Wanderlust: Opening Night

It's hard to believe after so many long years of planning... Emerald City Music's opening night is already upon us! (If you don't have your tickets yet, head over to our store and reserve now – September 16 in South Lake Union and September 17 in Olympia). We'd love for you to join us for this grand celebration!

The theme of opening night is "Wanderlust", which delves into composers' fondest memories of time abroad. Spanning Samuel Barber's 1914 New York, Tchaikovsky's Florence Italy, or Vivian Fung's recent experience of birds singing in Bali; this thematic performance is full of intimate and thrilling chamber music.

Here's a little preview of the music you will hear, and the many fun stories associated with each.

Watch an introduction from Artistic Director Kristin Lee.

The evening opens with music by American composer Samuel Barber:

Samuel Barber: Souvenirs for Two Pianists

At this time: Composed in 1951, during Harry Truman's presidency as well as the year the first color TV was introduced, and the first time the term "Rock N Roll" was used on the radio.

Inspiration: Barber wrote in a letter, “Imagine a divertissement in a setting of the Palm Court of the Hotel Plaza in New York, the year about 1914, epoch of the first tangos; ‘Souvenirs’ —remembered with affection, not in irony or with tongue in cheek, but in amused tenderness.” The Souvenirs is suite containing a waltz, schottische, pas de deux, two-step, hesitation tango, and galop. “Think of that coming out of your serious minded West Chester Presbyterian nephew,” Barber wrote to his Uncle and mentor Sidney Homer.

Fun fact: Barber attended the newly opened Curtis Institute of Music, where many of our season's artists graduated, including violist Tien-Hsin Cindy Wu.


Vivian Fung: Birdsong for Violin and Piano

Inspiration: Composed during a trip to Bali (with violinist Kristin Lee – our Artistic Director – on that same trip), Vivian was inspired by the sounds of birds chirping every morning. 

Fun fact: Birdsong was premiered by violinist Kristin Lee and pianist Conor Hanick (both Emerald City Music debut season artists) in 2012.


Guillaume Connesson: Techno Parade for Clarinet, Flute, and Piano

Inspiration: Connesson writes about his piece, Techno Parade is  “one movement with a continuous beat from beginning to end. The wails of the clarinet and the obsessive patterns of the piano try to replicate the raw energy of techno music. In the middle of the piece, the pianist and his page-turner chase after the piano rhythms with a brush and sheets of paper (placed on the strings inside the piano), accompanied by the distorted sounds of the flute (rather like the tone of a side drum) and the glissandi of the clarinet."


Gyorgy Ligeti: Six Bagatelles for Wind Quintet

At this time: Composed in 1953, the year Stalin dies, the double-helix structure of DNA is discovered in the UK, and the first issues of TV Guide and Playboy Magazine hit the newsstands. 

Inspiration: Ligeti was an ethnomusicologist with a deep passion for the folklore and language of his native Hungary. Arranged from an earlier piano work, the Bagatelles feature a limited number of musical notes in each.

Fun fact: The fifth Bagatelle is dedicated to Béla Bartók, with whom Ligeti shared a similar compositional style. The last bagatelle—which climaxes in a giddily accelerating sequence of loud, dissonant chords to be played “as though insane”—so alarmed Hungary’s cultural watchdogs that they ordered it cut from the work’s first performance in 1956.


Pyotr Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence for String Sextet

At this time: Composed in 1890, the year the Sherman Anti-Trust Act was passed, and shortly before Basketball was invented and Sherlock Holmes novels hit the press.

Inspiration: Tchaikovsky wrote this work for the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society, to which he promised a new composition after they bestowed honorary membership on him. Composed primarily during the summer of 1890—after an extended stay in Florence when he had written most of the opera Pique Dame (The Queen of Spades)—the sextet offers an affectionate, clear-eyed homage to this most aesthetically dazzling of Italian cities.

Fun fact: Tchaikovsky informed his brother that he was “writing under great strain,” not because he was without musical ideas, but because of the instrumentation, which he found an unexpected challenge: “To use six individual but similar instruments is incredibly difficult.” Even after the work's premiere, Tchaikovsky revised the entire second half of the piece, much of the original being completely unrecognizable after the revision.