Kay Stern, violin
Susan Freier, violin/viola
Stephen Harrison, cello
Elizabeth Schumann, piano
Mélanie Bonis Matin et Soir for Piano Trio
Dame Ethyl Smyth String Trio (1887)
Mélanie Bonis Piano Quartet No. 1 in B-flat major, Op. 69 (1905)
Our Winter set builds on last season’s commitment to presenting lesser heard works by women composers. Mélanie Bonis just missed studying at the Paris Conservatoire under Fauré. Like so many talented women, her parents discouraged her studies, forcing her to drop out as soon as she became engaged. It wasn’t until 1891 that she was recognized via a musical competition, one that she entered under the name M. Bonis. The jury awarded her first prize, initially mistaking her for a man! Bonis was a gifted composer of songs, and her Piano Quartet in B-flat major, Op. 69 is a wonderful example of her feel for melody and atmosphere.
Dame Ethel Smyth, like Bonis born in 1858, led a very different life from her French contemporary. She was an avid member of the woman’s suffrage movement. Despite suffering the same bigotry toward her work that plagued other female composers – her father was very much opposed to her work as a composer – she became the first female composer to be granted a damehood. Her ambitious String Trio, like so much of her chamber music, has only recently been resurrected.
The Ives Collective, formed in 2015 by Co-Artistic Directors Susan Freier and Stephen Harrison, following the disbanding of the Ives Quartet, is comprised of an impressive and ever evolving roster of musicians who bring together careers worth of experience at great music making organizations such as at the San Francisco Symphony, San Francisco Opera, San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, San Francisco Chamber Orchestra, New Century Chamber Orchestra, the Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Contemporary Music Players, Opera Parallèle, and various university faculties and festivals.
At the core of the Collective’s inspiration is its members’ joy in playing richly varied chamber repertoire with longtime friends and colleagues for eager concert attendees. Its roster allows for the programming of virtually all the core string, wind, vocal and piano chamber music repertoire—from vocal duos to clarinet quintets to wind and string octets. While all its members have independent careers as ensemble members, soloists and chamber musicians, they strive for every opportunity to come together and share in this special collaboration aimed at presenting powerful live music experiences through fresh and informed interpretations of established masterworks and under-appreciated gems.