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Concert program for Ensemble for These Times – Old Becomes New

Friday, November 20, 2020 at 8 pm

Download a copy of the program here.

Old Becomes New

Ensemble for These Times
Nanette McGuinness, 
soprano; Anne Lerner, cello; Margaret Halbig, piano; Dalit Warshaw, piano

Program

Mary Bianco (b. 1939)
Are You Born (2020) World Premiere
                        McGuinness and Halbig

***

Marti Epstein (b. 1959)
from American Etudes (1991–2005)
        No.’s 2 and 12                        

Mary Bianco
Etude for Margaret (2020) World Premiere
                        Halbig

***

Juliana Hall (b. 1959)
Through the Guarded Gate (2018) California Premiere
        The Net
A Mother to the War-Makers
        The Old Suffragist
The Modern Woman to Her Lover
The Women’s Litany
                        McGuinness and Halbig

***

from Mystery Variations (2010)
Giuseppe Colombi (1635­–1694) Theme (Chiacona per basso solo)
Pablo Ortiz (b. 1956) Paloma
Esa-Pekka Salonen (b. 1958) Sarabande per un coyote
Steven Stucky (1949–2016) Partite sopra un basso
Tan Dun (b. 1957) Chiacona – after Colombi
                        Lerner

***

John Musto (b. 1954)
from Five Concert Rags (1991–98)
        In Stride                                 

Alden Jenks (b. 1940)
Twilight Mazurka (2020)

David Garner (b. 1954)
from Cinq Hommages (1983, rev.)
        Gershwin
                       
Halbig

***

Grigory Smirnov (b. 1982)
Chaconne (2013)
                        Lerner and Halbig

***

Dalit Warshaw (b. 1974)
Winter Dream (in memoriam Charlotte Salomon) (2016)
                        Warshaw

***

Texts

Are You Born? /I
poem by Muriel Rukeyser (1913–1980)

[Are you born? Are you born?]
A man riding on the meaning of rivers
Sang to me from the cloud of the world:
Are you born? Are you born?
My name is gone into the burning heart
That knows the change deep in the form of things.
—I saw from the treeline all our cities shine.
A woman riding on the moon of ocean
Sang to me through the cloud of the world:
Are you born? Are you born?
The form of growing in leaf and crystal flows,
And in the eyes and rivers of the land.
—From the rock of our sky, I came to recognize.

A voice riding on the morning of air
Sang to me from the cloud of the world:
Are you born? Are you born?
Bring all the singing home;
There is a word of lightning in the grass.
—I stood alive in the young cloud.

Through the Guarded Gate
texts by Margaret Widdemer (1884–1978)

IThe Net
The strangers’ children laugh along the street:
They know not, or forget the sweeping of the Net
Swift to ensnare such little careless feet.

And we—we smile and watch them pass along,
And those who walk beside, soft-smiling, cruel-eyed—
We guard our own—not ours to right the wrong!

We do not care—we shall not heed or mark,
Till we shall hear one day, too late to strive or pray,
Our daughters’ voices crying from the dark!

II – A Mother to the War-Makers

This is my son that you have taken,
Guard lest your gold-vault walls be shaken, Never again to speak or waken.

This, that I gave my life to make,
This you have bidden the vultures break— Dead for your selfish quarrel’s sake!

This that I built of all my years,
Made with my strength and love and tears, Dead for pride of your shining spears!

Just for your playthings bought and sold
You have crushed to a heap of mold
Youth and life worth a whole world’s gold—

This was my son that you have taken,
Guard lest your gold-vault walls be shaken—
This—that shall never speak or waken!

III – The Old Suffragist
She could have loved—her woman-passions beat
Deeper than theirs, or else she had not known
How to have dropped her heart beneath their feet
A living stepping-stone:

The little hands—did they not clutch her heart?
The guarding arms—was she not very tired?
Was it an easy thing to walk apart,
Unresting, undesired?

She gave away her crown of woman-praise,
Her gentleness and silent girlhood grace,
To be a merriment for idle days,
Scorn for the market-place:

She strove for an unvisioned, far-off good,
For one far hope she knew she should not see:
For one far hope she knew she
These—not her daughters—crowned with motherhood
And love and beauty—free.

IV – The Modern Woman to Her Lover
I shall not lie to you any more,
Flatter or fawn to attain my end—
I am what never has been before,
Woman—and Friend.

I shall be strong as a man is strong,
I shall be fair as a man is fair,
Hand in locked hand we shall pass along
To a purer air:

I shall not drag at your bridle-rein,
Knee pressed to knee shall we ride the hill;
I shall not lie to you ever again—
Will you love me still?

V – The Women’s Litany
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!
Lips set smiling and face made fair
Still for you through the pain we bare,
We have hid till our hearts were sore
Blacker things than you ever bore:
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our pain’s sake!

Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!
Light held high in a strife ne’er through
We have fought for our sons and you,
We have conquered a million years’
Pain and evil and doubt and tears—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for our strength’s sake!

Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!
We have held you within our hand,
Marred or made as we broke or planned,
We have given you life or killed
King or brute as we taught or willed—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for your own sake!

Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world’s sake!
We are blind who must guide your eyes,
We are weak who must help you rise,
All untaught who must teach and mold
Souls of men till the world is old—
Let us in through the guarded gate,
Let us in for the world ’s sake!

Program notes

Like most of E4TT’s programs, Old Becomes New grew out of a spark of an idea a few years ago, from our noticing all the wonderful works being written by living composers inspired by familiar forms, styles, and topics. While most of the works on tonight’s program need little explanation, as their forms and/or stylistic connections are self-evident, several beg for a bit more detail about their origins or connections.

First, in considering the theme of old becomes new, what better way to begin than at the beginning, with the world premiere of Mary Bianco’s new setting of feminist poet Muriel Rukeyser’s poem about life, love, change, and awakening, Are You Born? along with a second brand new commission by Bianco, her wonderful Etude for Margaret. We turn next to Through the Guarded Gate, a powerful song cycle on women’s and children’s rights and abuse that Juliana Hall wrote for the Seattle Art Song Society. Premiered on March 8, 2019, the commission was envisioned as part of a nationwide tour of the work. While the tour ended last season, we are honored to perform the cycle’s California premiere.

A different kind of cycle, the Mystery Variations were conceived of by composer Kaija Saariaho and Muriel von Braun as a 50th birthday gift for Braun’s husband, Finnish cellist Anssi Karttunen. The two asked composers he had worked with each to write a variation on a piece that Karttunen had often performed, the Chiacona per basso solo by Giuseppe Colombi (1635–1694).  None of the composers knew who else was writing, and Karttunen agreed to premiere the variations without knowing what he was going to play—hence the title of the collection. In the end, thirty-one composers wrote a single variation, each differing widely in style, technique, use of the cello, and even how the theme was incorporated—or not. On tonight’s program, cellist Anne Lerner will play four of the variations, giving only a taste of what the other twenty-seven hold for the listener.

Finally, we close tonight’s concert with a performance rescheduled from last June due to the pandemic. We are honored to have Dalit Warshaw join us virtually with her own composition, Winter Dream (in memoriam Charlotte Salomon), written in memory of the talented Jewish-German Expressionist artist, Charlotte Salomon (1917–1943). Salomon fled Berlin and Nazi Germany at the age of 22 with her grandparents to live in hiding in still-unoccupied south of France. From 1941–2, just two years, she painted Leben? Oder Theater? (Life? Or Theater?), a 769 canvas autobiographical Gesamtkunstwerk, including cues for musical excerpts by Bach, Schubert and Bizet, as well as other composers and various tunes popular at the time. She perished in Auschwitz in 1943, and her monumental work—part early graphic novel and part three-act Singspiel script—was published posthumously long after the war was over. Writes composer Warshaw, “Charlotte’s detailed and brightly colored depictions of her childhood, compounded with allusions to prominent musical emblems of a dying European culture, led me to musically translate her nostalgia into a contemplation of Schubert’s Die Winterreise. Gute Nacht (the first song of Schubert’s cycle) is used most prominently in tonight’s piece, appearing in the outer sections to both set the tone of the work and usher in its farewell. The middle section is a nightmarish, kaleidoscopic cadenza on themes from other songs in the cycle, as memory and present collide with increasing panic and imminent sense of doom.”

Mary Bianco is a San Francisco-, Paso Robles-, Los Angeles- and New York-based composer of primarily classical chamber music. She received her M.A. degree in Music Composition from Mills College in 2015, her primary teachers being David Bernstein, Fred Frith, Chris Brown and Roscoe Mitchell.  Bianco received her B.A. with concentration in composing from Sarah Lawrence College.
Currently studying with David Garner, her previous teachers include Darius Milhaud, Ezra Laderman, Meyer Kupferman, and Irwin Stahl.  She composed for the Carpenter Trio from 2011 to 2016. Currently she composes for Symphony of the Vines in the Central Coast, the Crescent City Chamber Players, Project: Music Heals Us, The Solera Quartet, The Manhattan Chamber Players, and various California artists.

Composer and 2020 Guggenheim fellow Marti Epstein has seen her music performed by the San Francisco Symphony, Trinity Wall Street’s Time’s Arrow Festival, the Boston Symphony Orchestra Chamber Players in Leipzig, Germany, the Radio Symphony Orchestra of Frankfurt, the Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra of Boston, Ensemble Modern, and members of the Boston Symphony.  She has completed commissions for the Fromm Foundation, The Munich Biennale, the Iowa Brass Quintet, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Longy School of Music, the Ludovico Ensemble, Guerilla Opera, the Radius Ensemble, Tanglewood Music Center, Boston Opera Collaborative, and the Callithumpian Consort. She has been a recipient of a Massachusetts Cultural Council Grant, has twice been a fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center, and has been in residence at the MacDowell Colony.

Juliana Hall (b. 1958) studied piano and composition at the Yale School of Music, earning a Master’s degree in Music Composition in 1987; she received a Guggenheim Fellowship two years later.  A highly-regarded composer of more than 50 vocal works, she has written for Dawn Upshaw and been recorded by Susan Narucki.  Hall’s music has been performed at the 92nd Street Y, Library of Congress, Théâtre du Châtelet, Wigmore Hall, Tanglewood Music Center, Norfolk Chamber Music and Ojai Music Festivals, among others, as well as on the BBC and NPR.  Her first solo CD was released on the MSR Classics label.

Born in Buenos Aires, composer Pablo Ortiz is a professor of composition at the University of California, Davis. Prizes and commissions include the Fromm Music Foundation in 1992, a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1993, the Charles Ives Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 1996 and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters in 2008. In 1997 and 1998, Ortiz was commissioned to write two chamber operas, Parodia and Una voz en el viento, by the Centro Experimental Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires. In 1999 he was commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation to write a piece, Raya en el mar, for the San Francisco Contemporary Music Players. In 2000 from Fideicomiso para la cultura Mexico-US to write children’s songs.

Composer Esa-Pekka Salonen became the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony in 2020. He is the Principal Conductor and Artistic Advisor for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, where the award-winning RE-RITE and Universe of Sound installations have allowed people all over the world to step inside the orchestra through audio and video projections.  As the Music Director of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he is now Conductor Laureate, Salonen was instrumental in opening the Frank Gehry-designed Walt Disney Concert Hall and made the orchestra one of the best attended and funded in the country. He is the Artist in Association at the Finnish National Opera and Ballet, and the cofounder of the annual Baltic Sea Festival

Steven Stucky taught composition at Cornell University from 1980–2014 (Music Department chair from 1992–97), and the Juilliard School (2014–16).  The Composer in Residence for the Los Angeles Philharmonic in 1988, as well as for numerous organizations, he received the ASCAP Deems Taylor Award for his book, Lutoslawski and His Music. A member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, Stucky was awarded the Pulitzer Prize in 2005. Others honors include a 1986 Guggenheim Fellowship, Koussevitsky Foundation Commission, a Bogliasco Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship of the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the ASCAP Victor Herbert Prize, and fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the American Council of Learned Societies, the National Endowment for the Humanities and a 2013 Grammy® Award, among many others.

World-renowned artist and UNESCO Global Goodwill Ambassador, Chinese composer Tan Dun has made an indelible mark on the world’s music scene with a creative repertoire that spans the boundaries of classical music, multimedia performance, and Eastern and Western traditions. A winner of today’s most prestigious honors including the Grammy Award, Oscar/Academy Award, Grawemeyer Award, Bach Prize, Shostakovich Award, and most recently Italy’s Golden Lion Award for Lifetime Achievement, Tan Dun’s music has been played throughout the world by leading orchestras, opera houses, international festivals, and on radio and television. Most recently, Tan Dun was named as Dean of the Bard College Conservatory of Music. As dean, Tan Dun will further demonstrate music’s extraordinary ability to transform lives and guide the Conservatory in fulfilling its mission of understanding music’s connection to history, art, culture, and society.

John Musto is that all too rare exemplar, the classical composer whose work is both critically acclaimed and widely performed. Musto was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for his orchestral song cycle Dove Sta Amore, and is a recipient of two Emmy awards, two CINE Awards, a Rockefeller Fellowship at Bellagio, an American Academy of Arts and Letters award, and a Distinguished Alumnus award from the Manhattan School of Music.  He is currently on the piano faculty of the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, where he also serves as Co-ordinator of the D.M.A. Program in Music Performance. Recorded by Bridge, Harmonia Mundi, Nonesuch, Cedille, Naxos, Hyperion, Innova, Albany, and New World Records, among many, Musto’s music is published by Peermusic Classical.

Composer Alden Jenks has composed both electronic and “acoustic” music in a wide variety of forms— instrumental, vocal, and theatrical. His website—www.aldenjenks.com—shows the range of his work both within and outside music. Jenks received his B.A. from Yale University and an M. A. from the University of California, Berkeley. Recently retired from the SF Conservatory, he was director of electronic music and the recording studio, served as a professor of composition, and was chair of the composition department.

E4TT composer and co-founder David Garner won The American Prize in 2015 for his String Quartet No. 2. Garner’s music has been reviewed as “alluring” and “a heady and touching revelation,” and his works have been performed nationally and internationally by artists such as Suzanne Mentzner, Catherine Cook, Crystal Philippi, David Krakauer, and Matt Haimowitz. Garner’s opera, Mary Pleasant at Land’s End, is in the final stages of pre-production. A faculty member in composition, chamber music, music theory and literature at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Garner is a member of BMI, American Composers Forum, and the American Music Center.

Born in Novosibirsk, Russia, Grigory Smirnov is a composer and pianist based in New York City. His compositions have been performed around the globe in major venues, including Lincoln Center, Tanglewood, Merkin Concert Hall, Moscow Philharmonic Society and The Copenhagen Opera House. His recent CD Dowson Songs… Chaconne was released by Naxos Records and named a “Critic’s Choice” in Opera News. Smirnov’s music has been featured on WQXR and in a number of festivals worldwide, including Tanglewood Music Center (MA, USA), Brevard Music Center (NC, USA), Composers Now (New York), ppIANISSIMO (Sofia, Bulgaria), Chamber Music Sessions (Kiev, Ukraine), CTAM Festival (Moscow, Russia), Blue Lake Summer Arts Festival (MI, USA). He received his M.M.in composition from The Juilliard School (2011) and was a Tanglewood Music Center Fellow in 2011.

Composer, pianist, and thereminist Dalit Warshaw’s works have been performed by ensembles including the NY and Israel Philharmonic Orchestras (Zubin Mehta conducting), the Cleveland Orchestra, and the Boston, Houston, and Grand Rapids Symphonies. A 2016 Guggenheim Fellow, in 2017 she was awarded an OPERA America Discovery Grant, and the Goddard Lieberson Fellowship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. She premiered her piano concerto, Conjuring Tristan, with the Grand Rapids Symphony in 2015. Her theremin concerto, Sirens, performed in 2019 by both BMOP and the Albany Symphony, was listed among “Boston’s Best Classical Music Concerts in 2019” by The Boston Globe. Additional awards include five ASCAP Grants, a Fulbright Scholarship, a Charles Ives Scholarship, and two BMI Awards. Warshaw currently teaches on the composition faculties at Brooklyn College and at the Juilliard School.

About Ensemble for These Times

Awarded second place in 2019 for Chamber Music Performance by The American Prize and 2019 Finalists for the Ernest Bacon Memorial Award for the Performance of American Music, E4TT consists of award-winning soprano and Artistic Executive Director Nanette McGuinness, cellist Anne Lerner, season guest pianist Margaret Halbig, and Artistic Advisor and 2015 American Prize-winning composer David Garner. The group focuses on 20th and 21st century music that is relevant, engaging, original and compelling—music that resonates with today and speaks to tomorrow, that harnesses the power of artistic beauty, intelligence, wit, lyricism, and irony to create a deep understanding of our times and the human condition. E4TT performed at the 2016 Krakow Culture Festival, at the Conservatorio Teresa Berganza in Madrid in 2017, was sponsored by the U.S. Embassy in Budapest in 2014 for a four-city tour in Hungary, and made its international debut in Berlin. E4TT has performed locally at the German Consulate General, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, Old First Concerts, JCC Peninsula, Trinity Chamber Concerts, and Noontime Concerts, among other venues, and has commissioned 25 works and two arrangements.

E4TT’s critically acclaimed debut CD, Surviving: Women’s Words (Centaur, 2016) won a Silver Medal in the 2016 Global Music Award and was reviewed as “fascinating,” “passionate,” “deeply moving” and “compelling.” Lesley Mitchell Clarke (The Whole Note) wrote, “Now more than ever, as the U.S. experiences a déjà vu of hatred and is poised on the brink of societal unravelling, the potent and timeless messages of survival, love, tolerance and forgiveness contained on this brilliant presentation need to resonate throughout the world.” The group’s second CD, The Hungarians: From Rózsa to Justus (Centaur, 2018) won a Gold Medal in the 2018 Global Music Awards. E4TT released its third CD, Once/Memory/Night: Paul Celan, in June 2020; the recording was chosen as the Center for New Music’s Album of the Week for the week of July 17. In choosing it, curator Kurt Rohde wrote, “The members of Ensemble For These Times are longstanding, expert champions of forgotten work by those nearly lost to history, as well as bringing up new voices who have meaningful new work to share. Their newest recording is further evidence of this mission.”  Jason Victor Serenus (SFCV.org) described it as “skillful,” “moving,” “chilling,” and “effective.”

Season guest pianist Margaret Halbig is in high demand as a collaborative artist in both the instrumental and vocal fields. On staff at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music since 2011, she regularly performs recitals, masterclasses, and lessons and has collaborated with many of esteemed Bay Area musicians including mezzo-soprano Frederica Von Stade, San Francisco Symphony Principal Trombonist Timothy Higgins, and San Francisco Symphony’s principal tubist Jeffrey Anderson. An advocate of new and contemporary music, Halbig is the pianist for Ninth Planet, a San Francisco-based new music collective and a member of the wind-and-piano sextet Frequency 49. Halbig was a Collaborative Teaching fellow at Interlochen Arts in 2017 and 2018 in both collaborative and solo piano and has been the pianist for Young Women’s Chorus of San Francisco since 2014.

Cellist Anne Lerner completed her B.A. in Music at Northwestern University as a Cello Performance major after three years as a Spanish Literature major at Bryn Mawr College, then attending the San Francisco Conservatory of Music, where she earned a Master of Music in Cello Performance. She has performed with numerous Bay Area orchestras and is a much sought-after chamber musician and performer of contemporary music. A dedicated educator, Lerner conducts two youth orchestras in the Marin Symphony Youth Program, is on the faculties of Dominican University and San Rafael High School, and maintains a large private studio.

Soprano and E4TT co-founder and Artistic Executive Director Nanette McGuinness has performed in 12 languages on two continents in over 25 roles with the Silesian State (Czech Republic), Opera San Jose (Opera in the Schools), and West Bay, Pacific Repertory, Trinity Lyric, and Livermore Valley Operas, among others. Solo concert engagements include Mahler’s Fourth Symphony, as well as Shéhérézade (Ravel), Nuits d’étés (Berlioz), Stabat Mater (Rossini), Requiem (Fauré), Gloria (Vivaldi), Lord Nelson Mass (Haydn), Vesperae Solennes (Mozart), and Handel’s Messiah and Solomon. Her CD of music by 19th and 20th century women composers, Fabulous Femmes (Centaur)—which was called “perfect for the song recital lover” by Chamber Music Magazine—features several premiere recordings.