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Telegraph Quartet and Soprano Abigail Fischer Give World Premiere of Robert Sirota's CONTRAPASSOS

Performances are on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 3pm and on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 3pm.

Telegraph Quartet and Soprano Abigail Fischer Give World Premiere of Robert Sirota's CONTRAPASSOS

The San Francisco-based Telegraph Quartet joins forces with soprano Abigail Fischer to give the world premiere of composer Robert Sirota's Contrapassos for Soprano and String Quartet with libretto by Stevan Cavalier. This work was commissioned by the Sierra Chamber Society, which presents the premiere performance at Grace Presbyterian Church (2100 Tice Valley Blvd) on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 3pm. An additional performance will take place on on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 3pm.on Saturday, June 18, 2022 at 3pm., presented by the Noontime Concerts series at Old St. Mary's Cathedral (660 California St). Originally scheduled for March 2020 and then postponed again in February 2022, this new work was part of Sirota@70, a celebration throughout the 2019-2020 concert season featuring residencies, performances, and premieres in honor of Robert Sirota's 70th birthday.

For the Sierra Chamber Society's concert program, Contrapassos is paired with Ludwig van Beethoven's String Quartet No. 15 in A minor, Op. 132 and Arnold Schoenberg's String Quartet No. 2 Op. 10 for soprano and string quartet. Schoenberg's second string quartet looks back on the overly ripe German romanticism of the past, while staring unflinchingly into the new sound worlds of the future. Beethoven's Op. 132 walks a similar line, looking between the past and the present, as the third movement "Heiliger Dankgesang" or Holy Song of Thanksgiving, turns focus toward the celebration of returning to live performance.

Of the genesis of Contrapassos, Sirota writes, "As a composer, I have found that my best work invariably emerges from the fabric of relationships with others. I am fond of saying that I don't compose pieces so much for instruments or voices, as for specific people." Cavalier and Sirota connected after the Telegraph Quartet performed his third string quartet, Wave Upon Wave (commissioned by The Walter W. Naumburg Foundation for the 2016 Chamber Music Award winners, the Telegraph Quartet) on the Sierra Chamber Series in 2018 and soon thereafter began discussion of this new collaborative work. "Add to this that I have known the great soprano Abigail Fischer literally since before she was born, and you have the perfect alignment of relationships and collaborations," says Sirota.

Stevan Cavalier explains, "Contrapassos, is a term dating from Dante Alighieri's time, perhaps best translated as punishment by inversion of a sin. For example, one who in life was mired in the pursuit of riches is to be forever after condemned to slog through molten gold up to the neck."

Sirota adds, "The piece begins with memories of the quotidian joys of childhood, quickly turning to darkness and thoughts of early death by suicide, heart attacks in middle age, and final judgment. And yet throughout, there is the vigorous embrace of abundant life, of the beauty of our world, and of our striving for faith."

For Noontime Concerts, Telegraph will perform Contrapassos on a program that also features String Quartet No. 4 by Grażyna Bacewicz, and Ravel's String Quartet in F Major. Bacewicz's fourth quartet was written many years after the end of World War II, during which time Bacewicz lived through the Nazi occupation of Warsaw. The work opens with a kind of sorrow-tinged hope that builds to a joyous third movement. Throughout his sole string quartet, Ravel showcases the luminosity of his unique color palette, playing with aural color as vividly as any visual artist of his time.

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