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New World broadcast premiere Sunday, September 27.

Chamber Music Series

LIVE FRIDAY September 18
STREAM SUNDAY September 27



Featuring composers who admired America or chose to immigrate here

Klezmer music emerged in the Ashkenazi Jewish communities of the Ottoman Empire in what is now Romania, Moldavia, and Ukraine.

“Klezmers” were band musicians who played primarily for Jews at weddings and other secular events, but were at various times and places allowed to perform for Christians as well. Until the 19th century, klezmer was an entirely oral musical tradition, usually passed from father to son, so historians can only speculate on what the music sounded like before then.


The clarinet was likely not common in klezmer bands until 1855 when Ukraine lifted the ban on loud instrumental playing in its Jewish communities. Before then, the violinist was usually the band leader.


The clarinet was the violin’s natural successor as it is capable of many of the same inflections: glissandi (sliding between notes), krekhts (choking), and extreme dynamic variation, to name a few. It also introduced some of its own effects such as the growl and the tshok (laughter).

Classical violinists and clarinetists must shift their values if they want to play in the klezmer style. A singing, pure-vowel legato doesn’t go very far in the cantatorial klezmer idiom. Like the Yiddish language of the original klezmers, klezmer music is a consonant-heavy affair.


Gene Kavadlo is one such classical musician who embraced the dark side. He was Principal Clarinet of the Charlotte Symphony in North Carolina for 43 years. Nine years into his day job, he founded VIVA KLEZMER! His arrangement of the following four dances was adapted for wind quintet by Adam Lesnick, a french horn player, arranger, and music publisher.


First is the Freylekh, which means “happy.” It is a lively circle dance played at moderate to bright tempo. The Khosidlis a slow dance that invites the klezmers to supplement ornamentations. The Kolomeyke is a couple’s dance with very short melodic material that gets faster as it goes. And finally, the Kamariska is a fast dance resembling a polka.

– Notes by Cameron Winrow

Little Scenes from China is full of energy and hauntingly beautiful sonorities and harmonies.

Born in Nanjing, China, Soong Fu-Yuan (1933-2005) studied and composed music at a young age. When he was 18, he moved to America to study composition. At that time, the American new music was dominated by serialism and the avant-garde.


Though Soong composed many piano, chamber, orchestral and operatic works, his music could not find an outlet since he refused to adhere to these new styles which he thought were artificial. In 1989, Tchaikovsky Competition Laureate pianist Paul Rutman accidentally discovered Soong’s Poems for Piano. Astonished that these beautiful works had never been performed, he decided to record them.


Rutman’s CD received quick acceptance and praise after it was released in 1990, bringing many of Soong’s other works to recognition as well. The composer’s twin loves were Chinese poetry and Western classical music, which influenced many of his works, including Little Scenes from China.


Soong’s quintet in the style of traditional Chinese music is in five short, contrasting movements depicting various scenes of China, old and new. The movements are New Year’s Day, A Little Boat on the River Li, Fast Ride on the South Sea, In the Moonlight, Thinking of a Place Far, Far Away, and Flower Drum Song. The work is full of energy and hauntingly beautiful sonorities and harmonies.


– Notes by Paul Chinen


Chinook Winds

"...the entire ensemble is challenged to the limits of their technical abilities before bringing the piece to a fiery conclusion."

– Miguel del Águila

Wind Quintet No. 2 was written in 1994 and premiered the same year in Santa Barbara, CA by the Bach Camerata. In 1995, the work won Miguel del Águila the Kennedy Center Friedheim Award for Excellence in Chamber Music Composition.

The four movements are held together by an undisclosed program that takes the listener through four different places (movements), as would the four acts of a play. Back in Time has a primitive, ritualistic character. The flute, accompanied by chant, plays a simple, modal theme. The simple musical structure and melodic material are retained as the movement progresses. In Heaven is a delicate, relaxed, and stylized Caribbean dance. Extensive new performance techniques and effects are used in this movement, which at times makes the quintet sound like a delicate, distant percussion ensemble. Under the Earth is perhaps the composer’s darkest and most realistic musical depiction of death.  


Miguel del Águila:

“The wind quintet is often thought of as an ensemble dominated by the high instruments with limited bass support. I tried to prove the contrary with this movement which explores not only the expressive depth of the wind ensemble but the extreme low registers of some of the instruments. 


Far Away takes us to a busy scene in the Middle East. Several Arabic maqams and oboe solos, combined with a didgeridoo sounding ostinato bass are used to create an exotic fabric in which the entire ensemble is challenged to the limits of their technical abilities before bringing the piece to a fiery conclusion.

Miguel del Águila was born in Uruguay in 1957 and began his musical studies in that country. Having immigrated to the United States in 1978, he later graduated from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music before moving to Vienna to continue studies.


It was in Germany that Águila first began to receive wide critical acclaim and the responses have only intensified as his career has progressed. Miguel del Águila has worked with orchestras around the world and received countless honors and awards, including three Grammy nominations.


Once hailed as “one of the West Coast’s most promising and enterprising young composers,” his music has also been called “sonically dazzling” (Los Angeles Times), “with irresistible rhythms” (San Francisco Sentinel), “wildly exuberant…exquisitely imaginative… [and] absolutely mesmerizing” (Fanfare).


Miguel del Águila

Chamber Music Series

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