Momenta Quartet Announces MOMENTA FESTIVAL III
Momenta Festival III premieres begin on opening night (October 1) with the world premiere version for theremin and string quartet of Arnold Schoenberg's Entrückung ("Rapture") from String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10, arranged by soloist Elizabeth Brown, and the US premiere of English composer Michael Small?'s White Space - Meditation on Saenredam (2015) for solo violin.
The October 2 program marks the world premiere of Argentinian composer Sebastian Zubieta's new Spanish-language version of Lord Byron's text to Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon, performed by Cuban rapper Telmary Diaz with Momenta and pianist Vicky Chow.
October 3 brings the world premiere of Claude Baker's third String Quartet, a Barlow Commission dedicated to Momenta and inspired by Liszt's Italian-themed "Années de Pèlerinage." Closing night, October 4, includes the world premiere (rev. version) of Hiroya Miura's? ?2012 work, Singularity.
In other highlights, the opening program includes a special multimedia performance: composer/thereminist Elizabeth Brown joins Momenta for her Piranesi, with animated video by her collaborator, photogravure artist Lothar Osterburg.
Additional guest artists for the festival include violist Samuel Rhodes (formerly of the Juilliard String Quartet), cellist Marcy Rosen (formerly of the Mendelssohn Quartet), jazz bassist and composer Hilliard Greene, and pianist Nana Shi. The programs, in order:
- Sunday, October 1: "Air from Another Planet" at Dixon Place Theater curated by Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin, assembles six fearlessly introspective works that manipulate our sense of time and space-using the force of memory, imagination, or emotion to render what was once familiar strange and unearthly. Works include the U.S. premiere of Michael Small's White Space; a world-premiere version of Entrückung ("Rapture"), the mystical finale of Arnold Schoenberg's second quartet, with theremin replacing the usual soprano; and Elizabeth Brown's Piranesi, as well as works by Biber, John Cage, and Kee Yong Chong.
- Monday, October 2: "Tyrants and Liberators" at Americas Society, curated by Stephanie Griffin, violist, is inspired by her reexamination of the topicality of Arnold Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte, but is more about the fight for freedom than about the despots who encumber it. Along with the Schoenberg piece, the program will include Sin Tiempo, a string quartet by the renowned Bolivian composer, Agustín Fernández, a work by Alvin Singleton, and an improvised duo by Griffin with bassist Hilliard Greene on the Negro Spiritual Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child.
- Tuesday, October 3: "A Room with a View" at Italian Academy, curated by Michael Haas, cello, explores ideas of Italy through the eyes of foreigners - the composers Benjamin Britten, Claude Baker, and Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky - none of the three Italian, but each seduced by the country's beauty, romance, and mystery. In addition to the world premiere by American composer Claude Baker, the evening includes Benjamin Britten's String Quartet No. 3 in G Major, Op. 94, and Tchaikovsky's Souvenir de Florence Op. 70 for string sextet with Samuel Rhodes (viola) and Marcy Rosen (cello).
- Wednesday, October 4: "Forces of Creation" at The Center at West Park, curated by violinist Alex Shiozaki, explores various creation myths. In addition to the world premiere of the revised version of Hiroya Miura's physics-inspired quartet Singularity, the program includes Per Nørgård's String Quartet No. 8 Night Descending Like Smoke, João Pedro Oliveira's ?Magma?, for violin and electronics, and Darius Milhaud's ?La création du monde?, op. 81b, in its version for piano quintet with guest pianist Nana Shi.
Though all Momenta Festival III events are free, reservations are highly recommended, and can be made through Brown Paper Tickets.
Sunday, October 1 (7 pm) Air from Another Planet
Dixon Place Theater, 161 A Chrystie Street
Curated by Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin
With Elizabeth Brown, theremin
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber: Rosary Passacaglia for solo violin in g minor, C. 105 ("Guardian Angel," ca. 1676)
John Cage: Chorals (1978) for solo violin
Kee Yong Chong?: Silence Cosmos (2005) for string quartet
Michael Small?: White Space - Meditation on Saenredam (2015) for solo violin? US Premiere?
?Elizabeth Brown?: ?Piranesi (2007/12) for theremin and string quartet; video by Lothar Osterburg
Arnold Schoenberg: IV. Entrückung ("Rapture") from String Quartet No. 2, Op. 10 for soprano and string quartet (1907-08); world premiere version for theremin and string quartet
To open Momenta Festival III, violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron has curated "Air from Another Planet." Ms. Gendron will perform three works for solo violin, including the US premiere of White Space - Meditation on Saenredam by young English-born, US-based composer Michael Small, inspired by the hauntingly desolate church paintings of 17th century Dutch painter Pieter Jansz Saenredam. Biber's profoundly contemplative Rosary Passacaglia in g minor directly embodies the struggle between the earthbound and the otherworldly. John Cage directly merges consonance and dissonance in his Chorals for solo violin, exploring conventional pitches and the seemingly infinite space between them. Momenta Quartet joins Gendron for Malaysian composer Kee Yong Chong's suspenseful yet volatile quartet Silence Cosmos, prefaced by poet Chen Ziang's expression of existential desolation: "Where, before me, are the ages that have gone? And where, behind me, are the coming generations? All alone, overwhelmed by the thought of the eternity of heaven and earth, my tears fall."
Composer and thereminist Elizabeth Brown (pictured right), who collaborated with the quartet on her 2013 recording, Mirage, and whose composition, Just Visible in the Distance was premieredby the ensemble in 2014, joins the quartet for a performance of Piranesi, her hallucinatory score for string quartet and theremin. Inspired by the celebrated 18th century engraver's Carceri, or imaginary prisons, Piranesi is performed to Osterburg's stop-motion animated film, which uses miniature models and variations in perspective to gradually reveal multiple simultaneous realities. Brown and Momenta conclude with a world-premiere version of Entrückung ("Rapture"), the mystical finale of Arnold Schoenberg's second quartet (1907-8), with theremin replacing the usual soprano. Inspired by Stefan George's transcendent poem, it begins with the words "I feel air from another planet," marking the culmination of the evening's wide-ranging aural and visual journey.
Monday, October 2 (7 pm) Tyrants and Liberators
Americas Society, 680 Park Avenue
Curated by Stephanie Griffin, violist
With Telmary Diaz, reciter, Vicky Chow, piano, and Hilliard Greene, jazz bassist and composer
Alvin Singleton: Somehow We Can for String Quartet (1994, dedicated to the memory of Marian Anderson)
Agustín Fernández: String Quartet No 2, Sin tiempo (2013, commissioned for Momenta by the Koussevitzky Foundation)
Griffin/Greene: Improvised duo based on Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child (traditional Negro Spiritual)
Arnold Schoenberg: Ode to Napoleon (1942) for string quartet, reciter and piano (with Diaz and Chow)
Violist Stephanie Griffin curates Tyrants and Liberators, a program more about the fight for freedom than about the despots who encumber it. A particularly powerful example is the African American rise out of slavery and continuing struggle for equal rights and respect in the face of the law and its enforcers. In honor of this legacy, the program opens with African American composer Alvin Singleton's Somehow We Can for string quartet, inspired by the memory of Marian Anderson. That work is followed by Griffin and jazz bassist Hilliard Greene's interpretation of the Negro Spiritual, "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child."
Says Griffin, "I have spent many hours meditating on the consequences of bad government and despots who do not understand the Rule of Law. Musically, this thinking brought me back to Arnold Schoenberg's Op. 41, Ode to Napoleon Bonaparte. I re-read its text by Lord Byron, written the day after Napoleon's resignation, and was alarmed at how topical it seemed." Imagining Schoenberg's timely piece with a rapped text, she invited Canadian-based and politically motivated Cuban rapper Telmary Diaz (left) to perform a new rap-able Spanish translation of Schoenberg's work by the composer and concert producer Sebastian Zubieta. The program also features a major work by Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández (b.1958), commissioned for the Momenta Quartet by the Koussevitzky Foundation. His String Quartet No. 2: Sin tiempo, reflects upon a specific episode in Bolivian history: the guerrilla campaign at Teoponte in 1970, which, in Agustín's words, "encapsulates the dreams of a generation, its struggle to make that dream true, and its inglorious, bloody failure."
Tuesday, October 3 (7 pm) A Room with a View
The Italian Academy at Columbia University
1161 Amsterdam Avenue
Curated by Michael Haas, cello
With guests Samuel Rhodes, viola, and ?Marcy Rosen?, cello
Benjamin Britten: String Quartet No. 3 in G Major, Op. 94 (1975)
Claude Baker?: Années de Pèlerinage: Italie ("Years of Pilgrimage: Italy") (2016-17) world premiere, commissioned by the Barlow Foundation for Momenta Quartet
Tchaikovsky: Souvenir de Florence Op. 70 for string sextet (1890) (with Rhodes and Rosen)
One could argue that more than any country in the world, Italy has been the creative inspiration for centuries of artists, writers, and composers. Cellist Michael Haas has curated a festival program inspired by this notion, aptly held at the Italian Academy at Columbia University. The program opens with Britten's last completed major work, String Quartet No. 3 in G Major, Op. 94. written during his final illness in 1975, in which he explores his psychological connection to Thomas Mann's novella Death in Venice. Britten traveled to Venice where he composed the final movement, giving it the title La Serenissima.
It will be followed by the world premiere of the Third String Quartet (dedicated to Momenta and inspired by Liszt's Italian-themed Années de Pèlerinage), by prolific composer Claude Baker, professor of composition at Indiana University, Bloomington. Baker portrays five Italian cities through the eyes of Liszt and others who composed while traveling through the country. There are references, both literal and oblique, to music by Berlioz, Tchaikovsky and, of course, Liszt (with a sly wink from Paganini). Serious and playful elements combine in the piece, with the two inner movements ("Venezia e Napoli" and "Firenze") providing light-hearted foils to the more somber outer movements ("Roma" and "Abruzzo"). Finally, Tchaikovsky puts a Russian spin on his impressions of Italy with a passionate and virtuosic string sextet dedicated to Florence, with distinguished guests Marcy Rosen and Samuel Rhodes (pictured left) joining in. Commissioned by the St. Petersburg Chamber Music Society in 1887, Tchaikovsky only began to explore the main ideas of the piece while on a trip to Florence in 1890. He completed it after returning home, creating a work that is as much Russian as it is a souvenir of his time in Italy.
Wednesday, October 4 (7 pm) Forces of Creation
The Center at West Park, 165 W.86th Street (West Park Presbyterian Church)
Curated by Alex Shiozaki, violinist
With guest Nana Shi, pianist
Hiroya Miura: ?Singularity ?(2012, rev. 2017) world premiere of revised version
Per Nørgård: String Quartet No. 8 "Night Descending Like Smoke" (1995-97)
João Pedro Oliveira:? ?Magma?, for violin and electronics (2014)
Darius Milhaud: ?La création du monde?, op. 81b for piano quintet (1923) (with Shi)
Forces of Creation, curated by violist Alex Shiozaki, presents the physical, psychological, geological, and mythological forms of creation and destruction. The physical universe is represented by Hiroya Miura's quartet Singularity, written for the Momenta Quartet in 2012. Taking its inspiration from the cosmic microwave background left over from the Big Bang, Singularity carries the listener through the almost-vacuum of space, capturing the chaos of the fossil radiation through harmonic and metric dissonances, as well as ghostly motives that echo throughout the ensemble. From the theoretical cosmos we descend into the psychological night of Per Nørgård's String Quartet No. 8, "Night Descending Like Smoke." It paints the destructive side of man through its five movements: the yearnful "Prologue - Eulogy"; the brutish and militaristic "Man -Animal"; the unfaltering "Voyage"; the anxious and titular "Night Descending"; and the "Epilogue - Elegy". Through the use of microtones, the quartet explores the transformation of man in the face of an unstoppable force. In a return to the physical world, João Pedro Oliveira's Magma depicts the creation and transformation of volcanic lava from liquid to rock. Exploring all the timbral colors available to the violin, Magma continues to boil underneath even as the surface solidifies.
African mythology is the source of Darius Milhaud's La Creation du Monde, and his chosen musical idiom is jazz - at least, his version of it. The ballet portrays the creation of the world by African gods, bringing to life trees, animals, and mankind, and ending with a couple on stage to represent desire and procreation. In addition to the 17-instrument orchestral ballet, Milhaud created a version for piano quintet. For this performance, Momenta will be joined by pianist Nana Shi (right), Mr. Shiozaki's longtime duo partner and his wife.
As a coda to the festival, Momenta will accompany New Chamber Ballet in Mamlok / Spaces, a dance program paying tribute to the late Ursula Mamlok, Thursday, October 5 and Friday, October 6. Mamlok was born in Berlin in 1923, and after her family fled from the Nazis and settled in South America, moved to New York City by herself as a teenager to study composition. She established herself as one of the few well-known female composers of her generation, creating a wide variety of works for chamber music and small ensembles. Eventually, after the passing of her husband in 2006, Mamlok returned to her native Berlin, where she continued to compose until her death in April 2016.
The 90-minute site-specific performance will take place in the historic spaces of the former Goethe-House New York. It juxtaposes various works by Mamlok, including her Second String Quartet and From My Garden, with original choreography by Miro Magloire and Rebecca Walden. For further information on these invitation-only performances, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Momenta: the plural of momentum - four individuals in motion towards a common goal. This is the idea behind the Momenta Quartet, whose eclectic vision encompasses contemporary music of all aesthetic backgrounds alongside great music from the recent and distant past. The New York City-based quartet has premiered over 100 works, collaborated with over 120 living composers and was praised by The New York Times for its "diligence, curiosity and excellence." In the words of The New Yorker's Alex Ross, "few American players assume Haydn's idiom with such ease."
The quartet came into being in November 2004, when composer Matthew Greenbaum invited violist Stephanie Griffin to perform Mario Davidovsky's String Trio for events celebrating Judaism and Culture at New York's Symphony Space and Temple University in Philadelphia. A residency through the composition department at Temple University ensued, and the rehearsals and performances were so satisfying that the players decided to form a quartet. Through this residency, Momenta gave two annual concerts highlighting the talents of Temple University student composers alongside 20th-century masterworks and works from the classical canon, and repeated the programs at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. From the outset, Momenta treated all music equally, devoting as much time, care and commitment to the student works as to the imposing musical monuments.
Word of Momenta's passionate advocacy for emerging composers spread quickly. Composers started inviting Momenta for similar concerts and residencies at other academic institutions, among them Cornell, Columbia and Yeshiva Universities; the Boston and Cincinnati Conservatories; and the Eastman School of Music. In 2008 the quartet won its first major commission grant from the Koussevitzky Foundation for Malaysian composer Kee Yong Chong, and since received a second Koussevitzky grant for Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández. Deeply committed to the musical avant-garde of the developing world, Momenta has been an indispensable advocate for many international composers.
In addition to world premieres by Chong and Fernández, Momenta has premiered and championed the works of Tony Prabowo (Indonesia), Cergio Prudencio (Bolivia) and Hana Ajiashvili (Georgia). Upcoming adventures include a project to perform and record all thirteen string quartets by Mexican microtonal maverick Julián Carrillo (1875-1965) over the next three years. Momenta has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian's Freer Gallery, Rubin Museum, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, and the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and has recently enjoyed high-profile concerts at Chamber Music Cincinnati, Washington University and at the internationally renowned Cervantino Festival in Mexico. Momenta gave its Mexican debut at the National University (UNAM) last June and has performed in the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Singapore. Momenta has recorded for Centaur Records, Furious Artisans, PARMA, New World Records, and Albany Records; and has been broadcast on WQXR, Q2 Music, Austria's Oe1, and Vermont Public Radio. The quartet's debut album, Similar Motion, is available on Albany Records. For more information, visit http://www.momentaquartet.com/.