The renowned Horszowski Piano Trio premieres Hagen’s Piano Trio No. 6: Horszowski at the Kimmel Center in Philadelphia on the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society concert series.
ABOUT THE COMPOSITION
Piano Trio No. 6: Horszowski
Cantina at the Gates of Hell
For sale: baby shoes never worn
“No doubt they’ll sing in tune after the revolution”
In my 20s I feared that the music I heard all the time was going to drown me. It was crazy! I tried to mute it, but remained in constant motion, hyper-aroused and present but distracted by the sheer din. In time, I learned to make better decisions and to move the surging flow of music in my head to the side, so that now it is as though I stand next to the stream of sound, rather than in it. Now, I lean over, dip in to that stream, savor it, feel grateful and slightly in awe of its lack of beginning or end. That’s why it was such a shock when, a few weeks ago, my sons, aged six and nine, snuggled in my armpits, rain falling gently without, as I sat on a wooden bench in the Maverick Recital Hall in Woodstock, New York, listening to the Horszowski Piano Trio perform my Piano Trio No.2—an uncompromising, gnarly knuckle-buster of a work written in 1986 that is really difficult, and consequently rarely-played—the entirety of my Piano Trio No. 6 simply showed up in my mind, unbidden.
Rieko Aizawa had, as a member of the Amelia Piano Trio, premièred and toured with my triple concerto, Orpheus and Eurydice, in 2007. As I watched her perform with the Horszowski Trio, an image of her playing an enormous, mushroom-cloud-like cluster came to me, and the title of the first movement—Cantina at the Gates of Hell coalesced as a quick rondo alternating a heroic fanfare, a shocking cluster whose plume consisted of shards of octatonic melodies, and a tweaky, out-of-tune barroom piano tune (mis)remembered from my recent Charlie Chaplin-inspired score to his silent film, “A Dog’s Life” coalesced. At one point, she plays dampened strings inside the piano, as though those keys are busted.
Next, a famous advertisement that reads For sale: baby shoes, never worn came to mind. A few years ago, I set a poem by local Woodstock rock star Jaik Miller to music wherein he described a revelatory moment of intimacy between two lovers. My song, devoid of words, played in my head as a binary form trio movement, with additional harmonies and an intensely-personal overlay of emotions associated with a long-ago miscarriage in Nicaragua that make it a little elegy.
Mel Rosenthal, activist photojournalist and admired comrade, had been ailing for some time. Our last telephone conversation touched on the scene from the film Doctor Zhivago in which Komarovsky dines with Lara in a posh restaurant surrounded by Russia’s oligarchs as, outside, the proletarians sing the Internationale. “No doubt they’ll sing in tune after the revolution,” quips Komarovsky, slicing through the tension. In this second rondo, I take a few bars from my Three Silent Things and alternate them with variants on the busted pianola from the first movement and fragments of the great worker’s song to paint the scene myself. At one point, the players sing a few bars of the tune themselves before being swamped by a hyper-romantic, decadent waltz. The movement is dedicated to the memory of Mel, who died in November 2017 as I was notating it.
For Christmas last year, I built my six-year-old son Seamus—a profoundly spiritual and prescient child—a treasure chest. He has turned it into a place called Seamie’s Reliquary where, as he explained it, “dreams, visions, precious objects, and love” are stored. I titled the movement because, as I played it at the piano while notating it, he came up to me, placed his small hand on my shoulder, and told me that the music I was writing would go along very well with an examination of his treasures.
Pennywhistle Jigeánnai is in 14/8 time. It is a third rondo combining the rattling jig-tune from the first tune, snatches of the second movement’s ostinato accompaniment plushly harmonized, and a return of the opening of the trio as a whole flowing into a generous, glowing swatch of the romantic tune from the third movement, before subsiding into a tender rumination on a plagal cadence from Seamus’ treasure chest.
I bound up on the stage after the Horszowski Trio finished their concert and, for the first time in my life, simply took their hands in mind (with no commission or fee ever in my thinking) and told them that I had in my mind a new trio for them. Their immediate, genuine affection in return, and their quick assent, moved me to write down the piece that their performance had inspired, and so it is not lost downstream but, instead, available to the world.
ABOUT THE ENSEMBLE
Hailed by The New York Times as “impressive, lithe, persuasive,” when the members of the Horszowski Trio (Hor-SHOV- ski) – Jesse Mills, Raman Ramakrishnan, and Rieko Aizawa – played together for the first time, they immediately felt the spark of a unique connection. Many years of close friendship had created a deep trust between the players, which in turn led to exhilarating expressive freedom.
Two-time Grammy-nominated violinist Jesse Mills first performed with Raman Ramakrishnan, founding cellist of the prize-winning Daedalus Quartet, at the Kinhaven Music School over twenty years ago, when they were children. In New York City, they met pianist Rieko Aizawa, who, upon being discovered by the late violinist and conductor Alexander Schneider, had made her U.S. debuts at the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall. Their musical bonds were strengthened at various schools and festivals around the world, including the Juilliard School and the Marlboro Festival.
In the four-year period following their debut performance at Rockefeller University in NYC in December 2011, they were booked for almost 200 concerts in the U.S. and tours of Japan and India. They have continued their successful rise in the chamber music world, earning the praise of critics and audiences alike. The New Yorker has called them "the most compelling American group to come on the scene." The trio will return to Asia for another tour in the Fall of 2018, and they will make their European debut in 2019, including a performance at London's Wigmore Hall. They often collaborate with guest musicians, including violists, clarinetists and singers. Recent guests include members of the Guarneri, Pacifica and Tokyo Quartets.
Ms. Aizawa was the last pupil of the legendary pianist, Mieczysław Horszowski (1892-1993), at the Curtis Institute. The Trio takes inspiration from Mr. Horszowski’s musicianship, integrity, and humanity. Like Horszowski, the Trio presents repertoire spanning the traditional and the contemporary. As an ensemble-in-residence of the Electric Earth Concerts, the Trio premiered the work by Eric Moe “Welcome to Phase Space” in 2014. They have also recorded “For Daniel” by Joan Tower for a part of the celebration album of the composer’s 75th birthday. The violinist of the Trio, Jesse Mills, who is also a composer and arranger, has written a work for the group “Painted Shadow,” which was commissioned by and premiered at Bargemusic in Brooklyn, NY in January, 2015.
In addition, they seek to perform works from the trove of composers with whom Horszowski had personal contact, such as Ravel, Saint-Saëns, Fauré, Martinu, Villa-Lobos, and Granados. Their debut recording, an album of works by Fauré, Saint-Saëns, and D’Indy – in memory of Mieczysław Horszowski – was released by Bridge Records in 2014. Gramophone called them "a highly accomplished group," and raved: "exemplary performance... I long to hear more of the Horszowski Trio." After their successful debut recording, they have two more upcoming projects with Bridge Records: an All-Schumann Piano Trios disc, as well as an All-Brahms Piano Quartets set with Masumi Per Rostad from the Pacifica Quartet.
Based in New York City, the Horszowski Trio is Ensemble-in-Residence at the Longy School of Music of Bard College.
ABOUT THE PHILADELPHIA CHAMBER MUSIC SOCIETY
The mission of the Philadelphia Chamber Music Society is to engage our community in a life more beautiful through the shared experience and transformative impact of chamber music. We present an annual season of 50 concerts by world-renowned artists—all for just $30 per ticket or less—and 50 education programs to train and inspire young people. We also serve audiences by providing high-quality service, community partnerships, and a welcoming concert environment.
Our Society was created so that leading international artists could share their talents each season in Philadelphia and be enjoyed by all audiences. Our roster features eminent string quartets, master pianists, great string recitalists, art song, woodwind artists, early music, new music, guitarists, and special programming.
Founded by Anthony Checchia in 1986, PCMS has presented more than 1,500 concerts, including 65 commissions and world premieres. A Resident Company of the Kimmel Center, we hold concerts at the Perelman Theater, in collaboration with the American Philosophical Society, and other cultural institutions.
PCMS is committed to sound, cost-effective management. We present our season of more than 100 concerts and educational programs on a total budget of $1.5 million and with a staff of just nine. Our success results from the exceptional musicians who perform for us, our caring and involved audience, a devoted staff and board, and the generous annual support of friends who share our artistic and community goals.
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