Tesla Quartet and Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein Release Joy & Desolation On Orchid Classics

On Friday, October 18, 2019, the award-winning Tesla Quartet (Ross Snyder & Michelle Lie, violins; Edwin Kaplan, viola; Serafim Smigelskiy, cello) releases its second album, Joy & Desolation, on Orchid Classics. The record features performances of Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K581; Gerald Finzi's Five Bagatelles arranged by Christian Alexander; John Corigliano's Soliloquy (1995); and Carolina Heredia's Ius in Bello (2014) with acclaimed clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein. The program on Joy & Desolation is all about contrasts: the duality of light and darkness, joy and despair, isolation and inclusion. Recorded at idyllic Wyastone, a retired concert hall nestled along the River Wye in England, the Tesla Quartet and Alexander Fiterstein used this recording as an opportunity to dive deeper into their art and to explore how they make music together.

Mozart's Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K581 exemplifies the composer's fascinating contrast between apparently effortless inspiration and disciplined execution, as well as a sensitivity to timbre that would prove essential in his writing for the clarinet. Mozart wrote the quintet in 1789, a difficult year: his wife Constanze had been seriously ill. At least some of the sadness this caused can be felt in the more wistful passages of the quintet. Yet the work's greatness lies in the depth with which this skill is expressed: both the slow movement and the finale encompass moments of aching beauty as Mozart wrings every last drop of lyricism from the instrument's rich timbre. The joyous finale has, intriguingly, been linked with another masterpiece: Così fan tutte. A fragment of one of Mozart's sketches contains material probably intended for the quintet, which is used to open Ferrando's aria "Ah! Lo veggio." This aria's text also echoes the quintet's mood: "in those lovely sighs a sweet ray of hope lights up my heart."

English composer Gerald Finzi was temperamentally very different from Mozart, and the loss of close family and friends in the First World War consolidated an already introspective nature. His Five Bagatelles for clarinet and piano, heard here in Christian Alexander's arrangement for clarinet and string quartet, were begun in the 1920s, but were not finished until the Second World War, when Finzi composed during brief breaks from his work at the Ministry of War Transport. Dismissed by Finzi as "only trifles," three of these bagatelles were complete by 1941, cobbled together, if Finzi's self-deprecation is to be believed, from "20-year-old bits and pieces." A fourth piece was added before the premiere in January 1943, given by Pauline Juler and Howard Ferguson at one of the famous wartime National Gallery concerts established by Myra Hess with the assistance of Vaughan Williams. Finzi added a fifth piece, the finale, for the work's publication as his Op. 23 in July 1945, and the set became immediately popular, prompting Finzi to remark that they were "not worth much, but got better notices than my decent stuff."

John Corigliano's Soliloquy was composed in 1995 in memory of his late father, who had died in 1975 after a long career as leader of the New York Philharmonic. Cellist Serafim Smigelskiy says "In Soliloquy, John Corigliano fuses strings and clarinet into an austere ambiance that evokes in me feelings of longing and uncertainty." When Alexander Fiterstein was a 20 year old student at Juilliard, he won the school's concerto competition with the Corigliano Clarinet Concerto. Corigliano and clarinetist Stanley Drucker, who premiered the concerto, were both on the jury and the resulting concert was led by by Robert Spano in Avery Fisher Hall (now David Geffen Hall) at Lincoln Center, the same hall where the piece was premiered by the New York Philharmonic, Stanley Drucker, and Leonard Bernstein. For certain passages in John Corigliano's Soliloquy, the Tesla Quartet and Fiterstein experimented not only with microphone placement, but also musician placement in order to express the isolation and loneliness of the first violin and clarinet lines.

Argentinian composer Carolina Heredia wrote Ius in Bello in 2014 on commission from the New Music on the Point Festival, held on the shores of Lake Dunmore in Vermont. The title has its roots in international law, in which the concept of ius ad bellum outlines the rules governing the use of force by states, and ius in bello (meaning "law of war") regulates the nature of hostilities once conflict is under way. Whilst Heredia was moved by events in Venezuela when composing the work, she was also seeking to reflect on wider moral principles relating to contemporary politics. Musically, Heredia draws upon an array of Latin- American popular styles to add colour and depth to the work's tensions, its dream-like quality evoking the heartfelt desire for peace. Violinist Michelle Lie says, "From the very beginning Carolina uses modern techniques of clarinet playing with a much wider range of dynamics and expressions, and the strings add a sense of anxiety and turmoil with passages of tremolo, snapped pizzicato, and ponticello (playing on the bridge). It's as if you're watching a hot metal plate glow, radiating heat and burning the particles in the air around it."

In 2018, the Tesla Quartet released its debut album of Haydn, Ravel, and Stravinsky quartets on the Orchid Classics label to critical acclaim. BBC Music Magazine awarded the disc a double 5-star rating and featured it as the "Chamber Choice" for the month of December. Gramophone praised the quartet for its "tautness of focus and refinement of detail."

"Though free to think and act, we are held together, like the stars in the firmament, with ties inseparable. These ties cannot be seen, but we can feel them." - Nikola Tesla

These words are the inspiration behind the Tesla Quartet's vision. For the quartet, music is the conduit for this incredible, binding force, these "ties inseparable." Through performance, teaching, and outreach, the Tesla Quartet strives to tap into this palpable feeling and create meaningful connections with their audiences.

Praised for their "superb capacity to find the inner heart of everything they play, regardless of era, style, or technical demand" (The International Review of Music), the Tesla Quartet brings refinement and prowess to both new and established repertoire. Dubbed "technically superb" by The Strad, the Tesla Quartet has won top prizes in numerous international competitions, most recently taking Second Prize as well as the Haydn Prize and Canadian Commission Prize at the 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition.

Now entering its second decade, the quartet performs regularly across North America and Europe, with recent highlights including their debut at New York's Lincoln Center, a return to London's Wigmore Hall, and performances at Stanford University's Bing Concert Hall as winners of the prestigious John Lad Prize. Other recent international engagements include tours of Brazil, China, and South Korea. Notable festival appearances include the Banff Centre International String Quartet Festival; the Joseph Haydn String Quartet Festival at the Esterházy Palace in Fert?'d, Hungary; the Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Festival in Germany; and the Festival Sesc de Música de Câmara in São Paulo, Brazil. Having served as the Marjorie Young Bell String Quartet-in-Residence at Mount Allison University in New Brunswick, Canada from 2016-2017, the Tesla Quartet also recently completed a four-year community residency in Hickory, North Carolina that included performances and workshops at local colleges, universities, and in the public school system, as well as a dedicated chamber music series.

The Tesla Quartet was formed at The Juilliard School in 2008 and quickly established itself as one of the most promising young ensembles in New York, winning Second Prize at the J.C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition only a few months after its inception. From 2009 to 2012, the quartet held a fellowship as the Graduate String Quartet-in-Residence at the University of Colorado-Boulder, where they studied with the world-renowned Takács Quartet. They have also held fellowships at the Aspen Music Festival's Center for Advanced Quartet Studies, the Britten-Pears Young Artist Program, and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

The Tesla Quartet is Ross Snyder (violin), Michelle Lie (violin), Edwin Kaplan (viola), and Serafim Smigelskiy (cello). Learn more at www.teslaquartet.com.

Clarinetist Alexander Fiterstein is considered one of today's most exceptional artists. Fiterstein has performed in recital, with distinguished orchestras, and with chamber music ensembles throughout the world. He won first prize at the Carl Nielsen International Clarinet Competition and received the prestigious Avery Fisher Career Grant Award. The Washington Post has described his playing as "dazzling in its spectrum of colors, agility, and range. Every sound he makes is finely measured without inhibiting expressiveness" and The New York Times described him as "a clarinetist with a warm tone and powerful technique."

As soloist he has appeared with the Czech, Israel, Vienna, and St. Paul Chamber Orchestras, Belgrade Philharmonic, Danish National Radio Symphony, Tokyo Philharmonic, China National Symphony Orchestra, KBS Orchestra of South Korea, Jerusalem Symphony, Orchestra of St. Luke's at Lincoln Center, Kansas City Symphony, and the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra of Venezuela. He has performed in recital on the Music at the Supreme Court Series, the Celebrity Series in Boston, the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, the Kennedy Center, the Louvre in Paris, Suntory Hall in Tokyo, Tel Aviv Museum, and New York City's 92nd Street Y.

A dedicated performer of chamber music, Fiterstein frequently collaborates with distinguished artists and ensembles and regularly performs with the prestigious Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center. Among the highly regarded artists he has performed with are Daniel Barenboim, Yefim Bronfman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode, Emanuel Ax, Marc-Andre Hamelin, Pinchas Zukerman, and Steven Isserlis. Fiterstein performed with the Dover, Pacifica, Jerusalem, and Shanghai String Quartets as well as with Ensemble Wien-Berlin. He spent five summers at the Marlboro Music Festival and appeared at the Caramoor, Moab, Music@Menlo, Montreal, Toronto, Jerusalem, and Storioni Chamber Music Festivals.

Fiterstein performed as principal clarinet of the West-East Divan Orchestra at the invitation of Daniel Barenboim and has appeared as guest principal clarinet with the Israel Philharmonic with Zubin Mehta, KBS Orchestra with Yoel Levi, and with the St. Paul and Orpheus Chamber Orchestras.

Fiterstein has a prolific recording career and has worked with composers John Corigliano and Osvaldo Golijov and had pieces written for him by Samuel Adler, Mason Bates, Paul Schoenfield, and Chris Brubeck, among others. Fiterstein was born in Belarus and immigrated to Israel at the age of two with his family. A Juilliard graduate, he won first prize at the Young Concert Artists International Auditions and received awards from the America-Israel Cultural Foundation. He is currently Professor of Clarinet and Chair of Winds at the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University. Fiterstein is a Buffet Crampon and Vandoren Performing Artist. Learn more at www.fiterstein.com.

Joy & Desolation Track List

1-5. Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart - Clarinet Quintet in A Major, K581
Menuetto - Trio 1 - Menuetto - Trio 2 - Menuetto
Allegro con Variazioni

5-9. Gerald Finzi (arr. Christian Alexander) - Five Bagatelles
Prelude. Allegro deciso
Romance. Andante tranquillo
Carol. Andantino semplice
Forlana. Allegretto grazioso
Fughetta. Allegro vivace

10. John Corigliano - Soliloquy (1995)

11. Carolina Heredia - Ius in Bello (2014)

Total time: 63.38

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