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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

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."


Acclaimed 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.

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