A quintet of fellow Rising Star Alumni joins Edward Arron for a night of lively chamber music. Experience Turina’s Scène Andalouse, a love-letter to the composer’s native land, within the cloisters of the Spanish Courtyard. The celebration won’t end until the great Russian “bells” chime at the end of Taneyev’s exuberant Piano Quintet in g minor.
Gilles Vonsattel, piano; Tessa Lark, violin; Jesse Mills, violin; Max Mandel, viola; Kyle Armbrust, viola; Edward Arron, cello & Artistic Director
Turina / Scène Andalouse, Op. 7, for Solo Viola and Piano Quintet
Mendelssohn / String Quintet No. 1 in A, Op. 18
Taneyev / Piano Quintet in g, Op. 30
Polyphonic.org’s interview with Edward Arron sheds light on why we’re so excited for the program and performers he chose to bring with him for a night of wonderful chamber music in the Spanish Courtyard.
Edward Arron has garnered recognition worldwide for his elegant musicianship, impassioned performances, and creative programming. A native of Cincinnati, Ohio, Mr. Arron made his New York recital debut in 2000 at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Earlier that year, he performed Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Cellos with Yo-Yo Ma and the Orchestra of St. Luke’s at the Opening Night Gala of the Caramoor International Festival. Since that time, Mr. Arron has appeared in recital, as a soloist with orchestra, and as a chamber musician throughout the United States, Europe and Asia.
The 2012-13 season marks Mr. Arron’s 10th anniversary season as the artistic director of the Metropolitan Museum Artists in Concert, a chamber music series created in 2003 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Museum’s prestigious Concerts and Lectures series. In the fall of 2009, Mr. Arron succeeded Charles Wadsworth as the artistic director, host, and resident performer of the Musical Masterworks concert series in Old Lyme, Connecticut, as well as concert series in Beaufort and Columbia, South Carolina. He is also the artistic director of the Caramoor Virtuosi, the resident chamber ensemble of the Caramoor International Music Festival.
Mr. Arron has performed numerous times at Carnegie’s Weill and Zankel Halls, Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully and Avery Fisher Halls, New York’s Town Hall, and the 92nd Street Y, and is a frequent performer at Bargemusic. Past summer festival appearances include Ravinia, Salzburg, Mostly Mozart, BRAVO! Colorado, Tanglewood, Bridgehampton, Spoleto USA, Santa Fe, Seattle Chamber Music, Bard Summerscape, Seoul Spring, Great Mountains, and Isaac Stern’s Jerusalem Chamber Music Encounters. Mr. Arron has participated in the Silk Road Project and has toured and recorded as a member of MOSAIC, an ensemble dedicated to contemporary music.
Edward Arron began his studies on the cello at age seven in Cincinnati and, at age ten, moved to New York, where he continued his studies with Peter Wiley. He is a graduate of the Juilliard School, where he was a student of Harvey Shapiro. Mr. Arron has served on the faculty of New York University since 2009.
Kyle Armbrust started playing the viola at age three. Since giving his New York solo debut with Kurt Masur and the Juilliard Orchestra in Avery Fisher Hall, he has created a multi-dimensional career performing and recording a wide range of music.
Kyle is a founding member of the Knights Chamber Orchestra and principal violist of the Westchester Philharmonic. He performs regularly with the International Contemporary Ensemble (ICE), Mahler Chamber Orchestra, and Philadelphia Orchestra, and has worked with Claudio Abbado, Elliot Carter, Herbie Hancock, Itzhak Perlman, and John Zorn. Kyle has performed as soloist with The Academy of St. Martin in the Fields in Switzerland, and spent five summers at the Marlboro Music Festival. He has recorded for the Ancalagon, Cedille, Interscope, Naxos, Ondine, and Sony labels, and is featured on Vijay Iyer’s latest release, Mutations, on ECM.
Kyle has three degrees from the Juilliard School. He plays a Carlo Antonio Testore viola made in Milan in 1752.
Winner of the coveted Naumburg International Violin Award in 2012, Tessa Lark is one of the most captivating artistic voices of her time. She has been consistently praised by critics and audiences alike for her astounding range of sounds, technical agility and musical elegance.
Tessa, now age 25, was recently named a 2014 recipient of a career grant from the Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund for the Performing and Visual Arts; as a result she will release her debut CD recording of Telemann’s Twelve Fantasies for Solo Violin in the 2014-2015 season. She was also the first prize winner in both the 2008 Irving Klein International Strings Competition and the 2006 Johansen International Competition for Young String Players. Other top prizes include the 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition as part of her piano trio, Modêtre, and the Michael Hill International Violin Competition in 2009.
At age 16, Lark was soloist with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra and has since then performed concerti with the Louisville Orchestra; Santa Fe, Cheyenne, Santa Cruz, Melrose and Peninsula Symphonies; Gettysburg and Mission Chamber Orchestras; Chinese Opera and Ballet Symphony Orchestra, and New England Conservatory’s Symphony Orchestra as a result of winning the school’s Violin Concerto Competition in 2010 with the Walton Violin Concerto. Lark has given many solo recitals, including her Carnegie Hall debut recital in Weill Hall and other concerts for the San Francisco Performances series, the radio broadcasted Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concert series, Ravinia’s Bennett-Gordon Classics series, Chamber Music Tulsa series, and the Caramoor Wednesday Morning Concert series.
A passionate chamber musician, she has been invited to many summer festivals including Yellow Barn, Steans Institute for Young Artists at the Ravinia Festival, the Perlman Music Program’s Chamber Music Workshop, and Music@Menlo. Tessa Lark is a member of the Caramoor Virtuosi and has participated in the Music in the Vineyards Festival, the Wadsworth Chamber Music series and Caramoor’s Rising Star Series. She has collaborated with a long list of renowned artists including Itzhak Perlman, Miriam Fried, Donald Weilerstein, Pamela Frank, Kim Kashkashian and Ralph Kirshbaum. Tessa also participated in the 2012 Musicians from Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute concert tour.
Tessa started playing violin at age 6 studying with Cathy McGlasson. She joined the Starling Strings Program at University of Cincinnati’s College-Conservatory of Music in 2001 and studied with Kurt Sassmannshaus. She entered New England Conservatory in the fall of 2006 to begin studies with Miriam Fried and completed her Master’s degree in May 2012 under the tutelage of both Ms. Fried and Lucy Chapman. In addition to her busy performance schedule, Tessa has served on the faculty of the Great Wall International Music Academy in Beijing, China and as resident faculty at Lee University School of Music. As a From the Top alumna, Tessa plays an active role in their arts leadership program as a performer and educator.
Keeping in touch with her Kentucky roots, Tessa enjoys playing bluegrass and Appalachian music. She collaborates frequently with Mark O’Connor and is included in his CD “MOC4” which was released in June 2014.
Lark plays a Tononi violin, made in 1675, on generous loan to her from the Ravinia Festival.
Since his concerto debut at the Ravinia Festival in Chicago, Mr. Mills has performed throughout the U.S. and Canada. He has been a soloist with the Phoenix Symphony, the Colorado Symphony, the New Jersey Symphony, the Green Bay Symphony, Juilliard Chamber Orchestra, the Denver Philharmonic, the Teatro Argentino Orchestra (in Buenos Aires, Argentina), and the Aspen Music Festival’s Sinfonia Orchestra. As a chamber musician Jesse Mills has performed throughout the U.S. and Canada, including concerts at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall, Carnegie Hall, the 92nd Street Y, the Metropolitan Museum, the Kennedy Center in Washington, DC, Boston’s Gardener Museum, Chicago’s Ravinia Festival, and the Marlboro Music Festival. He has also appeared at prestigious venues in Europe, such as the Barbican Centre of London, La Cité de la Musique in Paris, Amsterdam’s Royal Carré Theatre, Teatro Arcimboldi in Milan, and the Palais des Beaux Arts in Brussels. Mills is co-founder of Horszowski Trio and Duo Prism, a violin-piano duo with Rieko Aizawa, which earned 1st Prize at the Zinetti International Competition in Italy in 2006. With Ms. Aizawa, Mills became co-artistic director of the Alpenglow Chamber Music Festival in Colorado in 2010. Mills is also known as a pioneer of contemporary works, a renowned improvisational artist, as well as a composer. He earned Grammy nominations for his performances of Arnold Schoenberg’s music, released by NAXOS in 2005 and 2010. He can also be heard on the Koch, Centaur, Tzadik, Max Jazz and Verve labels for various compositions of Webern, Schoenberg, Zorn, Wuorinen, and others. As a member of the FLUX Quartet from 2001-2003, Mills performed music composed during the last 50 years, in addition to frequent world premieres. As a composer and arranger, Mills has been commissioned by venues including Columbia University’s Miller Theater and the Chamber Music Northwest festival in Portland, OR.
Jesse Mills began violin studies at the age of three. He graduated with a Bachelor of Music degree from The Juilliard School in 2001. He studied with Dorothy DeLay, Robert Mann and Itzhak Perlman. Mr. Mills lives in New York City, and he is on the faculty at Longy School of Music of Bard College. In 2010 the Third Street Music School Settlement in NYC honored him with the ‘Rising Star Award’ for musical achievement.
Canadian violist Max Mandel is one of the most acclaimed and versatile musicians of his generation. Comfortable in many styles and genres, Mr. Mandel is a member of New York’s pioneering avant-garde ensemble the FLUX Quartet hailed for their “painstaking care and utter conviction…” (The New York Times) and Alex Ross writes that they are “…legendary for its furiously committed, untiring performances..”
He is also a founding member of The Knights, one of the most dynamic ensembles in America, which the Los Angeles Times claims is at the forefront of “…the future of classical music…”
Mr. Mandel’s other group affiliations include Yo-Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, The Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players, The Smithsonian Chamber Players, The Caramoor Virtuosi, Blarvuster, ClassNotes and I Furiosi Baroque Ensemble.
Early formative experiences include founding the Metro String Quartet, forging his dedication to chamber music through collaboration with his colleagues and teachers, such as Lorand Fenyves at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Toronto and the Banff Center for the Arts. Private studies at the University of Toronto and the Juilliard School were with Steven Dann and Samuel Rhodes.
Mr. Mandel has been Guest Principal of The Chamber Orchestra of Europe, Camerata Bern (Switzerland), Camerata Nordica (Sweden) and The Canadian Opera Company Orchestra. Well-versed in historically informed performance practice, he is also a frequent guest of Tafelmusik Baroque Orchestra.
He has appeared on over a dozen chamber music recordings including a recent album of the chamber music of Strauss with the Amelia Piano Trio. 2014 will also see the release of FLUX Quartet’s recording of the music of Morton Feldman on Mode Records.
This season he made his solo debut with the Heartland Symphony Orchestra and also appeared as soloist and mentor with The Singapore Natonal Youth Orchestra. FLUX Quartet can be heard and seen in the upcoming film River of Fundament by visual artist Matthew Barney and composer Johnathan Bepler. Mr. Mandel plays on a 1973 Giovanni Battista Morassi generously loaned to him by Lesley Robertson of the St. Lawrence Quartet. He resides in Brooklyn, NY.
Winner of a 2008 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Swiss-born American pianist Gilles Vonsattel is an artist of uncommon versatility. With repertoire that ranges from Bach’s “Art of the Fugue” to works by Iannis Xenakis, and equally comfortable as a soloist and chamber musician, Vonsattel displays a musical curiosity and sense of adventure that has gained him many admirers. His performance highlights during the 2013-2014 Season include Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major with the Springfield (MA) Symphony, Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 9 with the Quebec Symphony, recital debuts at the Festival Lucerne and in Tokyo and Osaka, Japan, as well as recitals in Washington, DC, Baltimore, Detroit, Frankfurt, and Ludwigshafen (Germany).
Mr. Vonsattel began touring in concert after capturing the top prize at the prestigious 2002 Naumburg International Piano Competition. He made his Alice Tully Hall debut that same year and has since performed with the Warsaw Philharmonic; at Zürich’s Tonhalle, Warsaw’s Chopin Festival, and Tokyo’s Opera City Hall; and in the U.S. with the Utah, Santa Fe, Nashville, and Grand Rapids symphonies, and the Boston Pops Orchestra. In July 2010 he made his Boston Symphony Orchestra and Tanglewood debuts in the Brahms’ Piano Concerto No. 1 in D minor under Herbert Blomstedt. He played the same concerto in May 2012 with the Calgary Philharmonic under Roberto Minczuk. In July 2011 he made his San Francisco Symphony debut playing Mozart and he returned in July 2012 to play Beethoven’s Concerto No. 1, again under conductor Michael Francis.
Gilles Vonsattel has performed in recital on the stages of Boston’s Symphony Hall, Cleveland’s Severance Hall, Herbst Theatre in San Francisco, Aspen Music Festival’s Benedict Music Tent, Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, and Geneva’s Victoria Hall. Recent recitals include performances at the Library of Congress, Wigmore Hall, the Gilmore Festival, La Roque d’Anthéron, Musée d’Orsay, Davos Festival, Zürich’s Tonhalle, Warsaw’s National Philharmonic Hall, La Jolla Music Society, the Munich Gasteig and Atlanta’s Spivey Hall. He has also appeared at such prestigious festivals as Rockport, Angelfire, Ottawa, Bridgehampton, Bard SummerScape, Seattle, Caramoor, West Cork, and Archipel.
Deeply committed to the chamber music repertoire, Gilles Vonsattel has been an artist member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center since the 2012-2013 season, and is a former member of Chamber Music Society Two. He has performed with the Seattle and Philadelphia chamber music societies, and has collaborated with artists such as Emmanuel Pahud, Jorg Widmann, Kim Kashkashian, Ida Kavafian, Cho-Liang Lin, Paul Neubauer, Jerome Lowenthal, David Shifrin, Heinz Holliger, Gary Hoffman, David Jolley, Carter Brey, and Yo-Yo Ma. He has performed with Trio Valtorna and the Borromeo, St. Petersburg, Pacifica, Ying, Orion, and Ebène quartets. He has given world premieres of works by Ned Rorem (Alice Tully Hall) and Nico Muhly (National Gallery of Art), and in recent seasons has performed the music of George Benjamin, Heinz Holliger, Jorg Widmann, Georges Aperghis, and John Harbison.
First prize winner at the 2006 Geneva International Music Competition, Gilles Vonsattel was a laureate of the 2009 Honens International Piano Competition in Calgary, and is also a laureate of the Cleveland and Dublin piano competitions. He has been heard frequently on NPR’s Performance Today, Radio France Musique, CBC, ARD, and the BBC. Vonsattel’s recording of Liszt solo works and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with L’Orchestre de Chambre de Genève was released in 2007 on the Pan Classics label to critical acclaim. His recording of Bartók’s Contrasts on Deutsche Gramophone with members of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center is available for download on iTunes. His 2011 recording on the Honens/Naxos label of music of Debussy, Honegger, Holliger and Ravel was named one of Time Out New York’s classical albums of the year.
After studying with pianist David Deveau in Boston, Vonsattel received his B.A. in political science and economics from Columbia University and his M.M. from The Juilliard School, where he worked with Jerome Lowenthal. He is Assistant Professor of Piano at University of Massachusetts, Amherst.
Joaquin Turina/1882-1949/ Scene Andalouse, Op. 7, for Solo Viola, Piano, and String Quartet, Op. 7
It was a chance meeting in Paris with Isaac Albéniz and Manuel de Falla that made Joaquín Turina into the Spanish composer that he became. Though he had been born in Seville and had studied there, Turina showed no particular interest in the music of his native land at first, and he chose to undertake his advanced studies in Paris with Vincent d’Indy in 1905; there he was infatuated with the music of Debussy. In 1907, Turina performed his own Piano Quintet, Opus 1, in Paris; it was a solid piece of work, cast in the style of d’Indy’s own teacher and idol, César Franck.
Albéniz, who had attended the concert with Falla, spoke to the composer afterward, and suggested that he should look homeward, to Spanish folk material, as a basic resource for his music. The young man took this advice to heart, and found that his newer pieces were well received. Eventually he returned to Spain with Falla and remained in Madrid for the rest of his life, producing scores for the stage and symphony orchestra, chamber music, and songs, as well as vast number of solo piano works. In these works he absorbed the Andalusian style of his native Seville (though he never lived there after the age of twenty), yet concerned himself as well with composing works in the “standard” forms of European music.
He composed one of his lushest pictures of Andalusian life while still in Paris in 1912. This was the “Andalusian Scene,” for an unusual combination of instruments sometimes described as a Sextet, or as a work for Solo Viola and Piano Quintet, or as a work for two featured instruments—viola and piano—with string quartet. It is the last designation that Turina uses on the title page of the score, and that description is borne out in the music itself. The piano has far and away the largest part, often alone. Frequently, it duets with the solo viola. The solo viola often has its own part to play, while the string quartet (including its viola) always plays as a unit.
Turina divides the work into two movements, each of which goes through several tempi and meters, as if in a quasi-narrative. The first movement is “Twilight,” in which the piano seems to assert the voice of a masculine lover, while the viola offers the response of his sweetheart. The string quartet provides the soft background of the night, with pizzicatos suggesting a serenading guitar. If the lovers begin their colloquy at dusk, the second movement, “At the Window,” carries it into the night with the sensuous strains of the Habanera.
Felix Mendelssohn/1809-1847/String Quintet No. 1 in A, Op. 18
One of Mendelssohn’s earliest and greatest masterpieces is the glorious Octet, Opus 20, for strings that he composed in 1825 for the twenty‑third birthday of the violinist Eduard Rietz, a close family friend, who had given the young composer violin lessons and was later to take part with him in the Bach revival. The following year he wrote the present quintet, which thus came between the Octet and the two remarkable early string quartets, published with the opus numbers 12 and 13 (as this sequence indicates, opus numbers, often assigned years after the fact, have little connection with chronology in Mendelssohn’s work).
Mendelssohn surely intended the first violin part of the quintet for Rietz as he had first composed it, but when Rietz died in January 1832, Mendelssohn wrote a new slow movement, Intermezzo, as a tribute; the manuscript of this movement bears the heading Nachruf (“In memoriam”). To make room for it within the traditional four movements, Mendelssohn cut a minuet and trio that had been in third place and moved the scherzo, originally the second movement, to its present position.
The quintet is scored for an ensemble of two violins, two violas, and cello, the same layout Mozart had used for his string quintets. Indeed, the spirit of Mozart hovers over the first movement, especially in reminiscences of that master’s clarinet quintet, which happens to be in the same key. Though all of the instruments have a certain unobtrusive independence— as should be the case with chamber music—the first violin nonetheless takes over rather noticeably at times, Mendelssohn’s offering to his friend Rietz.
How much more important the violin part becomes in the second movement, conceived as a tribute to the departed player! The first violin covers a very wide range and dominates the texture, at times, like a concerto soloist, though Mendelssohn never passes the boundaries of chamber music.
The scherzo is a brilliant contrapuntal workout, with a fugal texture showing how much Mendelssohn had learned from his study of Bach while retaining the witty lightness that we know from the Octet. And Mendelssohn is able to offer dramatic surprises such as the sudden grinding‑to‑a‑halt on a hushed diminished‑seventh chord before a final racing stretto.
Originally the two fastest movements of the quintet were separated by the discarded minuet. Now they are cheek‑by‑jowl at the end of the quintet, with some risk that the finale will not achieve its full effect, coming right after the scherzo. It, too, is fast and filled with contrapuntal figures, though the young composer seems to be far more involved here with echoes of Beethoven quartets than with either Mozart or Bach. In any case, this largely youthful work, like the octet and the two quartets surrounding it, reveal again the extraordinary imaginative and technical refinement of the seventeen‑year‑old boy, as he still was when he wrote this finale.
Alexander Taneyev/1850-1918/ Piano Quintet in g, Op. 30
In Russia, Sergei Ivanovich Taneyev (1856-1915) is as famous as he is little known in other parts of the world. A prolific composer (his output includes four symphonies, six string quartets, three string quintets, one piano quintet much other chamber music, and an ambitious opera on The Oresteia of Aeschylus). His musical gifts were so clear in his youth that he entered the Moscow Conservatory before he was ten years old. Then, after a short break, he returned at thirteen and resumed piano studies. At that time he entered the composition class taught by Tchaikovsky. The two men were to become lifelong friends and associates. Indeed, so highly did Tchaikovsky respect Taneyev’s taste and musicianship that he accepted criticisms of his work from Taneyev that would have led to a breach of friendship coming from any other quarter. On December 3, 1875, Taneyev was the soloist in the first Moscow performance of Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 1, and he went on to play the solo part in the first performances of all future Tchaikovsky works for piano and orchestra. Tchaikovsky resigned from the Conservatory in 1878, and Taneyev, though only twenty-two at the time, was appointed to take his place. From teaching harmony and counterpoint he advanced to the point at which he was named director of the conservatory in 1885, and held that post with great success, though he resigned in 1889 because it took too much time away from composition. He continued to teach, though, and his pupils included Scriabin, Rachmaninoff, and Glière.
It may seem strange to connect a chamber work by a Russian composer to Wagner’s gigantic music dramas, but in fact Taneyev carries on a fundamental stylistic feature of that music—its shaping out of a limited number of malleable thematic figures that serve as the basis of many different kinds of melodic ideas throughout a work. Many post-Wagnerian composers adopted these techniques of melodic development for other kinds of music, sometimes overtly in admiration of Wagner (Franck and d’Indy, for example), others—Taneyev possibly among them—because thematic transformation of this sort had simply become part of the spirit of the times. In any case, the G-minor piano quintet is a splendid example on a grand scale. The very first motivic figure heard in the piano at the beginning of the slow introduction and the nostalgic violin response become two of the most significant ideas in the piece, to be reshaped in many ways throughout the ensuing Allegro, and later to form the peroration of the entire quintet. The richness of Taneyev’s invention in the first movement is heady, and the first-time listener to the piece may well simply wish to be carried along by the energy and passion of Taneyev’s muse, though repeated hearings will increase one’s admiration for the many imaginative ways in which he treats his materials.
The scherzo delights and shimmers with the rapid-fire interplay of quicksilver motives. The contrasting middle section is much slower, with a pensive melody sung first by piano, then by viola. The return to the scherzo is even more breathtaking than its first presentation.
The third movement is a passacaglia, its theme stated at the outset by all the instruments in unison. The very choice of passacaglia as a form may reflect the influence of Brahms, who, of all the great romantic composers, revived the old Baroque variation form in which the tune is presented (almost all the time) in the bass, providing a firm harmonic background against which the composer demonstrates his ingenuity—as Taneyev most certainly does here. The passacaglia theme is presented some forty-four times (twice in augmentation—that is, in longer note values), with a rich array of countermelodies and various temperaments.
The finale begins as a large rondo on a whimsical piano figure to which the strings respond. This sets off a lively, even passionate passage, not intended to be humorous (as were so many classical rondos), but rather building the excitement to a climactic moment at which the activity suddenly hangs suspended, then is released in a complete change: a closing majestic peroration based on the materials of the opening movement. The second theme is heard first (piano and cello) followed by a ravishingly sweet melody in the violin, a transfiguration of the very first music heard in the quintet. These materials become the basis of the triumphant climax, calling for considerable virtuosity from all hands.
Taneyev composed a large repertory of chamber music, including nine string quartets and three piano trios, among others. This quartet is one of his last and finest works, one that remains all too little known. Of course, music lovers will always, for good reasons, treasure the great piano quintets of Schumann, Brahms, Franck, and Dvořák, but they should not on that account overlook the repertory of other great romantic piano quintets (including three by American composers— Chadwick, Foote, and Beach); and of this hidden repertory, the Taneyev quintet is one of the towering masterpieces.