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Beauty, California, Christian Baldini, composer, Concert Hall, Conductor, Experimental

Composer Mathilde Wantenaar in Conversation with Christian Baldini

Shortly before the world stopped turning around as usual, in December 2019, I had the pleasure of conducting again at the beautiful Concertgebouw in Amsterdam, one of my favorite concert halls in the world. While I was there, I reached out to Carine Alders, who coordinates the Leo Smit Stichting. Whenever I travel for work somewhere I like to immerse myself with the local culture, and to recognize gems that I could do research about share with audiences back home. The purpose for me was simple: to become acquainted with some of the most important (forgotten, neglected and also new) voices of female composers in the Netherlands. Our meeting was very helpful, and Carine shared with me recordings, scores, and much information. Mathilde Wantenaar‘s name came up, and when I researched on it a little bit I found her music fascinating, refreshing and very original. This is how I decided to program it for our upcoming concert with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra, on November 20, 2021.

Christian Baldini: Mathilde, it will be a pleasure to conduct the US premiere of your orchestral work “Prélude à une nuit américaine”. I find this work extremely fascinating, beautiful, with very subtle orchestration and also particularly reminiscent of Bartók and Debussy. Tell me, what is the genesis of this piece? How did you approach writing it? How would you explain your compositional process, and does it change much from piece to piece? 

Mathilde Wantenaar: I improvise a lot on the piano, this is also how I started composing as a child – I was supposed to be studying pieces for my piano lessons, but would wander off in my imagination and start playing around with the notes, inventing little melodies and pieces. As I improvise, or play an existing piece, I might find something which draws me in, a chord or a melody or a little motive and I start playing around with it. Once I have some material I might look for some more contrasting material perhaps and also think about the form. Sometimes the form comes first, though, or I have an atmosphere in mind while I start improvising or if the starting point is a text, everything changes and I start by reciting the text, learning it by heart and trying to hear the music that is hidden in it. So it does change from piece to piece.

CB: What would you say to someone who has not listened to your music yet? What should they listen for? Ultimately, what do you hope listeners will take with them home after experiencing one of your pieces?

MW: For me music is about beauty, but I mean this in the broadest sense (so not just pleasant music, although there is nothing wrong with pleasant music either in my opinion). I think that artists all over the world are making a collective effort to look for and bring forth beauty just like scientists all over the world are making a collective effort to discover truth. But every artist has their own approach and highlights different aspects, which makes the musical landscape so rich and diverse. I try to capture and present the musical aspects that I myself find thrilling or touching and offer them to the musicians and listeners in the hope that it might touch them the same way that the music I love touches me. Some of my favourite musical aspects are lyricism, I love it when the music sings, long lines and a sense of direction, the building of tension, unabashed dramatic gestures, playing with different textures and atmospheres which can be far-away, misty and magical or golden, shimmering and triumphant and anything in between. 


CB: What are some of the things you care about the most when it comes to music (both new and old)?

MW: You are asking some pretty intense questions haha. Let me think… I think I should refer back to my previous answer. Music is about beauty and communicating beauty, first with the performer who is to interpret and add their own musicality to the piece, and via the performer the piece is communicated to the listener, whose imagination is also unleashed, hopefully.  


CB: You are still very young, and you’ve developed a remarkable career already. Can you tell us about some of the most important or inspiring experiences and/or people that you’ve had so far? What has helped you or inspired you to continue growing and excelling as an artist?

MW: When I was still in high school, there was a project with the renowned ASKO|Schönberg ensemble, for whom we got to write a piece which was then performed in the beautiful small hall of the Concertgebouw in Amsterdam. This was such a great experience that I decided to go for it and study composition at the Conservatory of Amsterdam. I have had many more inspiring experiences after that, because writing a new piece and working all kinds of musicians is always an adventure, but one of my most recent important experiences was the première of my second orchestral piece ‘Meander’, performed by the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra and conducted by Lahav Shani. Lahav is a brilliant conductor and I was quite nervous to be working with him to be honest, because I looked up to him so much, but he was so kind and warmhearted and also gave me some very useful feedback to further improve my orchestral writing. I greatly appreciate it when the people who perform my work, not just the conductor but also individual musicians, share their experience and thoughts with me. It means they find it worthwhile and it allows me to grow.

CB: Is there anything that you would change in the so called “classical music” world? Are you at all interested in other genres, in crossover, or other variants of possible collaborations? (Are you also interested in composing an opera, perhaps?)

MW: I really like the classical music world. It is such a wonderful tradition with immense beauty to offer. Of course a bit more new music on the program never hurts, but perhaps I am not completely unbiased on that front haha. But seriously, I do think it is important to focus also on programming new works so that the classical music tradition really stays alive, instead of a beautiful but ancient piece of art in a museum. And as for ‘other genres’, I think new music is new music, you never know what it will sound like and what it will sound like is up to the composer. It can be crossover like you mentioned, if the composer feels that is an interesting path to explore, but in any case it is good to give many different people the opportunity to write and be performed, so we musicians, listeners and composers alike can be inspired and the music continues to grow and live on.


CB: I’d like to ask you to dream of a music festival for which you’d be the artistic director. What would you program? Which guests would you invite? Which orchestras and/or ensembles would be featured? (to make it even more difficult: you’d have unlimited funds!) – if possible, please provide two or three sample programs.

MW: Christian, what a question! I feel like my head might explode, I would need weeks or months even to think about that question! And I am still trying occasionally to write some notes also… I am sorry I cannot come up with something right on the spot. In any case, referring to your previous question, I think it is always nice to combine ‘old’ and ‘new’ music in a program. When I go to a concert I want to hear the treasures form the past as well as experience something new and fresh and anything in between. It’s no revolutionary stance I think, but I strongly believe in it. 


CB: Thank you very much for your time Mathilde, I look forward to performing your music and to sharing it with our audiences!

MW: Thank you and all the musicians for performing my piece! And the audience for listening of course. I wish I could be there, but Davis is a little far from home (Amsterdam, the Netherlands) for me. I just looked it up and read it is the most popular city in Yolo county, which sounds like a place worth visiting, so who knows one day… In any case good luck and fun with the performance! I hope you and the listeners will enjoy it 🙂

Mathilde Wantenaar (Photo by Karen van Gilst)

Amsterdam born composer Mathilde Wantenaar (1993) started her studies at  the Amsterdam Conservatory, where she studied classical composition with Willem Jeths and Wim Henderickx and subsidiary subjects including piano, cello, classical voice and advanced rhythm. 

   Wantenaar’s music has been described as lyrical, enchanting and eclectic yet authentic. The combination of her craftsmanship and openness to a broad array of genres make Wantenaar a very versatile composer. She works with individual musicians, both vocalists and instrumentalists, as well as small ensembles, large orchestras and everything in between, and is especially interested in creating opera. 

   After her first chamber opera premiered during the Opera Forward Festival 2016 of the Dutch National Opera Wantenaar completed her composition studies and was admitted to the Royal Conservatory of The Hague to study classical voice with Rita Dams and Noa Frenkel where the goal was to further develop her musicality, explore the art of singing in depth and learn more about drama. This proved to be an invaluable experience with regards to her vocal writing in particular, but also her compositional approach in general.

   For three years Wantenaar divided her time between her composition practice and vocal studies, until she got her first orchestral commission (Prélude à une nuit américaine for the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra) as well as an opera commission (Een lied voor de maan for the Dutch National Opera) in 2019 and decided it was time to focus solely on composition from now on. 

   Wantenaar has written for, and collaborated with, the Dutch National Opera, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Philharmonic Orchestra, the Netherlands Radio Choir, the Dutch Wind EnsembleAmsterdam SinfoniettaWishful Singing, Liza Ferschtman, Ralph van Raat, Johannette Zomer and many others.

Uncategorized

Jennifer Reason in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On November 20, 2021, we are featuring the very unusual work “Tabuh-Tabuhan” by Colin McPhee (subtitled as Toccata for Orchestra and 2 Pianos). For it, we will present two outstanding pianists that are in different stages of their lives. Jennifer Reason is much beloved in our region as a pianist, cultural leader,  artistic director, and also much admired classical music host at CapRadio (the local NPR Station). She is an incredibly versatile, all-round artist. She directs RSVP, a choir with a very important social justice mission, she plays lots of new music, lots of old music, she collaborates with the Rogue Music Project as Music Director, presenting new and/or unusual operas to local audiences. She’s a complete omnivore (I feel very identified with this!) and she comes with a lot of experience working with different kinds of orchestras, ensembles, and as a solo artist with recordings under her belt. For the McPhee we also feature an extremely talented Davis High School student, Adrián Zaragoza, as our second piano soloist. I have known Adrian’s family for a number of years and I’ve followed with great pleasure his ascending trajectory and growth as a musician. I am very glad that we can create these opportunities to foster our extraordinary, and very talented youngsters. They deserve these opportunities and we are here to help them.

In preparation for our performance I had the opportunity to ask Jen a few questions, and below are her answers:

Christian Baldini: Jen, first of all, what a pleasure it will be to feature you as our soloist at the Mondavi Center. This is a brilliant piece by a visionary composer. Without his music, it would have probably taken a lot longer for the music by John Adams, Steve Reich or Phillip Glass to come into existence. The clear inspiration he received during his time in Bali is what marked his path and musical development. What can you share with people who know nothing about this music? What can they expect from your performance of Tabuh-Tabuhan? What is very special about this piece?

Jennifer Reason: They can expect to get a bit of EVERYTHING. You will get the virtuosic fireworks you already expect from a piano concerto, only times two with the double grand pianos on stage! You will also get to have an out of the box experience, with churning rhythms and the glorious harmonic flavors of Bali, some deliciously subtle and some ferocious. This piece is a fascinating tour de force and an absolute joy to play. 

CB: Tell me about your musical upbringing. How did you start? What were your first steps?

JR: Well my mother was a piano teacher, so I was always clambering up onto her piano bench pretty much as soon as I could walk! She noticed how much I loved to move my fingers on the keys even as that tiny toddler, so she had me in formal lessons by the time I turned four. I will be forever grateful for that. 

CB: Who have been some of the most inspiring people in your life? And experiences? What are some of those essential before and after moments that made you realize you needed to change course?

JR: Oh, I could write a novel here. Life has such a way of bringing you just what you need, and it hardly is ever what you expect, right? My teacher Richard Cionco certainly ranks among the very top most inspiring people in my life. I started studying with him in high school, when I was on the fence about whether I loved music enough to devote myself to it or not. (Sports and a potential career in science among two of the things calling my attention away..) It was through him that I found my Yes: my own musical voice and my own passion for this special art form. If I hadn’t found him when I did, I wonder if I would have made a career in this business. I’ve gone with him now many times to festivals in Europe, but that first time he took me to Italy as a young college student changed my life forever. There was no turning back from a life in music, and music combined with travel, after that.

CB: You do a lot of social justice work through your RSVP Choir. Could you explain how you started with this wonderful project, what it means to you, and what you hope to accomplish in the coming years with them?

JR: Yes, I went to hear RSVP in a concert many years ago and was so blown away by their blend, versatility and musicality that I decided on the spot I had to sing with them. I auditioned and was lucky enough to be accepted by Julie Adams, the founder and former Artistic Director (and also my mentor) back in 2008. When it was Julie’s decision to retire, I was offered the directorship, which I have held now for coming up on 8 years. This project means the world to me: it is how I give back to our community, and how I use music to make a difference for the less fortunate among us. We have supported over 35 amazing local charities through our concert programs so far, and I hope to add as many groups to that number as possible! 

CB: You are an incredibly versatile musician. You are Music Director of the Rogue Music Project with other beloved musicians in our community (Carrie Hennessey, Kevin Doherty, Omari Tau and Sarah Fitch). How does this fit within all your other work? What are some of the exciting things coming up with this remarkable group?

JR: It fits like a glove! One of my primary goals in all my musical endeavors is to expand the canon, to create diverse and culturally relevant space for art making. (Much like the concerto we are performing together!) RMP does just that in its adventurous and boundary pushing theater experiences. Upcoming we are prepping “small bites” of collaborative works that include the music of Darius Milhaud, Boris Vian, William Mayer and more with dance! Some live and some via short film format!

CB: On top of all those hats you wear, you are also a much admired classical music host at CapRadio in Sacramento. Can you tell me what you like the most about this position? How does it fit within your life as a busy musician that performs in so many places and in so many capacities?

JR: I couldn’t ask for a more ideal position than hosting classical music for CapRadio. Most shows and rehearsals take place in the evening, so on air hosting during the midday is just perfect. But past that, and so much more importantly, I get to talk about music, hopefully in a way that educates, inspires and uplifts this community. It’s also a singular opportunity for connecting the greater community with local artists, as well as introducing people to neglected/ under-represented voices and music makers. 

CB: Imagine you have unlimited funds to put together a week-long festival. You could invite any orchestras, soloists, directors that you like. You can program any music that you’d like. What would you do? (if possible give 2 or 3 sample programs)

JR: What a fabulous question. I think I would combine everything I love: new music, education, and FOOD. We would invite all sorts of living modern classical composers and ensembles, with as great a focus as possible on diversity. In addition to multiple formal concerts a day, we’d have jam sessions or sightreading parties where people could sit around and make music together in casual spaces, (with free flowing drink of course!) the way it used to be done. We’d incorporate a mentorship component where young and particularly economically disadvantaged players could sit in with the pros. And then of course we would have all sorts of fine dining experiences incorporated as well! Perhaps every night a wonderful dinner show, or perhaps guest chefs or mixologists to create food/cocktails inspired by the music being performed! 

Jennifer Reason

Hailed as a pianist “in the league of Carnegie Hall,” a “rising star” whose playing is “lush, sensual and colorful: like a painting” (Sulzbach-Rosenberger, Germany), a “powerhouse” (Victor Forman, CPR), and one who possesses an “extraordinary skill” (D. Frantztreb, SCC), Jennifer Reason is a vibrant young performer in consistent demand, and the recipient of Sacramento Business Journal’s Top 40 Under 40 Award for 2016. She gave her first solo recital at the age of 5, and had acquired her first Staff Pianist position by the age of 12. She has since gone on to appear in solo and ensemble performances across 15 states and 11 countries, including such prestigious venues as Carnegie Hall, the Vatican, and the Liszt Academy in Prague. Festival appearances include the Festival of Peace and Brotherhood in Italy, the Interharmony International festival in Germany, the Schlern International Festival in Italy, and the Orfeo International Festival in Italy.
Dearest to Ms. Reason’s heart is collaborative work, and as such she is the Artistic Director of the Emmy-nominated ensemble RSVP, an acapella group that sings to raise money for local charities (www.rsvpchoir.org). She is also a founding member of the 15 year old contemporary sextet Citywater, currently Ensemble-in-Residence at CSU Sacramento (www.citywatermusic.com). Finally, she is the recently appointed Music Director of the Rogue Music Project, a music collective formed to challenge current perceptions of opera through unpredictable, adventurous, and socially conscious performances. (www.roguemusicproject.com).

She has shared the stage with such noteworthy artists/personalities as John Rutter, members of Journey, Tower of Power, Santana, and Sly and the Family Stone, Governor Jerry Brown and Billy Bob Thornton. When not personally performing, Ms. Reason enjoys working as Music Director for staged productions-including the world premiere of Max Understood in San Francisco and the Bay Area premiere/adaption of Shakespeare In Love-as well as maintaining a private piano studio. Her students have been accepted on scholarship to collegiate music programs such as the Hartt School of Music, University of North Texas, CSU Long Beach, CSU – Sacramento, William Jessup University and Cosumnes River College. Away from the concert hall, Ms. Reason is the Midday Classical Host for Capital Public Radio (www.capradio.org/music) and a Voting Member of the Recording Academy for the Grammys.


www.jennifer-reason.com

California, Christian Baldini, Concerto, Experimental, Judy Kang, Korea, Uncategorized, violin

Judy Kang in Conversation with Christian Baldini

After a long pandemic pause, the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra will finally return to Jackson Hall, Mondavi Center in Davis California on October 15, 2021. Our opening program will be a short noon concert featuring a new work by Iranian composer Aida Shirazi, as well as Sibelius’ Violin Concerto with the extraordinary Judy Kang. I had the pleasure of asking Judy some questions, and below are her very thoughtful answers:

Christian Baldini: Judy, welcome, I am so excited to be performing the Sibelius Violin Concerto with you as our wonderful soloist. You and I have known each other virtually for a long time, we have connected, interviewed, even performed remotely, but this is our first “in person” performance. Are you excited about this? What are some of the things you look forward to the most?

Judy Kang: Thanks so much for inviting me to perform this masterpiece. I’m so excited about it and working/meeting in person with you as well!
I look forward to getting back to the stage after the long “break”, getting back into the groove and having the privilege to play one of my all time favourites, I’m very grateful.
It’s exciting to play for a live audience again, “getting lost” and being in the moment, letting go, and embracing the unknown. The exchange of energy in the room and inspiration  pulled from the audience will be magical and something I realize that I miss deeply. One thing during the pandemic that really struck me was the realization and challenge to feel those things alone in a room recording in front of a camera even if there is an audience on the other side. The collaborations werent the same either though absolutely grateful it was possible to have. It will be wonderful to collaborate in the same room!

CB: What are some of the aspects of the Sibelius Violin Concerto that you like the most? What is so special about it in your view? What would you recommend to people who don’t know the piece, what should they listen for?

JK: I love the overall vibe of the work; the emotion that it provokes and displays. I love how it’s orchestrated and the way it’s structured. The virtuosity and passion the composer has allowed for both the soloist and orchestra. It’s so fun to play. What I find special about this work is that it has such richness and depth to it but it really penetrates to our emotion which doesnt necessarily require a type of intellectual understanding. The piece has a lot of tension underneath the surface. It’s cool and icy but hot and intense below. Listen for the way it builds to climax and how it moves away from the tension to warmer and more passionate places.
Listen to how the rhythm of the orchestra in the last movement is foundational to keeping up a consistency of excitement and intensity and how the violin plays and reacts to it and also in a way is improvisatory in essence over that rhythmic base. Let the music take you to where ever your mind and spirit wants.

CB: Tell me about your training as a violinist. You have been mentored by some of the foremost violinists of our time, and you’ve also developed a remarkable career as a soloist. What are some aspects of different “schools” of violin playing that you have incorporated and/or rejected? How did it all come into place for you?

JK: I was mostly exposed to a lot of the old Russian school of playing. I had very interesting training growing up. My professors from childhood gave me much freedom to express and allowed me to express myself. I felt free to do so. It felt very natural and organic. My first professor when I was at The Curtis Institute was extremely strict in contrast and I felt for the first time a loss of that freedom. The silver lining is that I adapted to learning things very quickly.

CB: You have also played the violin with Lady Gaga all over the world. You are allegedly the only living musician (according to the New York Times) to have played under both Pierre Boulez and Lady Gaga. How does this type of flexibility, desire and willingness to participate in crossover classical/pop music performances come into being?

JK: I’ve always felt a sense of fun and creativity in making up melodies as a kid. Instead of playing scales I would make up random tunes or would imitate a song or piece I heard that I wanted to learn eventually. I grew up listening to pop and top40. It was a type of therapeutic “easy” listening for me. My love for improv and collaborations opened opportunities to jam and work with all types of artists. I never thought or had planned to make a “career” outside of classical to be honest. It was more so an outlet for me to be spontaneous, and for self creativity and expression. Again, a form of therapy perhaps.

CB: If you had to name four or five of your favorite violinists (from any era), who would they be?

JK: I grew up listening to Heifetz Milstein Elman  Rabin Kreisler… they were and are a huge influence.

CB: Are there any dream/impossible performances you’d like to be a part of? (this could be playing in a string quartet with Mozart, or in a jazz combo with Miles Davis)

JK: any of the above mentioned violinists, Jacqueline dupre, Glenn Gould, Eddie hazel, Paganini, Bach, Chopin, Rachmaninov, Beethoven, Mozart, Schostakovich, Debussy, Gershwin, Kurt Cobain, Bob Marley, Elliott Smith, Pink Floyd, Zeppelin, Thom Yorke, Sarah Mclachlan.

CB: If you had an unlimited budget to put together a summer festival, what would you do? You could invite artists, orchestras, chamber music groups, dancers, from all over the world. A whole month of events all curated by you. What would this look like?

Jk: the possibilities are endless. When you get artists together it becomes a conglomerate of unknown possibilities. And without a budget, it’s about utilizing the means to re-create and build from authenticity and from what’s within. Somehow I feel that the lack of creates more a sense of raw creativity and I find beauty in it. It’s about balancing the two things I suppose. I would love an environment that allows for freedom without rules within boundaries. For collaborations and a space to freely express and another space that challenges one another to expand and go to the unknown places without judgement or a sense of pressure. An atmosphere where we are allowed and inspired to discover and embrace the deep parts of ourselves and where vulnerability is a warm and welcoming thing. A space to be unsafe. It would be a world, if you will, for us, as individuals, creators, and a community via relationships, to create and utilize art as a means of understanding ourselves, one another, allowing growth and ultimately, healing.

Judy Kang, courtesy photo

The New York Times hailed, “Judy Kang, a Canadian violinist and most likely the only musician to have worked with both Pierre Boulez and Lady Gaga, was featured in Brahms’s Violin Concerto. Ms. Kang, who drew whoops from the audience before playing a single note, offered a lean, focused sound, pinpoint intonation and expressively molded phrasing. Every line seemed to mean something personal in what amounted to an amorous serenade.” 

Judy Kang is not your quintessential artist. She has established herself internationally as a solo violinist and chamber musician in the classical world as well as featured guest artist and prominent collaborator in the world of pop, indie, jazz, and hip hop. A multi faceted artist evolving outside of her formal classical training, Judy has set herself apart from others through her work as a singer/songwriter, producer, composer, and arranger. Born a rebel to tradition, rules, and conformity, she discovered an artistic freedom and a sense of individuality through creation and improv at about the age of 7. Judy continues to defy and break the constraints of boundaries improvising, jamming, co-writing, producing, and performing with bands and artists from Alaskan prog rock band Portugal.The Man to such powerhouses as Lady Gaga. 
 
Born and raised in Canada to a single mother, her career in violin began at the age of four, winning competitions and performing publicly in recitals. Judy’s unusual gift was recognized immediately having instantly learned and memorized a piece at her first lesson. By age six, she made her solo orchestral debut and at age ten, she burst onto the classical music scene in a nationally acclaimed televised performance as soloist with the National Arts Center Orchestra. The Ottawa Citizen proclaimed, “If there was a star tonight, it was Judy Kang. Blessed with a gift for the violin that is exceptional, she moves about the instrument at her disposal with an ease that is awe-inspiring.” A year later and with a fractured wrist at the time (from a volleyball game), Judy auditioned and subsequently accepted a full scholarship to attend the prestigious Curtis Institute of Music. At 17, she graduated with a bachelor in music as the youngest graduate in Curtis’ history. Shortly after graduation, she captured the grand prize as well as the “Best Interpretation” award at the CBC Competition for Young Performers, Canada’s most esteemed competition. At the age of 19, Judy was granted the Lily Foldes Scholarship from the Juilliard School where she earned her master’s degree with high honors. Additionally, she was the first recipient on full scholarship of the Artist Diploma from the Manhattan School of Music, which holds the distinction as the highest level of education, above all other programs.

Since her first solo appearance at age four in her native Edmonton, Canada, Judy has toured six continents across North and South America, Europe, the Soviet Union, Asia, Australia, New Zealand, Africa and the Caribbean Islands. She has performed with all the major orchestras and ensembles of Canada and those of US, Europe and Asia. Further, she performed in recital and chamber music to diverse audiences in prestigious venues including Tokyo Suntory Hall, Lincoln Center, Royal Festival Hall, Schubert Hall in Vienna as well as at the Metropolitan and Guggenheim Museums in New York, to name a few. Judy made her critically acclaimed debut to a sold out audience in Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall.

Having achieved a level of pop culture status as “Lady Gaga’s violinist/nurse Judy,” she was personally selected by the iconic sensation as her solo violinist on the “MonsterBall” world tour in 2010-11, the biggest selling debut tour in history. Judy performed in sold out venues for millions worldwide. In the midst of touring Europe, she flew to NYC for less than 30 hours to perform as soloist of Brahms’ Violin Concerto at Stern Hall at Carnegie Hall, garnering rave reviews from the New York Times as well as other publications. She appeared on the Emmy award winning HBO special “Lady Gaga Presents: The MonsterBall World Tour Live from Madison Square Garden.” Judy was also featured alongside Lady Gaga on American Idol playing the violin solo of her hit single, “Alejandro.” 

A member of the acoustic trio of Academy award winning film composer and groundbreaker of electronic music, Ryuichi Sakamoto, they have toured Europe and Asia in sold out shows and have released two albums on the Decca label to much celebration. As a producer and writer for diverse artists, she co-wrote, produced, and arranged a song for singer Antoniette Costa whose music video garnered over 65,000 views in the first 48 hours following its premiere. She has also toured in collaboration with pianist Chad Lawson for a project entitled “Chopin Variations” which consists of revisiting his piano masterpieces in modern trio form.

Judy frequently collaborates with esteemed composers and has worked closely with Leon Kirchner, Richard Danielpour, Alexander Goehr, and Pierre Boulez. In response to her well-received performance and collaboration with Pierre Boulez and IRCAM, The New York times wrote, “violinist Judy Kang, who played with assurance and imagination, became the wizardly master of an entire sound environment.

Young people whose only experience of electronic music comes from deafening rock clubs should have heard this performance.” As a student at Juilliard, Judy became well versed in the New York club scene having played to sold out audiences in venues such as Le Poisson Rouge, The Bitter End, Irving Plaza, Mercury Lounge, Pianos, The Living Room, and Bowery Ballroom, among others.

She has performed in front of numerous diplomats and leaders including U.S. President Bill Clinton. Her extensive collaborations include distinguished members of the Guarneri and Emerson Quartets, Beaux Arts Trio, Olafur Arnalds, Lenny Kravitz, Richard Goode, Lynn Harrell, Andre Previn, Claude Frank, Miriam Fried, Emmanuel Ax, and David Geringas, among many others. Her mentors include Sylvia Rosenberg, Robert Mann, Aaron Rosand, Felix Galimir, Lorand Fenyves, James Keene, and Yoko Wong.

Judy has performed at major festivals such as Marlboro, Ravinia, Banff, Orford, Bargemusic, Manchester, Aspen, the Ottawa International Chamber Music Festival, Lenaudiere, and the Pablo Casals Festival, as well as at various jazz and pop festivals like Lollapalooza and the Festival Internacional Jazz Barcelona, to name a few. She was also featured in one of three chamber groups selected for the 60th Anniversary Disc from a live performance on Musicians from Marlboro. She is an original founding member of piano quartet “Made in Canada” having toured throughout Canada and was concertmaster and a frequent featured soloist with string ensemble “Sejong”.

Judy’s achievements have garnered her much media attention, frequently appearing on CNN and MTV as well as in myriad print publications including being featured in Chatelaine magazine’s 80 women to watch. Her release of two critically acclaimed CDs have been nominated for the Opus award and the Gemini award in her native Canada. She has won top prizes at prestigious international competitions such as Kreisler, Naumburg, Dong-A, and Carl Nielsen, as well as grand prize several years in a row at the Canadian Music Competition. Having graduated high school at age 15, she was selected as an All American Scholar, honouring the top academically talented students in America as well as being nominated for the United States National Mathematics Award (USNMA).

Judy is frequently heard live and through broadcasts on national and international radio stations such as CBC (Canada), BBC (London) and on WQXR (New York).

Humbled and thankful to have received numerous and continuous support through scholarships and grants from numerous foundations, Judy won the ‘Sylva Gelber’ prize given to the most talented musician under 30. Further, and in recognition of her outstanding achievement and contribution to the arts, she is featured as an accomplished artist and inspiration in a book entitled “Korea and Canada: A Shared History.” The sole artist to be awarded the longest use of an instrument from the Canada Council Instrument Bank, Judy won the use the 1689 “Baumgartner” Stradivarius, through a generous donor.

She frequently donates her time and talents towards charity, benefits, nursing/retirement homes, hospitals, schools, arts education, ministry, and missions. Judy is artistic director for EnoB, a community based nonprofit organization that reaches out to people who are disabled, hospitalized, or suffer from socio-economic disadvantages. She is also an artist ambassador for WorldVision.

Inspired by a deep yearning to delve within and to express pure and raw emotion on her own terms, Judy released a self-titled debut record of original songs on March 5, 2013, fully self written, produced, and recorded. The album takes the listener on her evolving personal journey as an artist, from past to present, through an exploration and experiment of sound, featuring the violin primarily, as well as vocals, and other instruments. The first of many more to come, her record garnered much praise and accolades from the press and artists alike, including MidWest Record saying, “Moving from Juilliard to Lady Gaga as easily as she moves from ambient to a Stradivarius, Kang blows open the stereotypical tiger mom progeny being a hot chick that masters classical violin before puberty. For all the pop chops she has under her young belt, this is a shining example of a wonderful record that many will not know what to make of.” Bob Boilen, host and creator of NPR’s online music show All Songs Considered, describes it as “diverse, unbelievably beautiful, and eclectic.” 

She continues to stretch her artistic boundaries through various projects of her own as well as with her collaborations with other artists.

California, Chorus, Christian Baldini, composer, Experimental, Singer, Symphony Orchestra, Uncategorized

Composer Laurie San Martin in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On Friday, March 6, I will conduct the world première of Laurie San Martin’s work “what remains” at the Mondavi Center, especially written for the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus. Also on that program we will perform Beethoven’s only oratorio, Christ on the Mount of Olives, with Jacqueline Piccolino, Kyle Stegall and Daniel Yoder as our vocal soloists, and Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Andrei Baumann. I had the chance of asking Laurie San Martin some questions, and below are her answers.

Christian Baldini: Laurie, we’ve known each other for many years, I have had the honor and pleasure of conducting the world premiere of two of your works: a concerto for two marimbas and orchestra for Mayumi Hama and Chris Froh, and a new work for the Camellia Symphony Orchestra. This will be the first time that I’m conducting a work of yours for chorus and orchestra. When I asked you to write this piece for the UC Davis Symphony and the University Chorus, I mentioned to you that you’d be sharing the program with two major works by Beethoven (his oratorio Chris on the Mount of Olives and his Fourth Piano Concerto). Was this a daunting prospect, or how did you feel?
Laurie San Martin: First, let me say that it’s an honor to write for your orchestras and in particular,  the UCDSO. It’s nostalgic for me because I played in the UCDSO as an undergraduate student  many moons ago.  But also, these are my students and it is a joy to get to work with them in this way. As for Beethoven, his impact casts a long shadow, even 200 years later. HIs 4th piano concerto is my absolute favorite. 

CB: You’ve chosen two beautiful poems that really have informed each of the two pieces. How did you choose them, and how do you look for relationships between the texts and what you do in your music?
LSM: Gary Snyder is an important poet to the greater Davis area, and I found this particular poem For the Children to be beautifully done. While I was already working on the music of the Snyder movement, I came across Rae Armantrout’s Riddance and was immediately taken with it. The similar themes (about nature, the threat of climate destruction) brought these poems close together for me. The tone of each poem is very different but the dramatic balance made them easy to imagine being paired together.

CB: I think I can say without hesitation that your music has evolved and changed considerably in the last ten years. How would you describe how your interests and priorities have changed as a composer?
LSM: I have always been interested in harmony, counterpoint, rhythm, and  how these elements help build a piece. It sounds old-fashioned and in some ways, it is. In the past 10 years, I have heard  a lot of “sound-based pieces” or pieces that are devoid of pitch completely and instead use different shades of noise. Hearing so many pieces that experiment with sound has influenced the way I think about it as well.  

CB: Who were some of your compositional role models 20 years ago? And who are they now?
LSM: 20 years ago, I was finishing my dissertation on the music of Andrew Imbrie whose music offers so much integrity and craft. I was fascinated and inspired by Mario Davidovsky’s music. My playlist likely included Ursula Mamlok’s From my Garden, Dallapiccola’s Piccola Musica Notturna and the many, many piano etudes by my teacher, David Rakowski. More recently, I am interested in music by Unsuk Chin (Akrostichon-Wortspiel in particular). I heard the premiere of Spiral by Andrew Norman in June, 2018 and found it to be brilliantly crafted. My former colleague and good friend Yu-Hui Chang (her Binge Delirium is a go-to for percussion writing) and Kate Soper’s only the words themselves. There are many other composers and pieces that have caught my attention in the past 20 years but I think the most important thing I have done is to go to a lot of concerts. I think experiencing music live—any style of music—has a profound impact us as humans. And I think that has been the single most important part of my growth. 

CB: In your opinion, what is the meaning of art in our society? What can we do as artists to keep our mission relevant to more people?
LSM: Art communicates something that can’t always be said with words. Art is abstract and what we each take from a specific piece of art is as individual as we are. If we don’t retain our individuality in the world, then I think  we will be doomed. I think there is power in experiencing art– how it stirs ideas and emotions that every day life might otherwise leave dormant.

CB: Thank you for your time and for writing this wonderful piece for us. We look forward to sharing it with the audience!

LSM: Thank you for the opportunity. I’m so proud of the student performers and of our audience that continues to support the orchestra. I think it’s really important to program living composers and I’m grateful that you are doing so much to integrate the new and the old into your programming!

Laurie San Martin
Laurie San Martin (courtesy photo)

Laurie San Martin writes music that creates a compelling narrative by exploring the intersection between texture and line. Critics have described her music as exuberant, colorful, forthright, high octane, tumultuous, intricate, intense and rumbly. She writes concert music for chamber ensembles and orchestra but has also written for theater, dance and video. Her music has been performed across the United States, Europe and Asia. Most recently she has enjoyed writing for virtuoso soloists including violinists Hrafnhildur Atladottir and Gabriela Díaz, percussionists Chris Froh and Mayumi Hama, Haleh Abghari (soprano), Yi Ji-Young (Korean gayageum) and David Russell (cello).

Recent awards include the 2018 Andrew Imbrie Award in Music from the Academy of Arts and Letters, and a 2016 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship. She has also received awards from Harvard University’s Fromm Foundation, the American Academy of Arts and Letters (Charles Ives Scholarship), League of Composers-ISCM, the International Alliance for Women in Music, and the ASCAP Morton Gould Young Composer’s Awards. Her music has been performed across the United States, Europe and Asia. As a composition fellow, she has attended the MacDowell Colony, Yaddo, Atlantic Center for the Arts, Norfolk Contemporary Chamber Music Festival, the Montalvo Artist Residency, and the Composers Conference at Wellesley College.

Laurie holds a PhD from Brandeis University in Theory and Composition. She has taught at Clark University and is currently Professor of Music at the University of California, Davis. Her music can be found on the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble’s 2005 CD “San Francisco Premieres”,  Ravello CD “Tangos for Piano” performed by Amy Briggs, New Focus Records CD, and  “Chamber Music from the APNM”.

Conductor, Music, Singer, Soloist, Symphony Orchestra, tenor, Uncategorized

Kyle Stegall in Conversation with Christian Baldini

On Friday, March 6, I will conduct Beethoven’s only oratorio, ”Christus am Ölberge” (”Christ on the Mount of Olives”) at the Mondavi Center with the UC Davis Symphony Orchestra and University Chorus, on a program that will also include Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 4, with Andrei Baumann, and the world première of “what remains” by composer Laurie San Martin. Below is a brief Q&A session with one of our three vocal soloists, tenor Kyle Stegall. Click on these links for interviews with Ms. Piccolino and Mr. Yoder.

Christian Baldini: Please tell us about your education and training. How did you start with music, and when did you decide to become a singer?

Kyle Stegall: I’ve been interested in professional singing and in teaching singing since my senior year of high school.  All three of my degrees are in Vocal Performance, and were granted by the Universities of Missouri, Michigan, and Yale.  My passion for communication is what has driven my studies, and the development of my performance and teaching career.

CB: What do you find remarkable about this work by Beethoven? What are your favorite moments in it?

KS: I am so looking forward to performing this dramatic and heroic work with Maestro Baldini and the musical forces at UC-Davis.  I am particularly fond of the moment in which the clarinet introduces the prayer theme in Christ’s opening aria.

CB: What are some of your favorite pieces of music, whether in the operatic realm, chamber music, or on the concert platform? Which works would you like to be singing next?

KS: I am lucky to have a career engaged with a great breadth of the classical repertoire.  I sing opera, recital, and concert work in equal proportions, which is actually quite rare.  I value the opportunity to communicate in such varied stylistic-idioms and performance environments.  Everything from the haute-contre repertoire of the French Baroque to world premieres of new repertoire for the solo voice, to staples of the recital canon, to large orchestrated works such as Christus am Oelberge hold consistent spots in my performance seasons.  I am particularly fond of the Bach evangelists, the cycles of Benjamin Britten, and orchestrated masses/oratorios of the classical and bel canto repertoire.  I’d like to find a spot for Britten’s War Requiem and Berlioz’ Les Nuits d’ete in coming seasons.

CB: What does art, and music in particular, mean to you? Is it relevant in our society today?

KS: Art and music are and will forever be relevant.  Art is an intensely potent force for awakening in large numbers of people a dormant respect for our shared, vulnerable humanity. What our world needs is community. What our world needs is emotional honesty.  Music is the crystallized sonic manifestation of these things.  The question isn’t whether or not art is relevant.  The question is whether or not we will make room in our hearts, budgets, schedules, and priorities for it.


Kyle Stegall2
tenor Kyle Stegall (courtesy photo)

 

Kyle Stegall’s performances around the world have been met with accolade for his “blemish-free production” (Sydney Morning Herald), and his “dramatic vividness” (St. Louis Post-Dispatch). A career spanning concert, opera, and recital stages has grown out of successful collaborations with many of the world’s most celebrated artistic directors including Manfred Honeck, Joseph Flummerfelt, Masaaki Suzuki, William Christie, and Stephen Stubbs.

In demand as an opera and concert soloist, Mr. Stegall is a celebrated interpreter of the Bach evangelists, and is often heard in the great oratorios of Handel and Haydn.  His operatic repertoire spans the haute-contre heroes of the French Baroque to modern premieres.

Mr. Stegall  is a proud alumnus of the universities of Missouri, Michigan, and Yale.

@stegalltenor http://kylestegall.com