May & June 2022
A Mirror of Starlight
Kenji Bunch (b. 1973) | Diddley Bow
Julia Wolfe (b. 1958) | The Four Marys
Evan Ziporyn (b.1959) | Be-In for String Quartet and Bass Clarinet in B-flat
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756—1791) | Clarinet Quintet in A-major, K581
Sasha Callahan and Megumi Stohs Lewis, violins
Alexander Vavilov, viola
Leo Eguchi, cello
Guest Artist: Evan Ziporyn, clarinet
Our first piece, Diddley Bow, was a seed planted in the fertile soils of the American South. What exactly is a ‘diddley bow’? It’s a simple one string folk guitar, usually a homemade cigar-box type construction, played with a glass bottle as a slide. As humble as its constituent parts, this instrument is the foundation of what we think of as the crying blues guitar sound - think Stevie Ray Vaughn or B.B. King. In the hands of Kenji Bunch, the sound of the diddley bow blooms into a perfect little gem of a violin duo, in the mold of Bela Bartók’s famous forty duets (based on the music of Bartók’s own Eastern European roots). To wit, this duo is one installment of a larger project to create an American companion to the famous Bartók set.
Julia Wolfe’s Four Marys is another work which owes its genesis to an American folk instrument. In her own words: Four Marys was inspired by my love for the mountain dulcimer, a 3-stringed lap instrument from Appalachia. It is the one string instrument I play.The material is derived from gestures that are characteristic of dulcimer playing – the crying quality of the sliding melody string, the mesmerizing strumming of the drone strings. It is as if I have put a magnifying glass on these sounds to look at them up close and big.The title Four Marys is the name of a Scottish folk tune that I heard Jean Richie sing and play on the mountain dulcimer. — Julia Wolfe
Be-In, by featured composer and performer Evan Ziporyn, is another work inspired by uniquely American traditions and sounds, this time blending the hippie movement of the 1960’s with references to the influential American minimalist work, In C, by Terry Riley. The result is groovy, with fun swirls of color and a dark, throbbing grittiness.
Whereas the composers on the first part of our program lift our everyday experiences up out from the earth, Mozart seems to use the language of heaven to sing the blues. The late 1780’s was for him a time of both incredible difficulty and inspiration. He had already ceased to make public concert appearances, which combined with economic strain of the Austro-Turkish on the patron class, caused great hardship. Add to that what seems to have been an acute depression, and it boggles the mind what he was able to produce, including his opera Così fan tutte, his final three symphonies, and this incredible Clarinet Quintet.
The work opens with a transcendent lyricism that puts in motion the character of the whole work. Set in the key of A Major, the strings ring with a warmth that rides on air. The movement is peppered with passages of incredible virtuosity, passing throughout the ensemble, and finally closes with joyous outburst. The middle movements (the second slow and the third a minuet), continue the balance of beautiful moving lines and energetic verve. The Minuet is notable in that it is constructed with an extra trio section - meaning it follows an ABACA form instead of the usual ABA. In the final movement, Mozart passes up the traditional Rondo form for something a little more terrestrial, a theme and set of variations. Some composers looked down on variation sets as simple, perhaps even student efforts, and here the simplicity might ring partly true. Our theme is brightly chirpy, and in uncharacteristically regular phrase lengths, yet what Mozart evolves from it is anything but square. He unfolds a tale of clever twists and turns, one which ultimately races to a seemingly inevitable happy ending.
~ Leo Eguchi
Composer Evan Ziporyn (b. 1959 Chicago) has collaborated with Yo-Yo Ma, Brooklyn Rider, Steve Reich, Paul Simon, Maya Beiser, Ethel, Anna Sofie Von Otter, the American Composers Orchestra, Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Sandeep Das, Iva Bittova, Terry Riley, Don Byron, Wu Man, and Bang on a Can. His music was featured in Ken Burns and Lynn Novick’s The Vietnam War (2017), and on Silkroad’s Grammy-winning Sing Me Home (2016).
Ziporyn studied at Eastman, Yale, and UC Berkeley with Joseph Schwantner, Martin Bresnick, and Gerard Grisey. He received a Fulbright in 1987, founded Gamelan Galak Tika in 1993. His opera A House in Bali (2009) was featured at BAM Next Wave 2010.
From 1992-2012 he served as music director, producer, and composer/arranger for the Bang on a Can Allstars, winning Musical America’s Ensemble of the Year award in 2005. Honors include a USA Artist Fellowship, the Goddard Lieberson Prize from the American Academy, Massachusetts Cultural Council Fellowship, and commissions from Carnegie Hall, Kronos Quartet, Rockefeller Multi-Arts Program, and Meet the Composer. At MIT he is Kenan Sahin Distinguished Professor of Music and Faculty Director of the Center for Art, Science and Technology.
His orchestral reimagining of David Bowie's final album, Blackstar, with cellist Maya Beiser, was released on January 2020. Since that work’s 2017 premiere, Ziporyn has conducted it in Barcelona, New York Central Park Summerstage, Australia's Adelaide Fringe Festival, Strathmore Hall, and numerous other national and international venues. Other recent works include the collaborative immersive installation Arachnodrone with Christine Southworth, the 2022 album Pop Channel, and 2021's 365 Stories for Caveh Zahedi’s daily podcast.
(May 31, June 5, 11 & 12) With a sound palette ranging from a ‘commanding tone’ to ‘delicate sentiment’ (Calgary Herald), Taiwanese-American violinist Zenas Hsu leads a vibrant career filled with chamber music, orchestral leadership, and education. He is a member of A Far Cry, a Grammy nominated ensemble in Boston. Zenas serves as concertmaster of Phoenix, an orchestra based in Boston focused on approachable concert experiences, and serves as principal second violin with the Boston Ballet.
Zenas is a frequent guest artist of Bard Music West and the Wellesley Chamber Players and has served as guest concertmaster of ensembles and orchestras all over the world, including the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra. World and national premiere performances include works by Robert Honstein, Philip Glass, Matthew Aucoin, Jessie Montgomery, Lembit Beecher, and others. He is a founding member of Chamber Music by the Bay, a California-based interactive music series that reaches over 2,000 people annually.
A native of California, Zenas received his early training in the preparatory division of the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He was accepted at age sixteen to the Curtis Institute of Music for his Bachelor of Music degree, and received his Master of Music and Graduate Diploma degrees from the New England Conservatory of Music. His teachers include Donald Weilerstein, Nicholas Kitchen, Ida Kavafian, and Wei He.
(June 24, 25 & 26) Violinist Yonah Zur has performed throughout Israel, the US, and Europe. He has had solo appearances with the Jerusalem Symphony, the Israel Contemporary Players, and the Israel Camerata Jerusalem. He has appeared as a guest with the Boston Chamber Music Society, the Lydian Quartet at Brandeis University, DeCoda at Carnegie Hall, Newburyport Chamber Music Festival, the Birdfoot Festival in New Orleans, Scrag Mountain Music in Northern Vermont, and guest appearances with the Shelter Music Boston, Boston Chamber Music Society and A Far Cry.
Yonah Zur was a member of Israel’s Carmel Quartet for two seasons and served as assistant principal second violin with the Jerusalem Symphony Orchestra for six seasons.
He is a Teaching Assistant at Harvard University, and is proud to be on the staff of the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras for his ninth season. He has been engaging young new audiences with chamber music for the past twenty years.
Mr. Zur has participated in the Marlboro, Yellow Barn, Tanglewood, Newburyport and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern summer festivals. He has taught at Longy School, the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance, Opus 188 Harlem School of Music and the JCC Tenafly. He graduated from the Jerusalem Academy of Music and Dance having studied with Avi Abramovich, and earned his Masters at The Juilliard School with Robert Mann. He was a recipient of the AICF scholarships from 1995-2003.