FOLK INFLECTIONS WITH ANGELA AND JENNIFER CHUN Performs at Symphony Space, 10/11
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by BWW News Desk
As WQXR.com wrote in 2011, "A touring violin duo cannot exactly draw on a rich literature, but the Chun sisters keep their programs surprisingly varied. … One reason for the slender literature may be the inherent homogeneity in the sound of a violin duo. Yet the Chuns are very much a study in contrast."
Since 2010, the violin duo of Angela and Jennifer Chun, called "dynamic violinist sisters" by The New York Times, have released a recording of Bartók's 44 Violin Duos-one of the harmonia mundi label's best-selling discs of that year-and performed selections of them in concert, eliciting praise from The Strad magazine for their "incisive, colourful approach to the duos."
On October 11, 2012, at New York's Symphony Space, the Chuns continue their tribute to the Hungarian composer with "Folk Inflections with Angela and Jennifer Chun," a program featuring a second set of selections of the Bartók duos along with some of Luciano Berio's Duetti per due violini, which were written in homage to Bartók; Edmund Rubbra's Phantasy for two violins and piano; and Bartók's Roumanian Folk Dances for violin and piano, which the performers have arranged for two violins and piano.
The concert also features pianist Nelson Padgett, who collaborated with the Chuns on their first harmonia mundi recording, Fantasy, and a specially-designed lighting component by Iranian-born artist Mahmoud Hamadani.
The concert is part of the Symphony Space Salon Series, events enhanced by conversations with the artists. After performing the Bartók duos, the Chuns and Nelson Padgett will talk about the music with the Symphony Space Artistic Director, composer Laura Kaminsky.
In his notes for the harmonia mundi Bartók recording, John Henken writes, "Rather than technical studies, the Duos [c. 1933] are etudes in musicianship and the integration of folk song in Bartók's personal idiom. … Above all, these are fully musical expressions, as well as pedagogical and ethnological wonders. The moods are as various as the human experience." For the Roumanian Folk Dances, the Chuns and Nelson Padgett have arranged these favorites of the violin chamber repertoire so that they can all three play them together.
Written between 1979 and 1983, Luciano Berio's Duetti per due violini, a nod to Bartók's duos, is a set of 32 brief pieces named for and inspired by colleagues and composers: the first is called "Bela" (Bartók), and others bear the names "Bruno" (Maderna) and "Igor" (Stravinsky). British composer Edmund Rubbra, known primarily as a symphonist and for his orchestration of Brahms's Variations and Fugue on a Theme by Handel, wrote his Phantasy for two violins and piano in 1927, at the age of 26, when he was beginning to find his own compositional voice, one that rejected standard large-form musical architecture-such as sonata form-in favor of counterpoint and his own musical logic.
Angela and Jennifer Chun have forged a niche in the music world as a violin duo of uncommon distinction. Not content to tour with the "Bach Double"-Bach's Concerto for Two Violins-the Chuns continually seek out both new music and new and unusual opportunities to perform. Since 2006 they have performed regularly at New York City Ballet star Jacques d'Amboise's National Dance Institute, the arts education organization that recently opened a new home facility in Harlem.
In 2009, Angela and Jennifer premiered a work written for them, a two-violin concerto by George Tsontakis titled Unforgettable (based on the Nat King Cole song) at the Aspen Music Festival. In the coming seasons they will premiere a piece being written for them by Osvaldo Golijov. They have worked with composers Behzad Ranjbaran and Sebastian Currier. And the Chuns have brought to light duo-violin music by composers including Berio, Schnittke, and Arvo Pärt. Their 2008 disc, Fantasy, features, in addition to works by Martinu, Milhaud, and Shostakovich, two pieces by Isang Yun.
The sisters "play with an intensity and sense of purpose that few music lovers can resist," according to Strings magazine. Their two recent recordings on the harmonia mundi label, Fantasy and Bartók 44 Violin Duos (which was one of the label's best-selling releases for 2010), shine a spotlight on the two-violin repertoire, prompting many to agree: "They play this music so well that it makes one regret that composers have not produced more for this winning combination." (All Music Guide)
Since 2007, Angela and Jennifer have been String Mentors at London's Royal Academy of Music, a prestigious honor given to only a few highly accomplished artists.
The Chuns have worked with conductors including Ivan Fischer, André Previn, Thomas Sanderling, Zubin Mehta, and Gerard Schwarz, with orchestras including the Seattle Symphony, London Bach Orchestra, Mozarteum Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Salzburg, Budapest Festival Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, and KBS Symphony Orchestra. At a concert featuring the Bach Double Concerto with the National Symphony Orchestra at the Kennedy Center, Leonard Slatkin not only conducted the performance but accompanied them on the harpsichord. Angela and Jennifer have also performed at the Mostly Mozart, Aspen, and Ravinia Festivals, and the International Bartók Festival.
Angela and Jennifer took up the violin at a very young age, playing in a children's after-school orchestra growing up in Seattle, and studying with Hungarian violinist Denes Zsigmondy during their teen years. At The Juilliard School, Angela and Jennifer Chun studied with the legendary teachers Felix Galimir and Dorothy Delay, and later went to Switzerland for studies with Nathan Milstein, who has called them "not only wonderfully accomplished, but also dedicated to new music and new sound. They are rare jewels of classical music." For more, go to www.angela-jenniferchun.com.
Nelson Padgett has performed in major venues around the world with the Philip Glass Ensemble, has collaborated with violinists Pinchas Zukerman, Elmar Oliveira and Pamela Frank, and records regularly for film and television. As a soloist, he won a silver medal at the William Kapell International Competition and a Beethoven fellowship from the American Pianists Association. A former student of Leon Fleisher at The Peabody Conservatory, Mr. Padgett has lived in New York City since 1987.
The performance takes place on Thursday, October 11, 2012, at 7:30 PM, Leonard Nimoy Thalia at Symphony Space with Angela & Jennifer Chun, Violins, Nelson Padgett, Piano and Mahmoud Hamadani, Lighting design.
BARTÓK Selections from 44 Violin Duos (c. 1933)
BERIO Selections from Duetti per due violini (1979-1983)
RUBBRA Phantasy for Two Violins and Piano, Op. 16 (1927)
BARTÓK Roumanian Folk Dances (1915)
Tickets: $30 (Members: $25, Under 30: $15). To book, visit www.symphonyspace.org.