Concert Preview: WITHOUT WORDS

On April 14 & 15, 2017, Emerald City Music presents one of the most exciting concerts of our inaugural season: WITHOUT WORDS. Featuring chamber music inspired by the grandeur of staged opera, the evening cascades through music by Mozart, Verdi, Gershwin, and more. Explore the music – as well as this superstar cast of musicians – in the blog post below. 

Clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, performing on WITHOUT WORDS, April 14 & 15.

Clarinetist Romie de Guise-Langlois, performing on WITHOUT WORDS, April 14 & 15.


One of our favorite things about Emerald City Music is the eclectic array of thematically curated music you can hear at any concert, and WITHOUT WORDS is certainly no exception. From the mind of Artistic Director Kristin Lee, this unique performance tackles the long tradition of opera with a twist: there's no singers. Instead we feature seven high-caliber musicians from Lincoln Center, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, the LA PHIL, and more.

Mozart: Kegelstatt Trio, K. 498

At this time: Composed in 1786, the same year of Mozart's groundbreaking opera "The Marriage of Figaro" was premiered. It was also the year that New York became the first place you could purchase ice cream, and the US Congress adopted the silver dollar and decimal system of currency.

Inspiration: While the story is dubious, it's rumored that Mozart composed this unusual trio at a bowling alley (the German translation of "Kegelstatt"). 

Fun fact: Though a reputable pianist himself, Mozart played the viola when this Trio first premiered in 1788. His student, Franziska Jacquin, was at the piano. 


Liszt/Wagner: Isolde's Liebestod for Solo Piano

At this time: Transcribed by Liszt in 1867, the same year that the US Department of Education was created, Alaska was purchased from Russia for $7.2 million, and Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel patents dynamite. 

Inspiration: In 1848 at the age of 37, Franz Liszt, who had risen to become one of most distinguished and fierce pianists of all time, stopped performing concerts to focus solely on teaching and composition. In this period, he championed the music of Richard Wagner, and in this instance, Liszt transcribed an orchestral suite from Wagner's opera Tristan und Isolde for the solo piano.

Fun fact: Liszt had three children out of wedlock with Countess Marie d’Agoult. The middle child –Cosima von Bülow – became Richard Wagner's second wife, thus making Liszt a father-in-law to Wagner.

Verdi: String Quartet in E minor

At this time: Composed in 1873, the same year that slavery is abolished in Puerto Rico, San Francisco's first cable-car begins service, and the trademark for "celluloid" is submitted. 

Inspiration: Verdi's reputation as an opera composer is timeless, yet he hardly composed a note of chamber or orchestral music in comparison. Following the success of operas such as Nabucco, Verdi rose to fame as an operatic composer. His next masterwork, Aida, premiered in Cairo in 1871 before arriving in Naples, Italy for premiere in 1873 at the Teatro di San Carlo. But just before the premiere, he hit a setback: the soprano – Teresa Stolz – fell ill. The premiere was delayed a few days, and Verdi found himself with some free time on his hands, during which he (for whatever reason) decided to write this string quartet. It was never intended for public performance, and was first heard among the composers' friends in his hotel room shortly after the Naples premiere of Aida in April of 1873. Nevertheless, the quartet shows Verdi at his very finest, and this rarely heard work makes it's premiere at Emerald City Music this April. 

Fun fact: According to statistics on worldwide opera performances, three of Verdi’s operas, La Traviata, Rigoletto, and Aida are still among the most performed operas, each accumulating 300 to 400 performances a year worldwide.

Schiff: Divertimento from Gimpel the Fool

At this time: Composed in 1985, the same year that VH-1 made its broadcast debut, Michael Jackson recorded "We are the World", and composer John Williams introduces a new Today Show theme.

Inspiration: Gimpel the Fool is an opera from which this Divertimento is drawn from, based on a famous story by I. B Singer. Set in 19th Century Eastern Europe, Gimpel is a humble Jewish baker who has a cheating wife, cruel neighbors, and children that aren't his own. Everyone thinks Gimpel is unaware of all that's around him, but the truth is that Gimpel just prefers to see the good of the world. His pent-up anger turns to a crisis of faith when his wife dies young, and Gimpel plots his revenge on the village. His wife visits him from Hell, scares the daylights out of his plans for revenge, and Gimpel gives up his life as a baker to take holy orders.

Fun fact: The work was written for and recorded by David Shifrin at Chamber Music Northwest in Portland, OR. About the work, Schiff writes, "Chamber Music Northwest gave me a wonderful sense of how Haydn must have felt as court composer at Ezsterhazy. It is also my most popular piece and has been performed just about everywhere, but most memorably in the Palais de Luxembourg in Paris.”

Grainger: Fantasy on Gershwin's Porgy and Bess

At this time: Composed in 1935, the same year that entertainer Bob Hope was first heard on the radio, the NY Yankees released Babe Ruth to the Boston Braves baseball team, and Mussolini's Italian army attacked Ethiopia.

Inspiration: On a fateful night in October 1926, George Gershwin found himself restless. He gave up on trying to sleep, and picked up the novel "Porgy". The novel, written by white South Carolinian DuBose Heyward, depicts the life of an African-American in the Charleston ghetto. Gershwin was enthralled and felt inspired to write an opera based on the novel. He finally began work in 1933, and immersed himself completely in African-American Charleston culture during the summer of 1934, renting a cottage just outside of Charleston on Folly Island. 

Fun Fact: Porgy and Bess opened on Broadway on October 10, 1935, and while audiences raved, critics were more conservative. The work begged the question: is it opera, musical, or something else? Still to this day, Porgy and Bess defies musical boundaries, with performances on Broadway as frequent as The Metropolitan Opera. 


Michael Brown: Avery Fisher Career Grant winner. 
Julio Elizalde: Artistic Director of the Olympic Music Festival

Steven Copes: Concertmaster of St. Paul Chamber Orchestra
Kristin Lee: Artistic Director of Emerald City Music

Ben Ullery: Assistant Principal Violist of the Los Angeles Philharmonic

Mihai Marica: Member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center

Romie de Guise-Langlois: Member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center


Don't have your tickets to WITHOUT WORDS yet? Here's all the details you need:

April 14, 2017 (8:00 PM)
Seattle, MadArt Studio: 325 Westlake Ave N
Tickets: $45 (includes open bar), $10 students

April 15, 2017 (7:30 PM)
Olympia, The Washington Center: 512 Washington St
Tickets: $28 – $43, $10 students