Bravo! Backstage Access: Classically Uncorked is bringing new music to intimate settings (column)
Bravo! Vail SCHEDULE
• 6 p.m. Friday, July 27, Gerald R. Ford Amphitheater — New York Philharmonic Closing: Ravel & Scheherazade, with Hans Graf, conductor, and Louis Lortie, piano, featuring Debussy/Orch. Ravel’s “Sarabande et Danse,” Ravel’s Piano Concerto for the Left Hand and Rimsky-Korsakov’s “Scheherazade.”
• 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, July 31, Donovan Pavilion — Clasically Uncorked Series: Voices + Quartet: A Sonic Dialogue, with the Dover Quartet strings and the Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble, featuring Stravinsky’s Three Pieces for String Quartet, Mazzoli’s “Vesper Sparrow,” Brittelle’s “High Done No Why To,” Haydn’s String Quartet in F minor, Op. 20, No. 5, Greenstein’s “Montmartre,” Dudley’s “Suonare/To Sound,” Hearne’s “Letter to My Father” and Mendelssohn’s String Quartet No. 6 in F minor, Op. 80.
• 7:30 p.m. Wednesday, Aug. 1, Donovan Pavilion — Clasically Uncorked Series: Voices + Quartet + Piano: Little Match Girl & Mozart, with Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, Dover Quartet strings and Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble, featuring David Lang’s “The Little Match Girl Passion” and Mozart’s Fantasy for Solo Piano in D minor and String Quartet in D minor, K. 421.
• 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 2, Donovan Pavilion — Clasically Uncorked Series: Voices + Quartet + Piano: Intoxicating Harmonies, with free pre-concert talk at 6:30 p.m. and Anne-Marie McDermott, piano, Dover Quartet strings and Roomful of Teeth vocal ensemble, featuring Ravel’s “Pavane for a Dead Princess” for Solo Piano, Gabriella Smith’s “Requiem” (world premiere of a Bravo! Vail commission) and Dohnanyi’s Piano Quintet No. 1 in C minor.
Classically Uncorked, held from Tuesday, July 31, through Thursday, Aug. 2, is Bravo! Vail’s innovative series that showcases the past, present and future of chamber music from around the world. Presented by Meiomi Wine in a stunning mountain setting, these three unforgettable evenings combine intimate music, handcrafted wines and gourmet hors d’oeuvres.
Classically Uncorked was initially inspired by our love for 20th- and 21st-century music. We set out to share the best music we know by the most compelling composers, whether or not it was familiar or brand new to our discerning audience. What we discovered in joining groups such as Roomful of Teeth, a decidedly modern vocal ensemble, and the Dover String Quartet, a classical ensemble whose roots are squarely in the 19th century, is that music does not exist in a silo.
The juxtaposition of works by Stravinksy and Haydn with works by living composers such as Missy Mazzoli and William Brittelle is a fascinating, fun and illuminating opportunity. There is no real separation, just an evolution of what is possible in sound and expression.
Seamless Sound Worlds
For the first half of the Tuesday concert, we are trying something new. Instead of pausing for applause between each work, we are asking the audience to listen to all of the works in the first half without interruption, so it becomes one seamless experience.
We want the sound worlds of these two groups to resonate with each other along a musical journey — like listening to Spotify or Pandora without commercials. It’s why we put the works in a particular order, and we think it will be thrilling for the audience to be immersed in the sonic world of a string quartet, and then an a cappella vocal ensemble and back to a quartet again.
Pulitzer Prize-Winning Music
Another highlight of Classically Uncorked on Wednesday is Roomful of Teeth singing David Lang’s “Little Match Girl Passion,” a work awarded both a Grammy and the Pulitzer Prize. The composer created a special arrangement of a Hans Christian Anderson story that paints a poignant, dream-filled picture of the space between hope and suffering. It is one of the most beautiful works of our time. We’ve paired it with two works by Mozart in D minor, the powerfully intense key, used by the composer for his most plaintive expressions.
A World Premiere at Bravo! Vail
When Roomful of Teeth made its Bravo! Vail debut several years ago, we knew we wanted them to return, so we asked them what would be most interesting for them to present. Brad Wells, the vocal ensemble’s artistic director, did not hesitate to say they wanted to perform a new work that included string quartet. The Dover Quartet was everyone’s first choice.
Over a period of six months, Anne-Marie McDermott and I organized conference calls during which Wells and members of Dover discussed an extensive list of composers. It was the most fascinating process to hear musicians exchange ideas about which composer would be best for the project.
The list was narrowed down to two choices, Gabriella Smith and Chris Rogerson. Smith’s schedule was more conducive to writing a work for 2018, so we offered it to her and offered Rogerson the opportunity to write a work for the Dover Quartet in 2020.
Commissioned as part of the Festival’s New Works Project, Smith’s piece is written for eight voices and string quartet and will be performed on Thursday. For this evocative work, the composer derived her text from the Latin names of all the species that have gone extinct over the past 100 years, creating a poignant backdrop for her “Requiem.”
“The piece is intended to offer us the chance to consider our impact on the environment, as well as our place in Earth’s history on a larger, geological/environmental scale,” Smith said of her work. “I chose the Latin names to give the text a similar sound to the language of the traditional Requiem (despite its drastically different content) and also to relate it to the sacred and secular texts of the Medieval and Renaissance vocal music I love so much.
“The music itself drifts back and forth between these older types of sounds and more textural, percussive and less traditional techniques.”
Born in Berkeley in 1991, Smith studied composition with Arkadi Serper, Yiorgos Vassiladonakis and Pulitzer Prize-winner John Adams before she entered the Curtis Institute in Philadelphia as a student of David Ludwig, Jennifer Higdon and Richard Danielpour. She is currently a doctoral candidate at Princeton University.
For more details on the Classically Uncorked series, visit http://www.BravoVail.org.