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Tower, Leon, Oppens and Cassatt Set for UNCOMMON WOMEN at Symphony Space, 2/7

Tower, Leon, Oppens and Cassatt Set for UNCOMMON WOMEN at Symphony Space, 2/7

On Friday, February 7 (7:30 pm), Symphony Space pays tribute to "the women warriors of new music" with a concert marking a quartet of anniversaries: composer Joan Tower's 75th birthday (Sept. 6, 2013), composer Tania Léon's 70th birthday (May 14, 2013), pianist Ursula Oppens's 70th (Feb. 2, 2014), and the 30th anniversary season of the Cassatt String Quartet.

Oppens will join the Cassatt in the world premiere of Léon's Ethos for Piano and String Quartet, and will also perform Tower's Dumbarton Quintet (2008). Beethoven's String Quartet No. 10 "The Harp" (Op. 74) completes the program; Tower has cited his music as a particular inspiration, subtitling her 1985 piano concerto "Homage to Beethoven."

The event is part of Symphony Space's The Music of Now series, running from February 1 through the end of March. Tickets are $32, $27 for members, and $20 for those under 30, available at www.symphonyspace.org.

Léon's Ethos is dedicated to the memory of Isaiah Sheffer, the late Founding Artistic Director of Symphony Space and a longtime acquaintance of the composer. Each of the three movements is titled after lines from poems by Isaiah's daughter, Susannah Sheffer, as found in her collection This Kind of Knowing (2013, Cooper Dillon Books):

I. In the cage where the heart paces,
II. blaze of lights
III. Viridian. Ochre. Cobalt blue.

Ethos was commissioned by Symphony Space with support from the New York State Council on the Arts Individual Artists Program.

Says Tower of Dumbarton Quintet, "Following Stravinsky and Copland as the third commissioned composer by the Dumbarton Oaks Estate is of course quite daunting - particularly since these are two very strong composers that had an enormous influence on me. Their sense of musical continuity and profiling of ideas puts them in the category of musical geniuses... It is a 14-minute work in one movement that travels through several themes with different emotional contents. The first is a flowing line that is cast in a narrow space of smaller intervals first soft, then loud but with a restrained kind of intensity that finally 'bursts out' into a more 'forward' and visceral type of intensity. This shifting between intensities, in fact, is part of the 'DNA' of the work and as the piece progresses; each side tends to take on more and more extremes of expression. At particular points, the 'softer' material becomes almost romantic, consonant and singing in its expression whereas the 'louder' passages become the opposite - manic and aggressively dissonant."


A B O U T T H E A R T I S T S

Tower, Leon, Oppens and Cassatt Set for UNCOMMON WOMEN at Symphony Space, 2/7Acclaimed as one of America's outstanding ensembles, the Manhattan based Cassatt String Quartet has performed throughout North America, Europe, and the Far East, with appearances at New York's Alice Tully Hall and Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, the Tanglewood Music Theater, the Kennedy Center and Library of Congress in Washington, DC, the Theatre des Champs-Élysées in Paris and Maeda Hall in Tokyo. The Quartet has been presented on major radio stations such as National Public Radio's Performance Today, Boston's WGBH, New York's WQXR and WNYC, and on Canada's CBC Radio and Radio France.

Equally adept at classical masterpieces and contemporary music, the Cassatt has collaborated with a remarkable array of artists/composers including pianist Marc-Andre Hamelin, soprano Susan Narucki, flutist Ransom Wilson, jazz pianist Fred Hersch, didgeriedoo player Simon 7, the Trisha Brown Dance Company, distinguished members of the Cleveland and Vermeer Quartets, and composers Louis Andriessen and John Harbison. Named three times by The New Yorker magazine's Best Of...CD Selection, the Cassatt's discography includes eclectic new quartets by Pulitizer Prize-winner Steven Stucky and Tina Davidson (Albany Records), by Daniel S. Godfrey (Koch International Classics) and by Grawemeyer and Rome Prize-winner Sebastian Currier (New World). The Cassatt has recorded for the Koch, Naxos, New World, Point, CRI, Tzadik and Albany labels and is named for the celebrated American impressionist painter Mary Cassatt.

Tania León, (b. Havana, Cuba) is highly regarded as a composer and conductor and recognized for her accomplishments as an educator and advisor to arts organizations. She has been profiled on ABC, CBS, CNN, PBS, Univision, Telemundo, and independent films. Her opera Scourge of Hyacinths, based on a play by Wole Soyinka with staging and design by Robert Wilson, received over 20 performances throughout Europe and Mexico. Commissioned by Hans Werner Henze and the city of Munich for the Fourth Munich Biennale, it took home the coveted BMW Prize. The aria "Oh Yemanja" ("Mother's Prayer") was recorded by Dawn Upshaw on her Nonesuch CD, The World So Wide.

Commissions include works for the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New World Symphony, Koussevitzky Foundation, Fest der Kontinente (Hamburg, Germany), Cincinnati Symphony, National Endowment for the Arts, NDR Sinfonie Orchester, American Composers Orchestra, The Library of Congress, Ensemble Modern, The Los Angeles Master Chorale, and The Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, among others. Her works have been performed by such orchestras as the Gewaundhausorchester, L'Orchestre de la Suisse Romande, the China National Symphony, and the NDR Orchestra. She has collaborated with authors and directors including John Ashbury, Margaret Atwood, Rita Dove, Jamaica Kincaid, Mark Lamos, Julie Taymor, and Derek Walcott. In 2012 she received a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Classical Composition and a Latin Grammy nomination for Best Classical Contemporary Composition; in 2013 she was the recipient of the prestigious ASCAP Victor Herbert Award. A Professor at Brooklyn College since 1985, she was named Distinguished Professor of the City University of New York in 2006. In 2010 she was inducted into the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

Pianist Ursula Oppens, one of the very first artists to grasp the importance of programming traditional and contemporary works in equal measure, has won a singular place in the hearts of her public, critics, and colleagues alike. Her sterling musicianship, uncanny understanding of the composer's artistic argument, and lifelong study of the keyboard's resources, have placed her among the elect of performing musicians. Driven by an enduring commitment to integrating new music into regular concert life, Ms. Oppens has commissioned and premiered many compositions, including works by Anthony Braxton, Elliott Carter, Anthony Davis, John Harbison, Julius Hemphill, Tania Leon, György Ligeti, Witold Lutoslawski, Conlon Nancarrow, Tobias Picker, Frederic Rzewski, Alvin Singleton, Joan Tower, Lois V Vierk, Christian Wolff, Amnon Wolman, and Charles Wuorinen.

A co-founder of Speculum Musicae, Ms. Oppens has an extensive recording catalogue and has received three Grammy nominations: for Oppens plays Carter; for her Vanguard recording of Frederic Rzewski's The People United Will Never Be Defeated; and for American Piano Music of Our Time, a classic compilation of piano works by 20th century American composers for the Music & Arts label. Her most recent release is Winging It: Music of John Corigliano on Cedille Records, which has already received great critical acclaim. Ms. Oppens is a Distinguished Professor on the faculty of the Conservatory of Music at Brooklyn College and the CUNY Graduate Center.

Joan Tower is widely regarded as one of the most important American composers living today. During a career spanning more than fifty years, she has made lasting contributions to musical life in the United States as composer, performer, conductor, and educator. Her works have been commissioned by major ensembles, soloists, and orchestras, including the Emerson, Tokyo, and Muir quartets; soloists Evelyn Glennie, Carol Wincenc, David Shifrin, and John Browning; and the orchestras of Chicago, New York, St. Louis, Pittsburgh, and Washington DC among others. Tower was the first composer chosen for a Ford Made in America consortium commission of sixty-five orchestras. Leonard Slatkin and the Nashville Symphony recorded Made in America in 2008 (along with Tambor and Concerto for Orchestra). The album collected three Grammy awards: Best Classical Contemporary Composition, Best Classical Album, and Best Orchestral Performance. In 1990 she became the first woman to win the prestigious Grawemeyer Award for Silver Ladders, a piece she wrote for the St. Louis Symphony where she was Composer-in-Residence from 1985-88. Other residencies with orchestras include a 10-year residency with the Orchestra of St. Luke's (1997-2007) and the Pittsburgh Symphony (2010-2011). She is in residence as the Albany Symphony's Mentor Composer partner in the 2013-14 season.

ABOUT Symphony Space: Symphony Space traces its beginnings to a free marathon concert, Wall to Wall Bach, held in 1978 and organized by co-founders Isaiah Sheffer and Allan Miller. The music marathon then drew thousands of visitors and has since become one of the organization's signature events. Today Symphony Space presents more than 600 events each season, including music, dance, theater, film, and literary readings. Some of its best known programs include Selected Shorts, a reading of short stories by stars of stage and screen, and one of the most popular series on public radio; the Thalia Film Club, a trendy film club hosted by Marshall Fine featuring pre-release screenings and behind-the-scenes conversations with film stars; Just Kidding, one of the most talked about family entertainment series around town; and, more recently, The Music of Now, presenting an eclectic range of music in all styles and sensibilities, focusing on emerging artists and unusual work. Uptown Showdown has been called "New York's best comedy series" by New York Magazine. For more information, visit symphonyspace.org.

Symphony Space is located at 2537 Broadway at 95th Street. Box office hours are Tuesday through Sunday, 1 pm - 6 pm, open two hours prior to performances and events. Tickets can also be purchased through www.symphonyspace.org, or by calling 212/864-5400.

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