Concert Preview: Darkness Visible

As winter approaches in the Pacific Northwest with its signature gloomy weather, there is no better timing than to bring our next concert titled, Darkness Visible. This program explores the history of England and France, focusing specifically on 20th century, and their influences on one another. The following blog post features a preview of the music you will hear on the program, and the artists you will meet on November 11th and 12th.

ABOUT THE MUSIC:

 Darknesse Visible is the title to the center piece of the program, written by one of the hottest, young, British composers of today-- Thomas Ades.

Ades, born in 1971, is well known for his extremely intricate compositions that “…makes one want to return to it again and again to explore the fundamental questions about the job music does and the mechanics therein“(The Guardian).

Pianist Conor Hanick, who will be performing this work on Emerald City Music’s stage, describes Darknesse Visible as follows:

 I’m performing this extraordinary piece that takes fragments of an old John Dowland madrigal called, In Darkness Let Mee Dwell, which is a moody, dark, but very powerful and potent song. He takes little pieces of this, and blows it up by reassembling it over the course of about 8 minutes. At the very end of the piece, you hear a phantom, ghostly version of this madrigal played in full length, and you retroactively understand how this piece was assembled. It’s kind of a ghost of British musical history that brilliantly looks forward, not only to all the British music on the program, but has the commentary to the French music as well. 

Here is a little sample of the work with beautiful visual illustration, perfomed by pianist Inon Barnatan

 THOMAS ADES: Darknesse Visible

Kicking off the evening will be Claude Debussy’s Cello Sonata, written towards the very end of Debussy’s life. Beginning around 1909, Debussy underwent incredible struggle, being diagnosed with cancer and seeing the rise of the World War which exploded 1914. After being treated for his illness in 1915 and having gone through this physical turmoil, Debussy realized he was reaching the end of his life and took on a project to write Six Sonatas for various instruments at his fragile state, first of which being the Cello Sonata in 1915. Debussy unfortunately wasn’t able to complete all six sonatas before his death in 1918, but he left with us three of the most beloved and important works in the French repertoire.

Here is a live performance of Debussy’s Cello Sonata, performed by Jay Campbell and Conor Hanick, whom you will meet on our stage:

CLAUDE DEBUSSY: Cello Sonata in D minor

The other bookend of the program will be the Piano Trio by the other French musical hero, Maurice Ravel. Just one year before Debussy had written his cello sonata, Ravel brought his Piano trio to life in 1914, coinciding with the break of WWI. Ravel had struggled with writing this piece for at least six years, but with this outbreak and urgency to leave France, Ravel was able to complete this massive work. In a letter that Ravel wrote to Igor Stravinsky, he says, “The idea that I should be leaving at once made me get through five months' work in five weeks! My Trio is finished.” This brilliantly crafted work brings the audience on a journey as if you are listening to a full orchestra. Because of this genius conjunction of intricate counterpoint and devastatingly beautiful melodies, this is a personal highlight on the program for me.

Fun fact: did you know that the Passacaglia movement of the Ravel Piano Trio was featured in a recent Oscar winning film, Birdman?

MAURICE RAVEL: Piano Trio- Passacaglia

The two remaining pieces on the program are probably the most fascinating to compare side by side. Benjamin Britten one of England’s most influential composers who brought British sound to a new level, is presented through his Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6. This very early work (1934) of Britten’s shows a significant amount of influence from France, especially in the style of Stravinsky:

IGOR STRAVINSKY: The Royal March from L'Histoire du Soldat

BENJAMIN BRITTEN: Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6- March

 

Although Britten found a slightly different voice towards the prime of his career, it’s so interesting to see how he was clearly affected by Stravinsky’s quirky approach to a ‘March’ at an early stage.

The opposing work, Sonatine for flute and piano by Henri Dutilleux—also written at a very early age during the time of his studies in Paris in 1943-- is one of Dutilleux’s most popular works among his compositions. Although a lot of his music was textural and ethereal, often portrayed as the “modern” Debussy, this particular work focuses a lot on structure and thematic melodies that, to me, seems to have influences from composers like Britten. The harmonic color of Debussy’s is still very apparent, but Dutilleux is clearly searching for his own voice at this young age.

HENRI DUTILLEUX: Sonatine for Flute and Piano

ABOUT THE ARTISTS:

JAY CAMPBELL, CELLO
Recognized for approaching both old and new works with the same probing curiosity, Jay debuted with the New York Philharmonic in 2013 and has worked closely with Pierre Boulez, Elliott Carter, Matthias Pintscher, John Adams, and others. His 2015 release of Hen to Pan (Tzadik) was listed in the New York Times Best Recordings of 2015. He teaches at Vassar College. 

CONOR HANICK PIANO
A brilliant soloist, chamber musician, and ensemble member performing around the globe. Collaborations include conductors Pierre Boulez, Anne Manson, David Robertson, and James Levine; ensembles such as International Contemporary Ensemble, Metropolitan Chamber Players, Spoleto Festival Orchestra; and composers David Fulmer, Charles Wuorinen, Ryan Francis, Matthias Pintscher, and John Adams.

KRISTIN LEE, VIOLIN
Winner of the 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, Kristin is the Artistic Director of Emerald City Music. She is a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and has appeared around the globe as a chamber and solo musician. Kristin studied at the Juilliard School under Itzhak Perlman and Donald Weilerstein.

MICHAEL MIZRAHI, PIANO
Praised as “intrepid” (Philadelphia Inquirer), “engaging” (Houston Chronicle), and “endlessly fascinating” (WQXR New York), Michael has appeared at prominent venues around the world as a chamber and solo pianist. He was a founding member of the Moët Trio, which in addition to touring completed a two-year residency at New England Conservatory. Michael is also a member of the Decoda ensemble and teaches at the Decoda Skidmore Chamber Music Institute.

TARA O’CONNOR, FLUTE
Winner of an Avery Fisher Career Grant and a two-time Grammy nominee, Tara is a founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning New Millennium Ensemble, a member of the woodwind quintet Windscape and the Bach Aria Group. She is Area Head of the Wind Department at Purchase College as well as the Chair of Classical Music Studies, and is on the faculty of Bard College Conservatory and the contemporary program at Manhattan School of Music. Tara holds a legendary flute master class at the Banff Centre in Canada annually.

Catch Darkness Visible in South Lake Union on November 11, and in Tacoma on November 12th. Tickets and details at www.emeraldcitymusic.org/darkness-visible/

Emerald City Music