opera Studio, and holds two degrees from the Yerevan State Komitas Conservatory in Armenia, where she was named the 2013 winner of the President of the Republic of Armenia Youth Prize.

 

The profound influence of pianist Gilbert Kalish as an educator and pianist in myriad performances and recordings has established him as a major figure in American music-making. In 2002 he received the Richard J. Bogomolny National Service Award for his significant and lasting contribution to the chamber music field and in 2006 he was awarded the Peabody Medal by the Peabody Conservatory for his outstanding contributions to music in America. He was the pianist of the Boston Symphony Chamber Players for 30 years, and was a founding member of the Contemporary Chamber Ensemble, a group that flourished during the 1960s and 70s in support of new music. He is particularly well-known for his partnership of many years with mezzo-soprano Jan DeGaetani, as well as for current collaborations with soprano Dawn Upshaw and cellists Timothy Eddy and Joel Krosnick. As an educator and performer he has appeared at the Banff Centre, the Steans Institute at Ravinia, the Marlboro Music Festival, and Music@Menlo, where he serves as the international program director of the Chamber Music Institute. He also served as chairman of the Tanglewood faculty from 1985 to 1997. His discography of some 100 recordings embraces both the classical and contemporary repertories; of special note are those made with Ms. DeGaetani and that of Ives's Concord Sonata. A distinguished professor at Stony Brook University, Mr. Kalish has performed with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since 2004.

 

Hailed for his “trademark brilliance, penetrating sound and rich character” (New York Times), clarinetist Anthony McGill enjoys a dynamic international solo and chamber music career and is principal clarinet of the New York Philharmonic—the first African-American principal player in the organization's history. In 2020, he was awarded the Avery Fisher Prize, one of classical music’s most significant awards given in recognition of soloists who represent the highest level of musical excellence. He appears regularly as a soloist with top orchestras, including the New York Philharmonic, Metropolitan Opera, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, San Diego Symphony, and Kansas City Symphony. He was honored to perform at the inauguration of President Barack Obama, premiering a piece by John Williams and performing alongside Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, and Gabriela Montero. As a chamber musician, he is a favorite collaborator of the Brentano, Daedalus, Guarneri, JACK, Miró, Pacifica, Shanghai, Takács, and Tokyo Quartets, as well as Emanuel Ax, Inon Barnatan, Gloria Chien, Yefim Bronfman, Gil Shaham, Midori, Mitsuko Uchida, and Lang Lang, and is an alum of CMS's Bowers Program. In demand as a teacher, he serves on the faculty of The Juilliard School, Curtis Institute of Music, and Bard College Conservatory of Music. He is the Artistic Director for the Music Advancement Program at The Juilliard School. In May 2020, McGill launched #TakeTwoKnees, a viral musical protest video campaign against the death of George Floyd and historic racial injustice.

 

Miles Mykkanen has garnered recognition on the world's concert and operatic stages for his “focused, full-voiced tenor” (New York Times). He made his Metropolitan Opera debut last season in the company’s new William Kentridge production of Wozzeck led by Yannick Nézet-Séguin and other highlights included the title role of Candide at the Opéra de Lausanne, Der Fliegende Holländer at the Canadian Opera Company, and Il barbiere di Siviglia with Opera Columbus. The tenor’s vibrant concert schedule included performances of Bruckner’s Te Deum with Manfred Honeck and the Pittsburgh Symphony, a world premiere of Mohammed Fairouz’ Another Time with Leonard Slatkin and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra, and the Mozart Requiem with David Danzmayr and the San Antonio Symphony. Highlights of the recent past include his debut at the Minnesota Opera in the Pulitzer Prize-winning opera Silent Night, Bernstein’s Candide at Arizona Opera, Palm Beach Opera, and at Tanglewood with The Knights, a New York Philharmonic debut in excerpts from West Side Story led by Leonard Slatkin, and numerous performances at the Marlboro Music Festival in collaboration with Mitsuko Uchida, Malcolm Martineau, and Roger Vignoles. Recently graduated from The Juilliard School with an artist diploma in opera studies, Mr. Mykkanen earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the school under the tutelage of Cynthia Hoffmann.