Yearning and Innocence
Winnie Nieh, soprano
Paul Dab, piano
Michael Robert Smith Peter Quince at the Clavier World Premiere
Franz Schubert Willkommen und Abschied (1st version); Suleika I; Suleika II
Johannes Brahms Sandmännchen; Wiegenlied
Nadia Boulanger Soir d’hiver; Cantique
Aaron Copland The little horses; I bought me a cat; Nature, the gentlest mother; Simple gifts
Soprano Winnie Nieh and pianist Paul Dab perform three Schubert Lieder overflowing with yearning and heartache, the World Premiere of Peter Quince at the Clavier by Michael Robert Smith, and songs of innocence and gratitude by Brahms, N. Boulanger and Copland. Peter Quince at the Clavier is a song cycle set to Wallace Steven’s poem of the same title. The work explores themes on the nature of desire and beauty through the telling of the story of Susannah and the Elders. The music serves to support the text throughout: Accented and intense in movements 1 and 3, and ethereal and lyric in movements 2 and 4. The piece ends suggesting Susannah’s victory over the elders, as her music plays on in honor of her memory.
Soprano Winnie Nieh graduated from Harvard and received Associate diplomas from Trinity College London in piano, violin and voice. Gifted with perfect pitch and a “well-focused”, “impeccably pure and heart-breaking” voice “able to soar above piano or orchestra”, she has appeared as a soloist at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center and the Austrian Embassy, as well as in Germany, Canada, South Korea and Hong Kong. She made her European solo debut with legendary Maestro Helmuth Rilling in Bach’s Cantata BWV 147. She won First Place in St. Andrews Arts Council (Canada)’s International Aria Competition, Third Place & Audience Favorite in Madison Early Music Festival’s Handel Aria Competition, was a National Finalist in New York Lyric Opera’s Competition, and a Runner-up in two consecutive San Francisco Classical Voice Best of the Bay polls – behind world-renowned pianist András Schiff for “Best Recital Soloist” and behind internationally-acclaimed mezzo-soprano Joyce DiDonato for “Best Vocal Recital”. She also serves on the Board of Trustees of the San Francisco-based, Grammy-winning vocal ensemble, Chanticleer.
Later this season, she will be premiering Colin Martin’s Songs from “By Heart” set to texts by Karen McKinnon, with the New Mexico Philharmonic. Besides her acclaimed solo recitals in both the US and Hong Kong, her recent performances include: the soprano solo in Beethoven’s Symphony No.9 at the Hong Kong Cultural Centre, Vaughan Williams’s A Sea Symphony in Boston, and Handel’s Messiah in New Jersey and Colorado.
Paul Dab is a San Francisco based pianist, teacher, vocal coach, and music director. He collaborates with singers and instrumentalists in a variety of musical styles and enjoys presenting audiences with a wide range of music and discussion topics. Paul collaborates with Bay Area organizations including Lamplighters Music Theater, West Bay Opera, and Cinnabar Theater and has been part of the creative process for world premier operas by Hector Armienta and Joseph Colombo. In classes, private lessons, and performances he engages students on a weekly basis through programs at SF Community Music Center, SF Opera Guild, and Schools of the Sacred Heart. Paul has been a dedicated musician since his grandparents first took him to piano lessons at the age of four. He received degrees from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and Vanderbilt University and has worked in educational outreach at the Contemporary Jewish Museum, the Cypress String Quartet, and the Nashville Symphony.
Michael Robert Smith (b. 1989) is an award-winning composer of contemporary concert music. His music has been described as “Relatively simple, elegantly-turned, beautifully vocal music with a compelling through-line from start to finish” (Gabriel Jackson) and has been commissioned and performed by The Crossing, Chorosynthesis, Mouthscape, the SFCM New Music Ensemble, soprano Winnie Nieh, The Glassbrook Vocal Ensemble, Pianist Josh Wilson, The Commonwealth Club of California, cellist Nadia Geier, and violinist Sam Weiser.
Michael has won multiple awards and prizes, including the 1st place prize in the SFCM Biennial Choral Composition competition, 2nd place prize in the SFCM Biennial Art Song Competition, and the Commonwealth Club of California’s Fanfare Commission, which was performed by members of the San Francisco Symphony for the grand opening of the Club’s new building.
In addition to composing, Michael is an active choral performer and church musician, as well as a conductor. He has performed with many prestigious institutions including the New York Philharmonic, The London Philharmonia, the Philadelphia Orchestra (featured soloist), and the Simon Bolivar Orchestra as a member of the Westminster Symphonic Choir.
Michael received his Masters degree from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and his Bachelor’s degree from Westminster Choir College of Rider University.