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Presenting Momenta Festival II


Sept. 28 – Oct. 2 @ Tenri, NYC

Four distinctive programs,
each curated by a different Momenta

First-time Festival programming
by newly-joined violinist
ALEX SHIOZAKI

• Centennial celebrations of Dutilleux and Ginastera •
• Daring pairings of Japanese modernism and Beethoven •
• Beloved classics by Janáček, Grieg, Cage, Ysaÿe •

PLUS: Wang Lu World Premiere, and Tony Prabowo’s
fiery Indonesian string quartet opera, Pastoral
+ other Momenta specialties

SPECIAL GUESTS: Vicky Chow, Tony Arnold, Nana Shi,
Indonesian vocal wizard Ubiet

“Striking originality…a sum of inspiration and personal discovery
that operates beyond the boundaries of period or aesthetic.” (I Care If You Listen)

Momenta Quartet, the “outstanding” (George Grella) and “enterprising” (Russell Platt) string quartet based in New York City, happily announces Momenta Festival II, following the success of its inaugural Momenta Festival in 2015. Taking place September 28 – October 2 at the Tenri Cultural Institute of New York, Momenta Festival II is split into four programs, each curated by a different member of the ensemble: violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron, founding violist Stephanie Griffin, cellist Michael Haas, and Momenta’s newest addition, violinist Alex Shiozaki.

Joining Momenta in performance will be pianists Vicky Chow (October 2) and Nana Shi (September 29), and video artist John Gurrin (October 1). A special appearance will be made by “magnificent” (LA Times) soprano Tony Arnold (pictured left) and Indonesian experimental vocalist Nyak Ina Raseuki, better known as Ubiet, for a performance of Tony Prabowo‘s string quartet opera Pastoral on opening night.

Writes Alex Ross in The New Yorker: “The Momenta, which formed in 2004, has drawn notice for its wide range, championing contemporary work while maintaining a hold on classic Viennese fare.” In addition to Beethoven’s String Quartet in F Major Op. 135 and a world premiere by the “evocative” (NYT) Wang Lu, Momenta Festival II offers nonpareils by the likes of John Cage, Edvard Grieg, Leoš Janáček, and Eugène Ysaÿe, and honors the centennials of Alberto Ginastera and Henri Dutilleux. In his debut Momenta Festival, Alex Shiozaki mounts an homage to the passing of Toru Takemitsu, the iconic Japanese composer who died 20 years ago this February.

“There’s a democracy to the Momenta Quartet, stemming from our fervent embrace of each other’s distinct styles and musical fascinations,” writes Stephanie Griffin. “When applied to the string quartet repertoire, this allows us to pursue so many directions, and to contrast our autonomous interests against our collective identity.” Strikingly so; as commissioners and performers of new music, they have collaborated with more than 120 living composers and given over 100 world premieres, but their enthusiasm for the new matches their adoration of the canon.

Each concert will feature a craft beer by Sam Burlingame of BrewHeister, with a taste profile brewed to thematically honor the evening’s programs.Tickets to each performance will be $15, with full festival passes available for $50. Tickets are available at http://momenta.brownpapertickets.com/. The Tenri Cultural Institute is located at 43 West 13th Street in Manhattan, and the concerts will begin at 8pm.

F E S T I V A L   P R O G R A M S

Wednesday, September 28 (8pm): Written in Fire
Curator: Stephanie Griffin, viola // Guest Artists: Tony Arnold, soprano; “Ubiet” Nyak Ina Raseuki, vocals

     Matthew Greenbaum: Castelnau (2002) *
     Wang Lu: New Work (2016) WORLD PREMIERE *
     Leoš Janáček: String Quartet No. 2, “Intimate Letters” (1928)
     Tony Prabowo: Pastoral, a string quartet opera (2005) *

“You stand behind every note, you, living, forceful, loving. The fragrance of your body, the glow of your kisses – no, really of mine. Those notes of mine kiss all of you. They call for you passionately…” In these words to his muse Kamila Stösslová, the Czech composer Leoš Janáček identifies the unifying forces of the first Festival program: passion for passion’s sake, the fire and intensity of unrequited love.

The viola represents Janáček’s beloved in his String Quartet No. 2, and Momenta’s ”enthralling” (LA Times) founding violist Stephanie Griffin has likewise been a muse for the Indonesian composer Tony Prabowo since 1998. Pastoral was written in 2005 for the newly-formed Momenta Quartet and two wildly distinct voices. By juxtaposing a Western‐style operatic soprano and the more experimental vocals of Indonesian ethnomusicologist Nyak Ina Raseuki (aka Ubiet), Prabowo endows Goenawan Mohamad’s sensual love poem with tension and pathos, despite the lack of role-play or dialogue. Wang Lu’s new work for Momenta brings a gentler lyricism to this dramatic program, having been inspired by the “Madonna del Parto,” an Italian renaissance painting of the Virgin Mary by Piero della Francesca (pictured left). Matthew Greenbaum’s Castelnau is the first piece ever written for Momenta. His terse writing certainly owes much to Janáček’s, but also to that of his mentor Stefan Wolpe; after more than 10 years, Castelnau returns to the top of the program, right where it was originally heard at Momenta’s first-ever performance.

Thursday, September 29 (8pm): An Interval of Infinity
Curator: Alex Shiozaki, violin // Guest Artist: Nana Shi, piano

     Joji Yuasa: Solitude — in Memoriam T.T. (1997)
     Somei Satoh: Birds in warped time II (1980)
     Toru Takemitsu: A Way a Lone (1980)
     Akira Nishimura: Sonata II, “Trance Medium” (2005)
     Ludwig van Beethoven: String Quartet No. 15 in F Major, op. 135 (1826)

Curating his first Momenta Festival program, “spellbinding” (Corinna da Fonseca-Wollheim) violinist Alex Shiozaki commemorates the 20th anniversary of Takemitsu’s passing, while exploring the concept of ma, a Japanese term meaning “the space between events.”

Joji Yuasa’s piano trio is both an homage to Takemitsu and an expression of Japanese aesthetics, drawing on the composer’s background in musical philosophy. Somei Satoh’s Birds in warped time II threads “ma” with Western tonality and modality. This duo for violin and piano is especially meaningful for Alex, whose dissertation at Juilliard was about Satoh’s music, and whose duet partner Nana Shi (pictured right) is also his wife. Takemitsu’s beloved and Joycean quartet is the centerpiece of the program, not only because of his influence on his countrymen, but also due to the commonalities it shares with Dutilleux’s Ainsi la Nuit, the centerpiece of Michael Haas’ October 2nd program. Nishimura’s solo violin sonata will spotlight Alex’s virtuosity; like Yuasa, Nishimura is a scholar and student of both Eastern and Western styles of composition.

By ending the concert with Op. 135, Shiozaki hopes to reveal unlikely connections between Beethoven’s last work and his peers on this program. While the influence of German classical music on Japanese modernism can’t be overstated, Beethoven’s nuanced use of pause throughout the quartet and the overall abstract character of its form may inspire all to hear his final masterpiece with new ears.

Saturday, October 1 (8pm): At the Forest’s Edge
Curator: Emilie-Anne Gendron, violin // Guest Artist: John Gurrin, video art

     Eugène Ysaÿe: Sonata in G Major, Op. 27/5 (1923)
     John Cage: String Quartet in Four Parts (1950)
     György Kurtág: Selections from Signs, Games, and Messages (1986—)
          Perpetuum mobile (1987/1991)
          Hommage à John Cage—­­Faltering Words (1987/1991)
          …für den, der heimlich lauschet… (“For those who listen secretly,” 2001)
          …féerie d’automne… (“Autumn fairy­world,” 2004)
          Népdalféle (“Folk Tune,” 1987/1994)
          The Carenza Jig (1989/1997)
     Edvard Grieg: String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 27

The “brilliant” (Anthony Tommasini) violinist Emilie-Anne Gendron opens her Momenta Festival program once again with one of Ysaÿe’s famed sonatas. Her choice of the Fifth in G Major kicks off a program devoted to Emilie’s lifelong fascination with nature, and the threshold where civilization ends and wilderness begins. After the sunrise-inspired, jubilant solo by Ysaÿe, Emilie is joined by her Momenta colleagues for John Cage’s seminal String Quartet in Four Parts, which will feature four corresponding “deliquescing landscapes” (Alex Ross) by video artist John Gurrin.

Emilie returns to solo repertoire with selections from György Kurtág’s Signs, Games, and Messages, an ever­growing collection of aphoristic musical tributes and experiments. With most hovering around a minute long, the pieces tend toward a haiku­like brevity, crystallizing a momentary reaction, thought, or mood. Rounding out this program­­—in utmost contrast to the brevity of the Kurtág, the stillness of the Cage, and the unfettered joy of the Ysaÿe­­—is Edvard Grieg’s turbulent and monumental String Quartet No. 1 in G Minor, Op. 27. In many ways, the four pieces on the program are fractal extensions of Cage’s four movements, based on the Indian concept of the four seasons and their dominant forces: Summer/Preservation (Cage), Autumn/Destruction (Kurtág), Winter/Quiescence (Grieg), and Spring/Creation (Ysaÿe).

Sunday, October 2 (8pm): Dark Matter
Curator: Michael Haas, cello // Guest Artist: Vicky Chow, piano

     Christopher Stark: Winter Music (2016) NY PREMIERE *
     Henri Dutilleux: Ainsi la Nuit (1976)
     Alberto Ginastera: Pampeana No. 2, Op. 21 (1952)
     Henri Dutilleux: Trois Strophes sur le nom Sacher (1976)
     Alberto Ginastera: Quintet for piano and strings, Op. 29 (1963)

Michael Haas’ “refined and attractive” (Steve Smith) playing leads the quartet in their closing homage to two centennial giants — Alberto Ginastera and Henri Dutilleux. Setting the tone for the evening is Christopher Stark’s Winter Music, a reflection on vast winters spent in Montana. Ainsi la nuit (“Thus the night”) is one of the 20th century’s most celebrated string quartets, and Dutilleux wrote Trois Strophes Sur Le Nom de Sacher around the same time, on the occasion of impresario Paul Sacher’s 70th birthday in 1976. Quintessentially Dutilleux, these meticulous, miraculous pieces answer to no one.

Referring to the pampas, the lowlands of Ginastera’s homeland of Argentina, Pampeana intertwines the sounds of gaucho singing competitions, folk dances like the malambo, and a sultry nocturne. The “nuanced” and “brilliant” (NYT) pianist Vicky Chow (pictured right) will join Michael on both Pampeana, and the closing piece: Written only 11 years later, the Op. 29 Quintet for piano and strings embodies Ginastera’s unique compositional voice, fully matured and in bloom. With boldly dissonant gestures, rhapsodic melodies, and quirky string effects reminiscent of Messiaen’s birdcalls, the players trade off cadenzas before the thunderous, closing finale.

* = Written for Momenta

A B O U T  M O M E N T A  Q U A R T E T

Momenta: the plural of momentum – four individuals in motion towards a common goal. This is the idea behind the Momenta Quartet, whose eclectic vision encompasses contemporary music of all aesthetic backgrounds alongside great music from the recent and distant past. The New York City-based quartet has premiered over 100 works, collaborated with over 120 living composers and was praised by The New York Times for its “diligence, curiosity and excellence.” In the words of The New Yorker’s Alex Ross, “few American players assume Haydn’s idiom with such ease.”

The quartet came into being in November 2004, when composer Matthew Greenbaum invited violist Stephanie Griffin to perform Mario Davidovsky’s String Trio for events celebrating Judaism and Culture at New York’s Symphony Space and Temple University in Philadelphia. A residency through the composition department at Temple University ensued, and the rehearsals and performances were so satisfying that the players decided to form a quartet. Through this residency, Momenta gave two annual concerts highlighting the talents of Temple University student composers alongside 20th-century masterworks and works from the classical canon, and repeated the programs at the Brooklyn Society for Ethical Culture. From the outset, Momenta treated all music equally, devoting as much time, care and commitment to the student works as to the imposing musical monuments.

Word of Momenta’s passionate advocacy for emerging composers spread quickly. Composers started inviting Momenta for similar concerts and residencies at other academic institutions, among them Cornell, Columbia and Yeshiva Universities; the Boston and Cincinnati Conservatories; and the Eastman School of Music. In 2008 the quartet won its first major commission grant from the Koussevitzky Foundation for Malaysian composer Kee Yong Chong, and since received a second Koussevitzky grant for Bolivian composer Agustín Fernández. Deeply committed to the musical avant-garde of the developing world, Momenta has been an indispensable advocate for many international composers. In addition to world premieres by Chong and Fernández, Momenta has premiered and championed the works of Tony Prabowo (Indonesia), Cergio Prudencio (Bolivia) and Hana Ajiashvili (Georgia). Upcoming adventures include a project to perform and record all thirteen string quartets by Mexican microtonal maverick Julián Carrillo (1875-1965) over the next three years.

Momenta has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery, Rubin Museum, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, and the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study and has recently enjoyed high-profile concerts at Chamber Music Cincinnati, Washington University and at the internationally renowned Cervantino Festival in Mexico. Momenta gave its Mexican debut at the National University (UNAM) last June and has performed in the United Kingdom, Indonesia and Singapore. Momenta has recorded for Centaur Records, Furious Artisans, PARMA, New World Records, and Albany Records; and has been broadcast on WQXR, Q2 Music, Austria’s Oe1, and Vermont Public Radio. The quartet’s debut album, Similar Motion, is available on Albany Records.

July 26, 2016 | Contact: Andrew Stein-Zeller | andrew@dotdotdotmusic.net | t. 203/610-0400 |dotdotdotmusic.net