Wednesday, January 5, 2005

Press Release: "XX05"

Contact: Dominique Pelletey, (510) 595-8448

The Del Sol String Quartet announces a program of contemporary music titled “XX05”

Who: Del Sol String Quartet
What: Keyla Orozco (1969, Cuba), Para Variar (2002) US premiere
Julia Wolfe (1958), Dig Deep (1998)
Joan Tower (1938), Night Fields (1994)
Gabriela Ortiz (1964, Mexico), Quartet No.1 (1990)
Amy Beach (1867), Quartet for Strings (in One Movement), Opus 89 (1929)

Variety and experimentation, energy and intensity are the threads that connect the five women composers featured on this program. From 1929, when Amy Beach was creating an American style for the first time by incorporating Inuit melodies into her music, to Keyla Orozco’s Cuban rhythms infiltrating her work at the end of the century, this program delights the audience with its sheer range of sounds and styles. From Joan Tower’s contemplative moments to Julia Wolfe’s impassioned outbursts, the Del Sol String Quartet present an exciting concert celebrating the achievements of women of the Americas.

When and Where:

Wednesday, February 16 - 8pm
ASHBY STAGE, 1901 Ashby Avenue @ MLK, Berkeley

Friday, February 18 - 8pm
GREEN ROOM, San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center
401 Van Ness Avenue, San Francisco

Saturday, February 19 - 8pm
DANCE PALACE, 503 B Street, Point Reyes Station

Sunday, February 20 - 4pm –
TATEUCHI HALL, Community School of Music and Arts at Finn Center
230 San Antonio Circle, Mountain View

How much: Tickets: $21 general l $14 seniorsl $7 students, kids
tel: (415) 831-5672
Del Sol String Quartet
778 32nd Avenue
San Francisco, CA 94121

The program:
Variety and experimentation, energy and intensity are the threads that connect the five women composers featured on this program. From 1929, when Amy Beach was creating an American style for the first time by incorporating Inuit melodies into her music, to Keyla Orozco’s Cuban rhythms infiltrating her work at the end of the century, this program delights the audience with its sheer range of sounds and styles. From Joan Tower’s contemplative moments to Julia Wolfe’s impassioned outbursts, the Del Sol String Quartet present an exciting concert celebrating the achievements of women of the Americas.
Many of the works grew out of close collaboration between quartet and composer, with the playing style and temperament of specific musicians influencing the writing. Joan Tower was approached by the Muir Quartet to write her very first string quartet, and it was with confidence in their interpretive skills and emotional capacity that she embarked on this daunting project. Julia Wolfe has worked with some of the most imaginative ensembles in the country, including her own group Bang on a Can, Kronos and Ethel. In Dig Deep she explores the power and stamina that four people can create together. Like Tower and Wolfe, Amy Beach was also a performer and composer, with a wonderful sense of what works on stage. In this late string quartet, her only work in the medium, she foreshadows the dissonances and rhythmic complexities that later composers would explore more fully. The two Latin American composers on this program both show their indebtedness to the Western traditions of quartet writing as well as influence from their ethnic heritage. Ortiz masterfully weaves a complex tale into a concise nine-minute work, with harmonies and rhythmic influences from Bartok and Latin percussion rhythms. Orozco’s work is almost minimalist in its use of material, creating tension and energy through repetition; percussive effects using different playing techniques and the players feet hark to the Cuban drumming tradition, while harmonically Orozco has found a very personal sound.

The Pieces:

Amy Beach String Quartet in One Movement, Op. 89, (1929)
The String Quartet in One Movement, Op. 89 was sketched out in 1921 at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. Inspired by the three "meagre" (Beach's word) Eskimo or Inuit tunes she used as themes, Beach created a work that is at once dissonant and chromatic yet lyrical, tonally grounded in G minor but with extended sections where the music never settles on any key. While wintering in Rome in 1929 Beach completed the String Quartet with minor revisions and had a local quartet play it for her. Back in the States there were a number of performances during the 1930s, beginning with an invitational program given in New York in January, 1931 by the Society of American Women Composers, of which Beach was a founder and the first president. Its final performance during her lifetime was at a festival of Beach's music at the Phillips Memorial Gallery in Washington, D.C. in November, 1942 to celebrate her 75th birthday. Reviewers found it a work of "unusual beauty."

Keyla Orozco, Para Variar (2002)
A sparse, percussive opening movement gives way to a set of variations that explore rhythmic gestures. Starting in a pointillistic fashion, with outbursts from each instrument solo, the work build complexity with crossing lines, gathering momentum to a frenzied unison passage and ending with driving fortissimo chords. The piece was commissioned by the Dutch Fonds voor Scheppende Toonkunst, and premiered and dedicated to the Mondriaan Quartet.

Joan Tower, Night Fields (1994)
Night Fields (1994), for string quartet, is dedicated to the Muir String Quartet. Tower’s title suggests the moods created in the piece, which she describes as “a cold, windy night in wheat fields lit up by a bright, full moon, where waves of fast-moving colors ripple over the fields, occasionally settling on a patch of gold.”

Gabriela Ortiz, Cuarteto no. 1
Ortiz’s early work shows a natural affinity for the medium, which she was to explore in profound detail in her later work Altar das Muertas, which has received performances by both Kronos and Cuarteto Latinoamericano throughout the world. In the one movement Cuarteto no. 1, Ortiz explores the emotional range of string writing, beginning with a mysterious, dark mood that breaks away into a lighter, energetic section marked by unison chords and duets of instruments playing contrasting material. The piece is circular in structure, ending in the slow, peaceful mood of the opening.

Julia Wolfe, Dig Deep(1998)
In Dig Deep the players dig deep into the strings to create a dense, thick, intense, reedy sound. The music wrestles back and forth between the deep attacks and frenzied tunes. The piece reflects a personal struggle, digging deep for compassion and understanding. Dig Deep was commissioned for the Kronos Quartet with support from Nora Norden.

Composer biographies:

Amy Marcy Beach (1867-1944)
Born Amy Marcy Cheney in Henniker, NH. in 1867, Mrs. H.H. Beach, as she styled herself after her marriage to a prominent physician in 1885, became the first woman composer to achieve wide recognition in America. A child prodigy on the piano, she made her Boston concert debut at age sixteen. Within two years she had performed Chopin's F MINOR CONCERTO FOR PIANO AND ORCHESTRA with the Boston Symphony and had begun to tour widely as a soloist. After marriage to Dr. Beach, however, she curtailed her concertizing in favor of homemaking. It was during this period until her husband's death in 1910 that Mrs. Beach first began to compose. Her FESTIVAL JUBILATE, written for the dedication of the Women's Building at Chicago's Columbian Exposition of 1892, won recognition for her as a serious composer in the Romantic genre. She followed this success with a GAELIC SYMPHONY, performed by the Boston Symphony in 1896, and her PIANO CONCERTO IN C-SHARP minor in 1899, which she herself premiered with the same orchestra. As a widow, Mrs. Beach resumed her concertizing in America and Germany and increased her compositional output. In addition to her piano music and large scale orchestral works, she created more than 150 songs, almost all in the grand, operatic, heart-on-sleeve vein of the late 19th century. Settings like AH, LOVE, BUT A DAY! and THE YEAR'S AT THE SPRING became staples of the early 20th century concert repertory.

Keyla Orozco (b. 1969)
Keyla Orozco studied piano and music theory in Santiago de Cuba and later in Havana at the Escuela Nacional de Arte (ENA) with Ileana Bautista . After that she studied composition at the Instituto Superior de Arte (ISA) in Havana with Harold Gramatges (1988-93). She continued her composition studies as a post-graduate student in The Netherlands with Theo Loevendie at the Royal conservatory in The Hage and Amsterdam Conservatory (1995-98).

Orozco has won several awards and prizes, including a Guggenheim Latin American & Caribbean fellowship Award in New York (2000), the Cintas Fellowship for creative arts, awarded by the Institute of International Education in New York (2003) and Two prizes from the International composition competition René Amengual in Santiago de Chile (1994).

She has received numerous commissions from organizations and ensembles in Holland like: the Nederlands Kamerkoor, Nederlands Fluitorkest, Asko ensemble, VPRO television, Fonds voor de Scheppende Toonkunst, De Ereprijs, Nieuw Ensemble, Amsterdam fonds voor de Kunst and others. Her works has been performed in Festivals and events around the world including Cuba, the Netherlands, USA, Canada, Mexico, Germany, Spain, Ukraine, Austria, Aruba, Venezuela and others. Some of her pieces are published by Donemus (publisher of muziekgroup Nederland), Amsterdam, and six works have been released on cd's in Holland, Mexico and Aruba, including Extremes (1998) and Perpetuumm (1999) by Combustion Chamber ensemble and The New ensemble, both conducted by Rutger van leyden (Ned.). Besides composing, Orozco has been since her studying years an active organizer of music projects to promote contemporary music in Cuba and The Netherlands. See event Q-ba Música 2004 at In 2002 Orozco became assistant of Theo Loevendie in Composition at the Amsterdam's conservatory

Joan Tower
Even as she prepares for her 70th birthday in 2008, Joan Tower's career is as much about looking forward as it is about looking back on a career that already spans over five decades.

Hailed as, "One of the most successful woman composers of all time" in The New Yorker magazine, Joan Tower was inducted in 1998 into the prestigious American Academy of Arts and Letters. She was the first woman ever to receive the Grawemeyer Award in Composition in 1990, and she was inducted into the Academy of Arts and Sciences at Harvard University in the fall of 2004.

Since 1972, Tower has taught at Bard College where she is Asher Edelman Professor of Music. She continues as composer-in-residence with the Orchestra of St. Luke's, a title she also held for eight years at the Yale/Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. Tower's other accolades include the 1998 Delaware Symphony's Alfred I. DuPont Award for Distinguished American Composers and the 2002 Annual Composer's Award from the Lancaster (PA) Symphony. "Tower has truly earned a place among the most original and forceful voices in modern American music" (The Detroit News).

Joan Tower's bold and energetic music, with its striking imagery and novel structural forms, has won large, enthusiastic audiences. From 1969-1984, she was pianist and founding member of the Naumburg Award-winning Da Capo Chamber Players, which commissioned and premiered many of her most popular works. Her first orchestral work, Sequoia, quickly entered the repertory, with performances by orchestras including St. Louis, New York, San Francisco, Minnesota, Tokyo NHK, Toronto, the National Symphony and London Philharmonia. A choreographed version by The Royal Winnipeg Ballet toured throughout Canada, Europe, and Russia. Ms. Tower's tremendously popular five Fanfares for the Uncommon Woman have been played by over 400 different ensembles. Her 1993 ballet Stepping Stones was commissioned by choreographer Kathryn Posin for the Milwaukee Ballet.

Gabriela Ortiz Torres was born in Mexico City, where she studied composition with Mario Lavista at the National Conservatory of Music, and Federico Ibarra at the National University of Mexico. In 1990 she was awarded The British Council Fellowship to study in London with Robert Saxton at The Guildhall School of Music and Drama. In 1992 she received the University of Mexico Scholarship to complete Ph.D. studies in electroacoustic music composition with Simon Emmerson at The City University in London. She currently teaches composition at the Mexican University of Mexico City.

She is considered one of the best of the group of young Mexican composers that have worked towards building a personal musical language that could be based on both musical tradition and the avant-garde; that could combine high art, folk music or jazz in novel, sometimes precious and especially personal ways; and that could be both entertaining and immediate as well as profound and sophisticated. Ortiz Torres’ music achieves a balance between highly organized structure and improvisatory spontaneity.

Julia Wolfe
Born in Philadelphia, Julia Wolfe's music has been performed by a prestigious cast of characters: San Francisco Symphony, Bang on a Can All-Stars, American Composers Orchestra, Piano Circus, Newband, the California EAR Unit, Margaret Leng Tan, Orkest de Volharding, the Cassatt Quartet, the Lark Quartet and Le Nouvel Ensemble Moderne. Crossing over into the worlds of theater and dance, her works have been choreographed by Eliot Feld, Doug Varone, and the Dusseldorf Ballet; she also composed music for Anna Deveare Smith's most recent play House Arrest. She was recently awarded a 1999 Academy Award by the American Academy for the Arts and Letters. Julia Wolfe's appetite for music is wide-ranging and voracious: her enthusiasm for late Beethoven rivaled only by her passion for Led Zeppelin, or perhaps her love of traditional American folk music. These influences and many others can be heard subtly but clearly in her work, yet in no way is her work a pastiche of styles. What then marks Julia Wolfe's musical 'style'? There is not any single identifiable element but, rather, a focus on the act of making sound; sound not for its own sake but as a product of human endeavor, as a beautiful and powerful abstraction that people create, contemplate, imbue with and derive meaning from. Sound is for Julia Wolfe a metaphor for human activity in general, and she approaches it with care and attention to detail that is both masterful and highly respectful. Her work makes this evident in a variety of ways. In her first string quartet Four Marys, the ballad of the same name is not referred to literally, but instead evoked through a minute examination of a sound quality that is culled from Appalachia. It is as if the sound of the dulcimer is put under a microscope, examined with loving detail, and transformed into a music of rare, strange beauty. On the opposite end of the same spectrum lies Window of Vulnerability, written for the American Composers Orchestra, in which the massive sonic universe of rock serves as a source; the music takes this relatively recent musical possibility - sheer volume - and reinvents its function and use These titles - and others such as Arsenal of Democracy, Dig Deep, Amber Waves of Grain and Believing - are evocative but unpolemical, and are thus indicative of Ms. Wolfe's work as a whole. They make their points effectively without harangue or grandstanding. Instead they deliver subtle, powerful messages, allowing the listener to make connections between the music and other, perhaps larger concerns. This highly humanistic message is emblematic of Julia Wolfe's artistic work - a wonderful example of humanly organized sound, working towards a soundly organized humanity.

The Del Sol String Quartet

Since 2001, the San Francisco-based Del Sol String Quartet has immersed itself in the recording and performance of music of the Americas. Their critically acclaimed 2002 CD Tear includes masters of the twentieth century Ruth Crawford, Alberto Ginastera, Earle Brown, Silvestre Revueltas, Astor Piazzolla and Lou Harrison alongside recent works by Gabriela Ortiz, Ronald Bruce Smith, Adriana Figueroa Mañas, Keeril Makan and John Harbison. DSSQ have made a special commitment to include women composers in their programs, juxtaposing premieres of works by Gabriela Lena Frank, Hyo-Shin Na, and Keyla Orozco, with Joan Tower, Julia Wolfe and early twentieth century composers, Amy Beach and Ruth Crawford. Recent works commissioned for the Del Sol String Quartet include those by award-winning composers Keeril Makan and Daniel Bernard Roumain. Upcoming projects that highlight the wealth of cultural diversity in the arts include collaborations with composers Chinary Ung and Reza Vali, as well as a partnering with Melody of China (traditional Chinese ensemble) to premiere a new piece by Kui Dong. Hailed for their "passionate and committed" and "emotionally riveting" performances, the Del Sol String Quartet aim to present music of the twentieth century and beyond with the naturalness of classics. Having won various prestigious grants, and with invitations to perform in festivals throughout the United States, DSSQ is emerging as one of the major proponents for contemporary string music in North America. The Del Sol String Quartet was recognized for its achievements with a 2004 Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming.

No comments: