The Junction Trio
Conrad Tao, piano; Stefan Jackiw, violin; Jay Campbell, cello
Our video for the month of June, a full-length concert by the Junction Trio, has completed its run and has been taken down. We will leave the program information posted through late June
Join us again for another concert video from July 1 through July 7.
The Junction Trio is an eclectic new ensemble comprised of three visionary next generation artists, each of whom has established a major career at an early age. The Trio was booked to perform for CMA back in April 2020, but their concert was cancelled because of the COVID pandemic. We are delighted finally to be able to introduce them to our audience, even if only by means of video.
This recorded performance by the Junction Trio is presented under license from the artists, and through the courtesy of the Harvard Musical Association, a private charitable organization founded in 1837 for the purposes of advancing music culture and literacy. Chamber Music Albuquerque gratefully acknowledges HMA's generosity in allowing us to share the video with our audience.
Scroll further down for program notes and artists' biographies.
Please join us again during the first week of July
for another chamber music concert video.
Shervin Lainez photo
JOHN ZORN Ghosts (approx. 7 minutes)
[Spoken introduction by Stefan Jackiw at 7:10]
CHARLES IVES Trio for Violin, Cello, and Piano (at 12:17)
(1874 - 1954)
II. TSIAJ (This Scherzo Is A Joke) Presto
III. Moderato con moto
- INTERVAL -
ROBERT SCHUMANN Piano Trio No. 1 in D minor, Op. 63 (at 37:19)
(1810 - 1856)
I. Mit Energie und Leidenschaft
II. Lebhaft, doch nicht zu rasch - Trio
III. Langsam, mit inniger Empfindung - Bewegter
IV. Mit Feuer
NOTES ON THE PROGRAM
Ghosts, by John Zorn
As the title suggests, Ghosts is haunted by musical material from the slow movement of Beethoven's Op. 70 No. 1 "Ghost" trio, reanimated and transformed into scenes of tense internal psychological unease and fits of repeatedly frustrated expectations. Even in moments of temporal stasis, Zorn wields the absence of direction to collapse the musical universe into one obsessive thought or feeling (something certainly found in Beethoven's music). Timbre itself is deliberately suppressed and distorted: violin and cello play with mutes for nearly the entire piece, and the piano is often manipulated by reaching inside the piano to dampen pitches, scrape strings, and manipulate the standard identity and function of the instrument.
Ghosts exists in a perpetual state of emerging: a dream-like state of constantly "becoming", driven by unknown psychological desires and nostalgia. Unlike in music like Beethoven, however, listeners will quickly hear that the nostalgia in Ghosts is not the same kind of romantic yearning for the past in wide-eyed reverie. If anything, I feel it as something closer to the concept of the "uncanny valley". Although familiar musical signifiers make appearances (traditional harmonies, quotations, et cetera), what they represent is somehow slightly off -- we recognize them, yet we suspect that they aren't exactly what they appear to be. The familiar no longer functions as something as a means of orientation, grounded in shared "objective" reality. They are metaphysical ambiguities. They are hallucinations.
Ghosts exists as a piece on its own, but can also be performed as the middle movement of a suite of three piano trios (the outer two being the aristos and hexentarot). On the title page of the first trio, Zorn includes a quote of T.S. Eliot: "we shall not cease from exploration/and the end of all our exploring/will be to arrive where we started/and know the place for the first time."
Program note courtesy of Kirshbaum Associates.
Piano Trio, Charles Ives
According to Harmony Twichell Ives, the delightfully named wife of the great American composer (and insurance magnate) Charles Ives, her husband wrote his Piano Trio “mostly in 1904 but fully completed (it) in 1911.” Of its three movements, only the second has a title aside from the Italian tempo markings: 1. Moderato; II. “TSIAJ” (“This Scherzo Is a Joke”). Presto; III. Moderato con moto. Ms. Twichell Ives also commented that the Trio’s three movements reflect the composer’s time spent at Yale University, from which he graduated in 1898.
The first movement consists of 27 measures of music played three times: first by cello and piano, then by violin and piano, and finally by all three players. The movement is just under five and a half minutes, the shortest of the three, and according to Ives, the movement recalled a talk given to some Yale students by an old philosophy professor.
The second movement, only seconds longer than the first movement, is a whirlwind of polytonality and musical quotation. Two moments of respite during the movement always brings the players back to thick polyphony, suggesting the “games and antics by the students on a holiday afternoon,” and concluding with ripples on the piano and brusque, rhythmic unison with a punch-line for a final chord.
The third movement is by far the longest, at 14 minutes, and contrasts with the second movement’s pastiche of borrowed tunes with its sweeping lyricism. Even so, the third movement quotes other tunes, most significantly the song, “The All-Enduring,” which Ives wrote in 1896 for the Yale Glee Club to sing (but was rejected by them). Its gently rocking melody grows into light, syncopated sections between the piano and strings. In the coda, all three parts are finally very soft and still; the piano plays watery accompaniment to the cello’s quotation of Thomas Hastings’ “Rock of Ages.”
Like many of Ives’ works, the Trio is at once overtly American, independent, and vivacious.
Adapted from program note by Jessie Rothwell for the Hollywood Bowl.
Piano Trio No. 1 in D Minor, Op. 63, Robert Schumann
There is a distinctly 'Brahmsian’ feel about Schumann’s first piano trio, with its thick, almost orchestral scoring, richly marbled with imitative counterpoint. Composed in 1847, its densely woven compositional textures reflect Schumann’s recent study of Bach but its expressive manner is Romantic to the hilt.
At its opening we are plunged into a brooding drama already fully underway, a churning cauldron of sinuous yearning phrases, echoing back and forth in imitation, that seem to never end. The urgency and passionate intensity of this opening rides on the back of a continuous series of delayed resolutions and syncopations that weaken the strong beats of the bar. This is a feature shared by both the first and second themes of the movement. The development section is notable for a remarkable change in mood, a sudden break in the clouds signalled by a chiming accompaniment in the piano that introduces a completely new theme, a sort of hymn melody hauntingly intoned by the cello and violin playing near the bridge.
The 2nd movement scherzo has a spirit of boundless energy and focused enthusiasm that would do credit to the cheering fanbase of a local football team. Built on a series of driving scale figures echoing between the piano and strings in a peppy dotted rhythm, it smoothes out these scale figures in the more flowing central trio section, which is structured as a series of three-part canons.
The dramatic centre of gravity of this work is its slow third movement, a lyrical outpouring of emotion with the violin and cello as its major protagonists while the piano digs deep into its low register to provide a rich bed of sonic support from below. The emotional range of this movement is exceptionally wide. The opening and closing sections are filled with forlorn sighs and seemingly aimless harmonic wanderings, but they enclose a rapturous middle section filled with expansive feelings of contentment and inner joy.
The last movement follows the model of the “triumphant finale” established by Beethoven with his Fifth Symphony, in which the minor mode changes to major and whatever dark clouds may have hovered over previous movements are swept away in a flood of joyous celebration. The tune chosen by Schumann for this celebration is stitched together from motives from the opening of the first movement and almost has the character of a patriotic hymn. But unlike the theme at the opening of the first movement, this finale theme just can’t wait to cadence – as often as possible – and the rhythmic pulse is definite and emphatic. A rondo-like alternation of moods cleverly disguises how the opening theme motivates the entire kaleidoscopic range of variations that drive this euphoric movement to its jubilant conclusion.
Adapted from program note by Donald G. Gíslason for the Vancouver Recital Society.
ABOUT THE ARTISTS
Three visionary next-generation artists combine internationally recognized talents in the eclectic new ensemble, Junction Trio. The Trio has performed at Washington Performing Arts, Portland Ovations, Rockport Music, Chautauqua Institution, Royal Conservatory in Toronto, and the Aspen Music Festival.
This season, the Junction Trio gives live and virtual performances presented by Caramoor, Harvard Musical Association, Corpus Christi, Cleveland, and Philadelphia Chamber Music Societies, Syracuse Friends of Chamber Music, Chamber Music Albuquerque, and Emory University. Highlights of the 2019-2020 season included debuts at the Orange County Philharmonic Society and BIG ARTS Sanibel.
"Watching the trio perform, one really couldn’t tell who was happier to be there — the rapt audience or the musicians, who threw themselves into repertoire they clearly love.... These three are onto something special." — The Boston Globe
"Bracing technique and jaw-dropping precision... A sense of unity, especially in dynamics and rhythmic thrust, made the Ravel Trio come together impressively." — Aspen Times
"I don’t expect to hear anything more exciting this summer than the Junction Trio’s astounding interpretation, especially the second movement which left me giggling with joy. The third movement sounded simply glorious—so evocative that it seemed these players had the power to change the weather; suddenly the sun started peeking through after a long spell of rain. There is nothing like hearing — and seeing — electrifying performers work their magic live. This top-notch trio stands at the top of its game. They made this treacherously difficult music sound entirely natural and fun, while still inspiring awe." — Boston Musical Intelligencer
A musician of “probing intellect and open-hearted vision” (The New York Times), Conrad Tao has appeared worldwide as a pianist and composer. Named “one of five classical music faces to watch” (The New York Times) last season, Tao is a recipient of the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant and a Gilmore Young Artist—an honor awarded every two years to the most promising American pianists of the new generation.
In the 2019-2020 season, Tao made his recital debut with the Los Angeles Philharmonic at Walt Disney Hall, and was presented in recital by Carnegie Hall and by the Cleveland Orchestra at Severance Hall. Tao’s debut disc, Voyages, was declared a “spiky debut” by The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, and his second album, Pictures, was hailed by The New York Times as “a fascinating album [by] a thoughtful artist and dynamic performer…played with enormous imagination, color and command.” Tao’s third album, Compassion, was released in fall of 2019.
Tao was born in Urbana, IL in 1994. He has studied piano with Emilio del Rosario in Chicago and Yoheved Kaplinsky in New York, and composition with Christopher Theofanidis.
One of America’s foremost violinists, Stefan Jackiw captivates audiences by combining poetry and purity with impeccable technique. Praised for playing of "uncommon musical substance" that is “striking for its intelligence and sensitivity” (Boston Globe), Jackiw has appeared as soloist with the Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, New York, Philadelphia, and San Francisco symphony orchestras, among others.
Recent orchestral highlights include Jackiw the Bournemouth Symphony, Helsinki Philharmonic, and the RTÉ National Symphony in Dublin. Past recital highlights include performances of the complete Ives violin Sonatas with Jeremy Denk at Tanglewood and Boston’s Jordan Hall, and performance of the complete Brahms violin sonatas, which Jackiw has recorded for Sony. With the Deutsche Kammerphilharmonie under Matthias Pintscher, Jackiw gave the world premiere of American composer David Fulmer’s Violin Concerto No. 2, “Jubilant Arcs,” commissioned for Jackiw by the Heidelberg Festival.
Born to physicist parents of Korean and German descent, Jackiw began playing the violin at the age of four. His teachers have included Zinaida Gilels, Michèle Auclair, and Donald Weilerstein. He holds a Bachelor of Arts from Harvard University and an Artist Diploma from the New England Conservatory, and he lives in New York City.
Cellist Jay Campbell brings his eclectic creative interests to bear in performances that The New York Times calls “electrifying” and The Washington Post calls “gentle, poignant, and deeply moving.” The only musician ever to receive two Avery Fisher Career Grants—in 2016 as a soloist, and again in 2019 as a member of the JACK Quartet—he approaches old and new music with the same curiosity and commitment.
Campbell made his debut with the New York Philharmonic in 2013 and worked with Alan Gilbert in 2016 as Artistic Director for Ligeti Forward, a series featured at the New York Philharmonic Biennale at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In 2017, Campbell served as Artist-in-Residence at the Lucerne Festival alongside violinist Patricia Kopatchinskaja, with whom he later appeared in recital at New York's Park Avenue Armory and the Ojai Music Festival. Campbell made his Berlin debut in 2018 at the Berlin Philharmonie with Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin.
Dedicated to introducing audiences to important contemporary music, Campbell has worked with some of the most creative musicians of our time, including Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, John Adams, Kaija Saariaho, Chaya Czernowin, Georg Friedrich Haas, and many others. His close association with John Zorn led to the 2015 release of Hen to Pan (Tzadik), which featured all works written for Campbell, and was listed in the New York Times year-end Best Recordings of 2015. A committed chamber musician, Campbell is a member of the JACK Quartet as well as of the Junction Trio.