ABOUT THE PLAYERS
Sharan Leventhal joined the Conservatory in 2005 and is a professor of violin. She teaches applied violin, chamber music, and contemporary performance practice.
Since winning the 1984 Kranichsteiner Musikpreis in Darmstadt, Germany, she has built an international reputation as a champion of new music. Among her more than 130 premieres are works by Gunther Schuller, Ben Johnston, Virgil Thomson, Pauline Oliveros, Taina León, Simon Bainbridge, Scott Wheeler, Matt Aucoin, and Fred Hersch. Leventhal has been equally active in traditional venues. Her solo appearances include performances with the Boston Pops Esplanade Orchestra; the Toledo, Milwaukee, Gulf Coast, Topeka, Dayton, and Albany symphonies; and the Wisconsin and Cleveland chamber orchestras. She is a founding member of the Gramercy Trio, the Kepler Quartet, and Marimolin and a member of the Boston Artists Ensemble. Her recordings include the complete string quartets of Ben Johnston (Kepler Quartet on New World, 2016, 2011, and 2006), the violin and piano works of Virgil Thomson (Northeastern Recordings, 1990), Gramercy Trio (PARMA Recordings, 2008; Naxos, 2007; Newport Classic, Ltd., 2004), and Marimolin (GM Recordings, 1996 and 1988, and Catalyst/BMG, 1995). Broadcasts include the BBC, ORF (Austria), Musikradion (Sweden), and WNYC.
Leventhal has received more than 30 grants, including awards from Chamber Music America (2011), the Fromm Foundation (2011), the Aaron Copland Fund for Music Recording (2011, 2006, 2003, 1999, 1992), the Koussevitzky Music Foundation (1992), and the National Endowment for the Arts (1993, 1988, 1987).
She has served on the faculties of Brandeis University, Michigan State University, Berklee College of Music, and the Bruckner-Konservatorium in Linz, Austria. Summer teaching includes the Wintergreen Music Festival, Fresno Summer Orchestra Academy, Interlochen Arts Camp, and the Asian Youth Orchestra. She performs and teaches throughout the United States and Europe. She has also written articles for the magazine American String Teachers (2014, 2015).
Leventhal earned a B.M. from Boston University and an M.M. from Yale University.
Native Philadelphian, cellist Sarah Kapps has an active and diverse musical background that has taken her across much of the globe as soloist, chamber musician, orchestral member, and rock star.
As a performer, she is a sought after and respected chamber musician, often being called on to perform new works. She regularly appears with Atlanta’s avant garde ensemble, Bent Frequency, Paramount Chamber Players, Music on the Hill, as well as countless self-produced chamber and solo concerts. Her first concert of 2015 was a self-conducted concerto performance from the solo seat. In the summers, she has been a long-time member of the Wintergreen Festival Orchestra, Chamber Players, and Academy faculty. She was a founding member of the Red River and Denali String Quartets, and later came to serve on the faculty at The University of Texas Pan-American.
In her various positions as instructor, she has taught string methods, music appreciation, and applied strings; as well as broader arts classes, eurythmics, improvisation, lectures, interactive projects, and school visits. She has also been able to make arts advocacy an important part of her mission. She developed an interactive education course that calls on the students to produce their own opera scenes. Through these methods, she has successfully tricked more than one thousand young people into enjoying Mozart operas!
Sarah Kapps holds degrees from The Manhattan School of Music and The Mannes College of Music, and has studied with Paul Tobias and Peter Wiley of the Guarneri Quartet. She lives in Atlanta with her husband, pianist Peter Marshall.
Known throughout the Southeast for his astonishing versatility and expressiveness at the keyboard, Peter Marshall performs on piano, harpsichord, and organ. He has appeared as a soloist with major orchestras in Atlanta, Washington, D. C. (National Symphony), Richmond, Norfolk (Virginia Symphony), Buffalo, Columbus (OH), and Charlotte, and has given solo recitals in the United States and abroad.
Marshall holds the Hugh and Jessie Hodgson Keyboard Chair at the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, and performs numerous concerts with the ASO throughout the year. Active as an accompanist and coach in Atlanta since 1993, he is in frequent demand as a keyboardist in vocal and instrumental recitals and in chamber music. He has appeared with the cutting-edge contemporary ensembles Bent Frequency and Sonic Generator; with the Southeastern Festival of Song; at the Wintergreen Summer Music Festival; and with the period instrument ensembles Hesperus, Folger Consort, Atlanta Baroque Orchestra, and Grande Bande Baroque Orchestra.
Peter Marshall can be heard with Hesperus on two CDs from Golden Apple records; on two upcoming CDs from Centaur Records with violinist Jeanne Johnson; and on a number of recordings with the Atlanta Symphony from Deutsche Grammophon, Telarc, and ASO Media.
Marshall joined the faculty of the Georgia State University School of Music in 2001. He chaired the organ department at the Catholic University of America from 1984 to 1993, and served as Chapel Organist at Duke University 1981-84. He holds degrees from Oberlin College and Yale University and studied at the Musikhochschule Lübeck as a Fulbright Scholar.
ABOUT THE PIECE
Program notes are tricky things. Music, being an abstract art, “means” nothing; on the other hand, it can get at truths deeper than words. On the one hand, music “means” whatever the listener (usually a music critic takes it upon themselves to explain how the composer failed, but sometimes a composer hurls themselves off this particular cliff) says it does—or nothing at all. It is one of the reasons that program notes are dangerous and, as Virgil Thomson once noted, often high-, middle-, and low-gossipy things. At best, they can give a glimpse into the intent of the composer; at worst, they are the composer’s attempt at marketing the piece. People hear what they want to hear, ascribe whatever motivations to the composer they want and need to; they cannot help but project their own expectations and requirements on an unfamiliar musical work.
My seventh piano trio is inspired by mythical dragons. Each movement is given the name of one. I share that source of inspiration and the notes that follow, but, in light of what I said in the previous paragraph, I also invite the listener to put this program note down at this point and to listen without them. Commissioned by the Wintergreen Festival for premiere there by its dedicatees on 10 July 2019 by Sharan Leventhal, Sarah Kapps, and Peter Marshall, the piece is 19 minutes long, and consists of four movements, with a brief intermezzo between the third and fourth.
The first movement is a fast rondo—a form which alternates two relatively contrasting ideas and often (as in this case) introduces a third somewhere along the line—that begins with a pan-diatonic chorale that serves as an idée fixe throughout the trio as a whole. The first idea is diatonic, and the second idea is chromatic; the chorale serves as the third. Each time material returns it is subjected to new compositional procedures. The second movement consists of a theme and three variations. The tune comes from a tender, A-flat major setting of Emily Dickinson’s poem “Ample Make this Bed” that I made “from 9-10 AM on February 13th, 1989” according to my sketchbook, in a walkup I used to rent on St. Mark’s Place in the Village. The third movement begins with a restatement of the idée fixe before launching into a second rondo. This one consists of a fistful of musical ideas that are subjected to “cellular” development—that is, they are superimposed, re-contextualized, alternated, and blown apart very quickly and reassembled in new ways before ending, once again, with the chorale. After a brief return of the Dickinson theme, the finale, comprised of three musical ideas—a rhythmic cell, a skein of running sixteenth notes, and an ostinato—continues the quick anagram-like reshuffling ideas begun in the third movement. The form is that of a tightly-constructed “quodlibet,” where all of the themes of the trio are combined in turn.