World Premiere of THE GILDED CAGE by Curtis Stewart Comes to Newport Classical Music Festival

This year’s festival runs from July 4-23 and features 27 concerts.

By: Jun. 02, 2023
World Premiere of THE GILDED CAGE by Curtis Stewart Comes to Newport Classical Music Festival

Newport Classical will present the world premiere of The Gilded Cage by three-time GRAMMY-nominated violinist/composer Curtis Stewart on Saturday, July 22, 2023 at The Breakers (44 Ochre Point Ave.), performed by Newport Classical’s Festival Artists (Ariel Horowitz, violin; Lun Li, violin; Edwin Kaplan, viola; Titilayo Ayangade, cello; and Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner, piano) as part of the 2023 Newport Classical Music Festival. This year’s festival runs from July 4-23 and features 27 concerts, bringing timeless music for today to Newport’s stunning historic mansions and venues.

Praised for “combining omnivory and brilliance” (The New York Times), Curtis Stewart translates stories of self determination to the concert stage. As a solo violinist, composer, Artistic Director of the American Composers Orchestra, professor at The Juilliard School, and member of award-winning ensembles PUBLIQuartet and The Mighty Third Rail, he realizes a vision to find personal and powerful connections between styles, cultures, and musics. His 2021 album Of Power (Bright Shiny Things) was nominated for a GRAMMY Award for Best Classical Instrumental Solo, and he performed at the 2022 GRAMMY Awards. He has been commissioned to compose new works by the Seattle Symphony, Virginia Symphony Orchestra, Carnegie Hall’s Play/USA, countertenor Anthony Roth Costanzo and members of the New York Philharmonic, The Knights, La Jolla Music Society, Sybarite5, the New York Festival of Song, and the Royal Conservatory of Music, among many others. As a soloist, he has been presented by Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, The Kennedy Center, Cal Performances, Washington Performing Arts, and more.

Stewart’s new piano quintet, The Gilded Cage, is inspired by his father’s time living in Newport and being part of the Baptist AME church community, as well as the history of The Breakers’ many caretakers over the decades. The program, curated by Stewart, also features a thrilling selection of piano quintets by Schumann, Bruch, and Shostakovich.

Newport Classical Executive Director Gillian Friedman Fox says, "Curtis's new work is the latest in our ongoing, annual commissioning initiative, which we began in 2021. Newport Classical is committed to the future of classical music and working closely with composers like Curtis, who are shaping it. During his residency with us this summer, he will collaborate with our wonderful resident Festival Artists, as well as give a composer’s talk after an open rehearsal of the new piece, and a masterclass for local string instrument students. When we learned of Curtis's personal, family connection to Newport, we were even more thrilled to have engaged him. We can’t wait for our community to learn from and be inspired by his music during his time here in Newport this summer.”

Of The Gilded Cage, Stewart says, “​​Music, for me, can be a reflection and meditation on the histories of my family and community. My dad happened to be a church kid, growing up in Newport for a time within the Baptist AME church. Hearing his stories got me thinking about the people of Newport and the culture of living there versus ‘having residence.’ I became intrigued by the nature of The Breakers, the spirit of the place. I began to gather music from when my dad lived in Newport – historic themes and songs from the Baptist churches he went to in the area, the music of the people that were likely servicing the Breakers, as well as research on the Vanderbilts that lived there and were eventually removed once the place was deemed unlivable. My favorite quote in this research comes from Paul and Gladys Szápáry’s cousin, Jamie Wade Comstock, who said, ‘the gilded cage was much more interesting when it still had the birds inside it.’ This strikes me as ironic, given that for much of the time The Breakers existed, it may have been empty, or just for ‘holiday’… I wonder which ‘birds’ truly enlivened the house … the ghosts of now old money, or, the people who lived in Newport, taking care of the space – another type of ghost, free of that Gilded history.”

This concert is the finale performance for Newport Classical’s Festival Artists –  professional musicians at the early stages of their careers who come together for an intense period of rehearsal and music making during the festival. This year’s cohort is a stellar group of artists:

  • Violinist Ariel Horowitz is a recent graduate of the Yale School of Music, and recently won the Concert Artists Guild Ambassador Prize. She is the Founder and Artistic Director of The Heartbeat Music Project, a tuition-free program providing instruments, music, and Navajo (Diné) cultural knowledge to young people in grades K-12 living in the Navajo Nation.
  • A native of Shanghai, China, violinist Lun Li won First Prize in the 2021 Young Concert Artists Susan Wadsworth International Auditions, the Paul A. Fish Memorial Prize, the Buffalo Chamber Music Society Prize, and is a recent graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music and The Juilliard School.
  • Edwin Kaplan is the violist of the award-winning Tesla Quartet. Among his most cherished projects is the Tesla Quartet's annual call for scores, where he meticulously evaluates and selects from the many compositions submitted by composers worldwide. With cellist Titilayo Ayangade, he performs as Duo Kayo.
  • Cellist Titilayo Ayangade has spent over two decades behind her instrument, performing in orchestras, chamber ensembles, and commissioning new music. She holds degrees from the University of Cincinnati-CCM and the University of Texas at Austin, and has also worked closely with members of the Artemis Quartet.
  • Pianist Llewellyn Sanchez-Werner was selected as a winner of the Concert Artists Guild 2022 Victor Elmaleh Competition and has been distinguished as a Gilmore Young Artist, an honor awarded to the most promising American pianists of the new generation.

Highlights of the 2023 Newport Classical Music Festival include performances by Broadway and opera star Kelli O'Hara (currently starring in HBO’s The Gilded Age, filmed in Newport); Philharmonia Baroque Orchestra; The Knights; renowned pianists Hélène Grimaud, Simone Dinnerstein, and Charlie Albright; New York Philharmonic principal clarinetist Anthony McGill in a return performance with pianist Anna Polonsky; riveting low-voice acapella ensemble Cantus; celebrated chamber ensembles including the Hermitage Piano Trio, Aizuri Quartet, Excelsis Percussion Quartet, Sinta Saxophone Quartet, and Fenway Quintet; acclaimed cellists Zlatomir Fung and Amit Peled; charismatic Norwegian violinist Eldbjørg Hemsing; and the world premiere of The Gilded Cage, a new work commissioned by Newport Classical from three-time GRAMMY®-nominated violinist/composer Curtis Stewart. Other highlights include the festival’s popular Opera Night at The Breakers featuring Così fan tutte in a bold new un-staged production, Sunrise Meditations concerts, a concert inspired by nature at Norman Bird Sanctuary, a free Fourth of July concert at King Park, and this year’s young professional Newport Classical Festival Artists in nine performances throughout the festival.


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