Violinist Nicholas DiEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon release their second recording on New Focus, this one a chronicle of their commissioning project, Unraveling Beethoven. The duo approached several composers, Tonia Ko, David Kirkland Garner, Jesse Jones, Robert Honstein, and Allen Anderson, and asked them to write works that are inspired by Beethoven's Violin Sonatas. The attractive results display a range, from a mixture of direct references to Beethoven's work to more oblique reactions to the violin sonatas.
|01||The Sky Was Good For Flying (2016)|
The Sky Was Good For Flying (2016)
Olmsted (2017)Robert Honstein
|03||I. Jamaica Pond|
I. Jamaica Pond
|04||II. The Ramble|
II. The Ramble
|05||III. Long Meadow|
III. Long Meadow
|06||IV. World's End|
IV. World's End
|07||Tribute (Axis II) (2016)|
Tribute (Axis II) (2016)
|08||Scherzo (After Beethoven) (2016)|
Scherzo (After Beethoven) (2016)
"In approaching the ten Beethoven violin sonatas as a whole, we have commissioned the composers Allen Anderson, David Garner, Robert Honstein, Jesse Jones, and Tonia Ko to respond to specific pairings of sonatas in the context of various musical fabrics—the sonic threads that are woven together by a composer to produce a musical work’s aural tapestry. We’ve asked these composers to pull on a “loose thread” of Beethoven’s and reweave it. Originally intended to be included in a cycle of five concerts consisting of two Beethoven sonatas paired with one new work, we have been inspired by our work with these five wonderful composers, as well as many of the listeners at the premieres of these various works, to send these new pieces out into the world together on one album, standing apart from (but very much in relation to) Beethoven. In this way, one could consider these new works as distinct, unique mushrooms, having nonetheless all sprouted from the same Beethovenian mycelium.
As part of our ongoing, lifelong engagement with the Beethoven violin sonatas, we think a lot about how we hear these works and the things we notice–not just on repeated hearings, but also with 21st century ears and sensibilities. To de-canonize, unravel, and humanize a figure like E.T.A. Hoffman’s heroic Beethoven is paradoxical; we seek a new image for “Beethoven” in our post-canonic age, yet in so doing we reanimate this figure in a different way. We are writing a new chapter in our ongoing relationship with this music.
We are grateful to the many contributions of Allen, Tonia, Dave, Robert, and Jesse over the past two years, and humbled by the various ways that Unraveling Beethoven continues to evolve as a creative group project. Thanks to our fabulous producer Tom Chiu, whose enthusiasm and indomitable musical spirit we so deeply admire and respect. Thanks also to our incredible sound engineer Ryan Streber of Oktaven Studios for his eternally fresh ears and Midas touch. Thanks to the various presenting organizations for believing in this project, and for programming world premieres; in New York at the Chelsea Music Festival, in Chapel Hill at the UNC Process Series, and in Durham at the Mallarme Chamber Players. Thanks to Dan Lippel and New Focus Recordings, and to all genuine lovers of great, adventurous music."
– Nicholas DiEugenio and Mimi Solomon
Violinist Nicholas DiEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon’s second disc on New Focus, “Unraveling Beethoven” (a follow up to their homage to Stephen Stucky “Into the Silence” FCR188) highlights several contemporary responses to Beethoven’s iconic violin sonatas. DiEugenio and Solomon approached composers David Kirkland Garner, Allen Anderson, Robert Honstein, Tonia Ko, and Jesse Jones and asked them to identify sonic “threads” in the sonatas, and “unravel” them into new works. The result is an elegant set, played with commitment, of several diverse pieces that all nevertheless share the quality of being in dialogue with pre-existing masterworks.
David Kirkland Garner’s The Sky Was Good For Flying takes as its thread the second theme of the opening movement of Beethoven’s Kreutzer Sonata, spinning it out in balletic ascending figurations. Allen Anderson found himself captivated by the language of DiEugenio’s request, and the association with fabrics and threads. He settled on the concept of “linen” and the process of its generation as the inspiration for the piece. Beginning with independent lines, Anderson slowly “weaves” them together into mutually reinforcing musical material. Robert Honstein’s initial source of material for Olmsted was Beethoven’s Violin Sonata #1, but shortly thereafter abandoned the direct connection and allowed the dialogue with the older maestro to be more tangential. The title references Frederick Law Olmsted, the storied American landscape architect and designer of such iconic public spaces as Central Park in Manhattan and Prospect Park in Brooklyn. The opening movement, “Jamaica Pond," percolates with arpeggios in the high register of both instruments, with the violin articulating glistening harmonics. “The Ramble” references the wooded area in the middle of Central Park, perfect for contemplative nature walks just minutes away from the din of the urban streets. In “Long Meadow” he portrays the playful movements of children and families enjoying a day outside in the broad, grassy area of Prospect Park in Brooklyn. “World’s End” is an unfinished park south of Boston that remains as it was 100 years ago. Honstein’s music paints a beautiful picture not just of what the place is now, but the haunting sense of what could have been.
Tonia Ko’s Tribute (Axis II) contains the most experimental music on the recording, and in that sense explores something essentially Beethovenian. Ko passes scraping textures between the violinist and the pianist playing inside the instrument, as she explores “the border between distortion and pitch.” Jesse Jones’ process in writing Scherzo (after Beethoven) led him to explore the extent to which Beethoven’s harmonic, melodic, and structural vocabularies are linked. Limiting himself to the same tools in the compositional toolbox, Jones’ work is an affectionate tribute to the soundworld and spirit of Beethoven’s famous sonatas. It is a fitting close to this set of new compositions whose jumping off point looks backward towards a figure who cast his eyes always towards the musical future.
– D. Lippel
Praised for the 'rapturous poetry' in his playing (American Record Guide) and as an 'excellent' and 'evocative' violinist (New York Times), Nicholas DiEugenio leads a versatile performing life as a chamber musician, leader, and soloist in music ranging from early baroque to current commissions. In this capacity, he performs in venues such as Glinka Hall in St. Petersburg, Trinity Well St., Freiburg's Ensemblehaus, the Beijing Concert Hall, and Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall. Together with pianist and duo partner Mimi Solomon, Nicholas has recorded, commissioned and premiered new works in Prague, Tokyo, New York, and across the US. A committed period violinist, Nicholas is a core member of the Sebastians, and performs with groups such as NYBI, EM/NY, Ars Antigua, and others.
His recording of the complete Schumann violin sonatas with fortepiano with Chi-Chen Wu, named one of the Top 10 albums of 2015 (The Big City) is available on the Musica Omnia label. His August 2017 release on the New Focus label with Mimi Solomon, critically lauded as "a touching, committed tribute' (I Care If You Listen), is an homage to the late Pulitzer Prize-winner Steven Stucky.
A two-time prize-winner at the prestigious Fischoff competition, Nicholas dedicates his priorities as a performer to chamber music. He is violinist of the Chanterelle Trio, a core member of The Sebastians, and has collaborated with Laurie Smukler, Joel Krosnick, Joseph Lin, Peter Salaff, and Ani Kavafian. He is an alum of the Kneisel Hall Chamber Music Festival, where he was deeply influenced by pianist Seymour Lipkin.
Regarded as an inspiring teacher, Nicholas is currently Assistant Professor of Violin at UNC Chapel Hill; he was previously Assistant Professor of Violin at the Ithaca College School of Music. He also serves as co-artistic director of MYCO, a non-profit chamber music organization for middle and high school students and is on the faculty of Kinhaven Music School. Nicholas holds degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music (B.M, M.M), where he studied with David and Linda Cerone and Paul Kantor, and the Yale School of Music (D.M.A., A.D.), where he was a student of Ani Kavafian. Nicholas performs on a 1734 violin made by Dom Nicolo Amati, and on a baroque violin made by Karl Dennis in 2011.http://nicholasdieugenio.com
American pianist Mimi Solomon enjoys a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, soloist, and teacher. She has performed throughout the United States, China, Japan and Europe, has appeared as soloist with orchestras including Shanghai Symphony, Philharmonia Virtuosi, and Yale Symphony Orchestra, and has been featured on numerous radio and television broadcasts including the McGraw-Hill Young Artist's Showcase, France 3, France Inter, and National Public Radio. An avid chamber musician, she regularly appears at music festivals on both sides of the Atlantic such as Santander, IMS Prussia Cove, Lockenhaus, Rencontres de Bel-Air, Ravinia, Taos, Norfolk, Yellow Barn, Charlottesville, La Loingtaine, and Aspen.
Mimi is also an enthusiastic and dedicated pedagogue: she is co-artistic director of MYCO Youth Chamber Orchestra, she spends part of every year coaching and performing chamber music at Kinhaven Festival in Vermont, and she has taught at Cornell University, East Carolina University, and Ithaca College. She is currently on the faculty of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.
Mimi graduated cum laude in East Asian Studies from Yale, went on to receive a Master of Music from Juilliard, and then studied the fortepiano in Paris. Her main teachers were Peter Frankl and Robert McDonald, and she has also played regularly for Ferenc Rados and studied the fortepiano with Patrick Cohen. Her studies were generously supported by a Beebe Grant and two Woolley Scholarships from the Fondation des Etats-Unis. She currently lives in Chapel Hill with her husband, violinist Nicholas DiEugenio.https://mimisolomon.wordpress.com
David Kirkland Garner writes music, plays banjo, studies fiddle, listens to jazz, hears everything, but suspects he knows nothing. Encompassing chamber, large ensemble, electroacoustic, and vocal works, his music reconfigures past sounds—from Bach to minimalism to bluegrass—into new sonic shapes and directions. He seeks to make time and history audible, particularly through an exploration of archival recordings documenting the musical traditions of the U.S. South.
Garner has worked with world-renowned ensembles including the Kronos Quartet, which commissioned a work based on the music of the Scottish diaspora. Awards include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts & Letters, an ASCAP Young Composer Award, and first prizes in the OSSIA, Red Note, and NACUSA competitions. His music has been performed by the Imani Winds, Ciompi Quartet, Vega Quartet, San Diego Symphony, Locrian Chamber Ensemble, the Wet Ink Ensemble, the Boston New Music Initiative, and the yMusic ensemble.
Garner holds degrees from Duke University (PhD, 2014), University of Michigan (MM, 2007), and Rice University (BM 2005), and has taught music theory and aural skills at Duke, Kennesaw State, North Carolina State, and Elon Universities. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Composition and Theory at the University of South Carolina.
Allen Anderson has written works for the Empyrean Ensemble, the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, Speculum Musicae, Ensemble Ascolta, the University of North Carolina Symphony Orchestra, the UNC Chamber Singers, UNC New Music Ensemble, Nicholas DiEugenio and Mimi Solomon, Aleck Karis, Thomas Warburton, Daniel Stepner, Tod Brody, Grace Kennerly, and Sara Soltau among others. Recent compositions include Fire for soprano, baritone and string quartet, Speak, Then for large orchestra, Remove/ (a multi-movement work for mixed ensemble and five singers on the subject of the Cherokee Removal), and music for the Hans Richter's 1926 silent Filmstudie. Iceblink, a multi-media meditation on Antarctica created in collaboration with photographer and flutist Brooks de Wetter-Smith, has been issued on DVD from Centaur Records. Anderson's work has been acknowledged with awards or commissions from the Guggenheim, Fromm and Koussevitsky foundations, Chamber Music America, BMI, League of Composers/ISCM (both the National and Boston chapters), the Institute for Arts and Humanities at UNC and the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild. In 2005 he received the Goddard Lieberson Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters. An Opportunity for Mischief, a recording of five of his solo and chamber music works released on Albany Records, was described in Fanfare as 'thoughtful, literate music that supplies its own logic; it makes an impact and is worth returning to for a point of view that suggests meaningful identities, relationships, and associations.'
Anderson is Professor and Chair of the Department of Music at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill. Before joining the UNC-CH faculty in 1996, he taught at Columbia University, Wellesley College and Brandeis University. He holds degrees from the University of California, Berkeley (BA) and Brandeis University (MA, PhD).
Celebrated for his “roiling, insistent orchestral figuration” (New York Times) and “glittery, percussive pieces” (Toronto Globe and Mail), composer Robert Honstein (b. 1980) is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music.
Robert’s music has been performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble ACJW, the Mivos Quartet, the Del Sol Quartet, the Deviant Septet, New Morse Code, Quince, TIGUE, the Color Field Ensemble, Concert Black, the Heavy Hands Quartet, the Sebastians, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Fireworks Ensemble, the Mana Quartet, the Bel Cuore Saxophone Quartet, the Yale Philharmonia, the UT Austin New Music Ensemble, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Bard College Orchestra, the Hunter Symphony, the Mannes Prep Orchestra, and the Mount Holyoke Symphony,
Robert has received awards, grants and recognition from Carnegie Hall, Copland House, the New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, SCI, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Lake George Music Festival, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra, and New Music USA. His work has been featured at numerous festivals including the The Tanglewood Music Center, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Bang on a Can Summer Institute, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Tutti New Music Festival. He has also received residencies at Copland House, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and I-Park.
Robert co-founded Fast Forward Austin, an annual marathon new music festival in Austin, TX. Described as “the first ever classical music event in Austin to make its own beer koozies” (Austin American Statesmen), Fast Forward Austin features local and national, cutting-edge artists in a “welcomingly relaxed venue… [that] tapped into what is so great about the Austin vibe: a community of people who are artistically curious, non- doctrinaire, and unpretentious” (NewMusicBox).
Robert is also a founding member of the New York based composer collective Sleeping Giant, a group of “five talented guys” (The New Yorker) that are “rapidly gaining notice for their daring innovations, stylistic range and acute attention to instrumental nuance” (WQXR). Recent seasons have seen collaborations with Ensemble ACJW and the Deviant Septet. In coming seasons Sleeping Giant will be composers in residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra as part of New Music USA’s Music Alive program.
Celebrated for his “roiling, insistent orchestral figuration” (New York Times) and “glittery, percussive pieces” (Toronto Globe and Mail), composer Robert Honstein (b. 1980) is a composer of orchestral, chamber, and vocal music.
Robert’s music has been performed by the Cabrillo Festival Orchestra, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the New York Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, Ensemble Dal Niente, Ensemble ACJW, the Mivos Quartet, the Del Sol Quartet, the Deviant Septet, New Morse Code, Quince, TIGUE, the Color Field Ensemble, Concert Black, the Heavy Hands Quartet, the Sebastians, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Fireworks Ensemble, the Mana Quartet, the Bel Cuore Saxophone Quartet, the Yale Philharmonia, the UT Austin New Music Ensemble, the Woodstock Chamber Orchestra, the Bard College Orchestra, the Hunter Symphony, the Mannes Prep Orchestra, and the Mount Holyoke Symphony,Robert has received awards, grants and recognition from Carnegie Hall, Copland House, the New York Youth Symphony, ASCAP, SCI, the Minnesota Orchestra Composer Institute, the Albany Symphony Orchestra, the Young New Yorkers Chorus, the Lake George Music Festival, the Boston New Music Initiative, the Ithaca College Chamber Orchestra, and New Music USA. His work has been featured at numerous festivals including the The Tanglewood Music Center, the Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, the Bang on a Can Summer Institute, the Bowling Green New Music Festival, the Bowdoin Summer Music Festival, the Oregon Bach Festival, the Tutti New Music Festival. He has also received residencies at Copland House, the Kimmel Harding Nelson Center and I-Park.
Robert co-founded Fast Forward Austin, an annual marathon new music festival in Austin, TX. Described as “the first ever classical music event in Austin to make its own beer koozies” (Austin American Statesmen), Fast Forward Austin features local and national, cutting-edge artists in a “welcomingly relaxed venue… [that] tapped into what is so great about the Austin vibe: a community of people who are artistically curious, non- doctrinaire, and unpretentious” (NewMusicBox).Robert is also a founding member of the New York based composer collective Sleeping Giant, a group of “five talented guys” (The New Yorker) that are “rapidly gaining notice for their daring innovations, stylistic range and acute attention to instrumental nuance” (WQXR). Recent seasons have seen collaborations with Ensemble ACJW and the Deviant Septet. In coming seasons Sleeping Giant will be composers in residence with the Albany Symphony Orchestra as part of New Music USA’s Music Alive program.http://www.roberthonstein.com
No matter how traditional or experimental the medium, Tonia Ko’s music reveals a core that is whimsical, questioning, and lyrical. She has collaborated with leading soloists and ensembles across a variety of media, from acoustic concert pieces to improvisations and sound installations. In the attempt to follow aural, visual, and tactile instincts in a holistic way, Ko mediates between the identities of composer, sound artist, and visual artist— most prominently in “Breath, Contained”, an ongoing project using bubble wrap as a canvas for both art and sound.
Recipient of numerous accolades including a Guggenheim Fellowship, Ko’s music has been performed throughout the US as well as in Europe and Asia, and lauded by The New York Times for its “captivating” details and “vivid orchestral palette.” She has been supported by the Barlow Foundation, Fromm Music Foundation, Chamber Music America, as well as residencies at MacDowell, Copland House, and Djerassi. Born in Hong Kong and raised in Honolulu, Hawaii, Tonia holds a DMA from Cornell University and served as 2015-17 Composer-in-Residence for Young Concert Artists. She was appointed Lecturer in Composition at Royal Holloway, University of London in 2020.http://toniako.com
The music of Rome Prize- and Guggenheim-winning composer, Jesse Jones, has been described as "striking,...elegant and poised' (New York Times), "engaging,...eerie, and well-written' (Los Angeles Times), "fascinating," and possessed of the melodic earthiness of Britten' (New York Classical Review).
Performed extensively across North America, Europe, and Asia, Jones's music has been heard in venues such as Lincoln Center, Avery Fischer Hall, St. John's Smith Square (London), the Muziekgebouw (Amsterdam), Glinka Hall (St. Petersburg), the Paul Hindemith Foundation (Switzerland), the American Academy in Rome (Italy), and the St. Matthauskirche (Berlin), among others.
Jones has received commissions and premieres from many of the world's leading ensembles and soloists, including the Juilliard String Quartet, Ensemble Recherche (Germany), Scharoun Ensemble Berlin, the English Symphony Orchestra, Cochlea (Switzerland), and from Tanglewood, Aspen, the Barlow Endowment, and many others. Jones has also been awarded prizes and fellowships from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Heckscher Foundation, and Aldeburgh Music's Jerwood Foundation.
Jones holds a DMA in music composition from Cornell University, and currently professes music at the Oberlin Conservatory. His music is commercially available on the innova, Albany, Equilibrium, Bridge, and New Focus record labels.http://jessejonescomposer.com
For each one of us as many starts and re-starts as we go though every year at the end of it we try and sum it up. Similarly the blur of Modernity is an ever-evolving series of beginnings and re-beginnings. And at the end of each year some picture emerges. I feel a definite reset this morning as I listen for the fifth time to a new series of violin-piano Tonal Post-Post-Neo-Classical works played so vibrantly by Nicholas DiEugenio on violin and Mimi Solomon on piano.
And so we have this morning Unraveling Beethoven (New Focus Recordings FCR 217). The idea for this album was to commission five composers to write a work for violin and piano that took into account the ten Violin Sonatas Beethoven produced. Each work is a kind of unraveling and a reweaving into a new fabric. I react to each without thinking at all of that except in passing--for if listening without aid of a compass we follow the music willy-nilly--and so at times that seems best! I do so here. I hope it will help you see what is in this music via a kind of personal listening map in my own time and space.
The Sky was Good for Flying by David Kirkland Garner conveys lyrically stunning results in what one might call the "furling" motif for violin and piano. It is highly lyrical and very memorable.
Allen Anderson's Linen feels even more like a furling and a re-togethering of fine cloth. It has a bit more of the Modernist Edgy-Tonal spice distributed over its five Expressionist movements. You feel that Modern legacy strongly in ways that point it forward. There is the ghost of Berg's Violin Concerto to be heard here and it is a happy recalling of the power of that work. No doubt too there is the Sonata Beethoven as well, but it does not reach out and grab me directly as much as it lurks pervasively in the bedrock of this work. No matter for it is fine music.
Olmsted by Robert Honstein has the motility of minimalism yet it moves forward in ways that are directional more than circular, which of course befits a nod in Beethoven's direction. There is real engagement in the effervescence of it all. It makes very new use of the classical motion ideal of bow movements across all strings and a pronounced momentum in piano passagework--both rethought here in glowingly fresh ways. Then there are spaces for lyrical contemplation, which then blossom forth in intimate warmth and tender beauty. The scherzo-ish bursts of rapid figurations and silence set up a mercurial section that vibrates with expressive intensity. The work ends with a gentle dalliance in a motif that feels like a slow-motion trill and then a descending harmonic-"continuo" underpinning to set that all off very nicely. It is music that stands forth in lyrical singularity, post-Beethovenian and a feeling quite Neo-Classical in its working through of the bright glow of a tonal immersion.
Tonia Ko's Tribute (Axis II) makes a headlong re-plunge into the more Edgy-Modernist world. The spectre of Crumb can be heard in the ghostingly ghosty open piano sounds and the mysterious high harmonic violin passages. Yet it is forward moving, not just some easy-peasy imitation. Well done. A probing aural journey is this.
Jesse Jones' Scherzo (After Beethoven) is the most Ludwig-ian of all these. It addresses the composer's love for the rapid-paced aspects of Beethoven. We feel the love in there and the good willing towards the Beethoven magesticality! A great big grin is this rapid and short conclusion!
So there we have it. It was a great idea and it inspires music considerably more subtle and wayfaring than a typical gesture of "tribute" might imply. In the end that is the ideal result since it brings the music forward rather than staying at rest in a backward modality. The duo of DiEugenio and Solomon are world-class and extraordinarily nuanced in how they bring out all the implications of these works. Bravo. Neo-Classicists take note. But all should no doubt hear this.
-Grego Applegate Edwards, 12.10.18, Gapplegate Classical-Modern Music Review