Musical Club of Hartford

Music by Members - Jan 28, 2016

The Musical Club of Hartford concert for Thursday, January 28, 2016, at 10:00 am, will be held in the sanctuary of the Westminster Presbyterian Church, at 2080 Boulevard, West Hartford, CT. This year, the Musical Club of Hartford celebrates its 125th anniversary year by presenting concerts reflecting back on ones given during the history of the club by renowned guest artists. The January 28, 2016 program commemorates one given by Francis Poulenc, pianist and composer, and Pierre Bernac, baritone, on January 17, 1950. Upon that occasion, the two guest artists had been invited to perform as part of the celebration of the 60th anniversary year of the Musical Club of Hartford.

On the program in 1950, Mr. Poulenc played a number of his own compositions, including Mouvements Perpétuels, written in 1918. Mr. Poulenc and Mr. Bernac also presented songs by Campion, Dowland, Gounod, Schubert, Fauré, Debussy, and Ravel. In memory of that program, the concert on January 28 will begin with Claude Debussy’s Rhapsody for Alto Saxophone and Piano, performed by Tony Gibbs, saxophone, and Benita Rose, piano. Commissioned by a Bostonian, and amateur saxophonist, Elise Hall, the original piece, Rapsodie arabe was scored for alto saxophone and orchestra, and completed in 1901, although it was not until 1918, after his death, that the piece was finally published.

Ami Montstream will play an arrangement of the first two movements of Antonio Vivaldi’s Concerto in D for Lute and Strings on hammered dulcimer with Susanne Shrader, violin, and Laura Mazza-Dixon, guitar, accompanying her.

Ms. Shrader will play viola and Lean-Cheng Tan, piano, on Six Studies in English Folk Song, by Ralph Vaughan Williams. An English composer born in 1872, Vaughan Williams completed a degree in Music at Cambridge in 1899 and began collecting songs from the English countryside in 1904. He is best known for his symphonies, in which he incorporated many of those beloved melodies. For this piece he set each of six old songs as a separate movement: Lovely on the Water, Spurn Point, Van Diemans Land, She Borrowed Some of Her Mother’s Gold, and As I walked Over London Bridge.

Mezzo-soprano Betty Knorr will perform the song Soupir by French composer Eugène Marie Henri Fouques Duparc with pianist Alan Lurie. Henri Duparc was born in 1848 and was one of the first composition students of César Franck. He wrote Soupir at age twenty-one, setting a text by René François Armand Sully-Prudhomme.

Susanne Shrader will join Ms. Knorr and Mr. Lurie on two songs by Johannes Brahms, a German composer born in 1833, written for violinist Joseph Joachim and his wife, mezzo-soprano Amalie Schneeweiss. Both were important musical partners for Brahms, as well as close personal friends. The composer wrote an enchanting cradle song, Geistliches Wiegenlied, (Sacred Lullaby) for their son, his namesake, which Amalie could sing with Joseph playing the viola, Brahms’ favorite string instrument. Later, when the couple’s relationship became stormy, Brahms reworked the lullaby and wrote a new song, Gestillte Sehnsucht (Stilled Longing). The two songs were published together in 1884 as his Op. 91. Images of wind in trees – calming in Gestillte Sehnsucht, disturbing in Geistliches Wiegenlied – unite the two.

The next section of the program will include folk music for hammered dulcimer, fiddle and guitar, with Ms. Shrader, Ms. Monstream and Ms. Mazza-Dixon performing a set of English Country Dances from the books published by John Playford between 1670 and 1710. The tunes will be Juice of Barley, Easter Thursday, and Dick’s Maggot. They will also play two sets of traditional dance tunes from Scotland, Ireland, and the United States, including the fiddler’s showpiece, Devil’s Dream, and the Scottish favorite, Flowers of Edinburgh.

Three pianists, Lean-Cheng Tan, Colette Switaj & Gail Tanguay, will join forces on just one piano for the Galop Marche for 1 piano, 6 hands by Albert Lavignac, a French music scholar known for his essays on music theory. Born in Paris, in 1846, Lavignac studied at the Conservatoire de Paris where he later taught harmony. One of his pupils was composer Claude Debussy.

To conclude the program, pianist Mo Tian will perform the third movement, Scarbo, of Maurice Ravel’s Gaspard de la Nuit: Trois Poèmes pour piano d’après Aloysius Bertrand. Born in 1875, Ravel studied composition at the Paris Conservatory but fell out of favor with his professors when he began combining styles in his music, drawing on Baroque and neo-classical idioms, and even jazz. Ravel’s Scarbo is based on a poem by Bertrand about a tormenting spirit who troubles the sleep of the author. Ravel may have also intended to trouble the sleep of the performers of his piece. Because of its technical challenges and profound musical structure, Scarbo is considered one of the most difficult solo piano pieces in the standard repertoire.

About the performers:

Betty Knorr, mezzo-soprano, majored in Music Education at the University of Texas at El Paso, and is a violinist as well as a singer. She is a founding member of CONCORA (Connecticut Choral Artists). She has been a soloist and section leader in several churches in the Hartford area. Betty has been a soloist with the Hartford, Manchester, and New Britain Chorales. She has sung in concerts in England, Israel, and Paris. Currently she sings with CONCORA and the Hartford Chorale and plays violin in the Connecticut Valley Symphony Orchestra. She lives in Berlin, CT.

Alan Lurie, a Los Angeles native, has been at the keyboard since the age of 5. He has performed as a chamber music pianist and recitalist across the United States and internationally in Colombia, Chile, Puerto Rico and Japan, and has been piano soloist with the Farmington Valley and Connecticut String Orchestras. Alan gave the American premier performance of Robert Muczynski’s Time Pieces for Clarinet and Piano, the world premier performances of Robert Dix’s Trio for Flute, Viola and piano and Zeke Hecker’s Duo for Clarinet and Piano, and conducted the American premiere performance of the original Nonet version of the Brahms Serenade #1 in D-Major. He has appeared on Morning Pro Musica, and was on the faculty of the Hartt Community Division as a Chamber Music teacher. Alan is Professor and Chair of Oral and Maxillofacial Radiology at the University of Connecticut School of Dental Medicine and lives in West Hartford, CT with his wife, Dr. Susanne Shrader and their three parrots.

Laura Mazza-Dixon, guitarist and viola da gambist, is the Director of the Windy Hill Guitar Studio in Granby, CT, now celebrating its 25th year. The Windy Hill Guitar Ensembles perform frequently at community events, churches and libraries in the area. Laura performed on classical guitar with Carrie Crompton on hammered dulcimer in the Village Fair Duo, listed on the Connecticut Roster of Performing Artists, from 2002-2007, and featured on two compilation CD’s produced by the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society: A Winter Fantasy, and New England Landscapes. She also plays guitar and viola da gamba with the Celtic group, Ten Penny Bit and with that ensemble has directed programs of music from the British Isles and Appalachia. She founded the Granby Family Dance Series in 2002 and has directed the contradance band Heart’s Ease for twenty years. Laura currently performs Baroque music on viola da gamba with the trio Les Amies de Théodore and directs Baroque and Renaissance Ensembles for the new program of Early Music at Windy Hill. She has directed early music programs for the music series at Trinity Church of Tariffville, First Church of Windsor and South Church of Granby. Laura has served on the board of the Connecticut Classical Guitar Society and is currently chair of the Publicity Committee for the Musical Club of Hartford. She is artistic co-director of the Bruce Porter Memorial Music Series in Granby, CT.

Ami Montstream, hammered dulcimer, was born and raised in Altoona, Pennsylvania. She participated in the school choruses and played oboe in the orchestra, and was first oboist in the High School State Orchestra in her senior year. She continued her musical education at Connecticut College, majoring in piano and composition. She has sung with the Hartford Chorale for thirty-five years. Ami first heard a hammered dulcimer at a 1970’s Folk Festival and has since attended many such festivals, where she has also taught workshops for dulcimers players. She presently plays with “The Portables”, a local folk group, regularly featured at the Sounding Board Coffeehouse in West Hartford. Ami lives in Wethersfield with her husband, Robert.

Susanne Shrader, violin and viola, began study on the violin at age 10. At age 17 she played in the Princeton University Orchestra, and later in the Five-College Orchestra in western Massachusetts. At the age of 30 she learned viola. She subsequently studied with Lawrence Dutton, violist of the Emerson String Quartet. Susanne has held the Principal Viola and assistant concertmaster position in several Hartford area orchestras. She has performed chamber music throughout Connecticut in the Noteworthy Ensemble. She currently plays with the CT Valley Symphony Orchestra in either the violin or viola section. She is a retired physician. Susanne lives in West Hartford with 3 parrots and 1 husband, Dr. Alan Lurie.

Benita Rose, pianist, and Tony Gibbs, saxophonist, form the Rose-Gibbs Duo. The Rose-Gibbs Duo was a top prize winner in the professional division of the 2008 International Chamber Music and Ensembles Competition. Tony Gibbs was formerly principal saxophonist with the US Coast Guard Band. As soloist with this ensemble he has toured the world and performed for US Presidents. He is currently a music teacher in Coventry. Benita Rose, piano has performed on 3 continents as soloist, accompanist, and chamber musician. Last October she gave a solo recital and masterclass in Utica, New York, and will be giving a solo recital in New York City on February 15, 2016. Benita is also a church and concert organist, currently serving Bethany Lutheran Church in West Hartford. A sought after pedagogue, Benita's students have won numerous high caliber piano competitions under her tutelage.

Lean-Cheng Tan, piano, was born in Penang, Malaysia. She began her piano studies at age eleven with the Royal School Of Music of England. She was a music school teacher before she moved to the United States. In 2006-2008 she served as the Co-President of the Hartford Chapter, Connecticut State Music Teacher Association. She volunteered for the Position of Recording Secretary of the Connecticut State Music Teacher Association in 2000-2005. Lean-Cheng has taught piano for 25 years and has accompanied school choirs and the Chinese community choir. She sings in the Musical Club’s Vocal Ensemble and she is also an active performer in an 8 hands piano ensemble for the Musical Club. Lean-Cheng lives in Rocky Hill with her husband and the youngest of her 3 sons.

Mo Tian, piano, has a B.A. from Brown University, an M.M. in piano performance from Indiana University and currently studies with Irma Vallecillo at the University of Connecticut in the Doctoral of Music Arts program in piano performance where he was awarded a graduate teaching assistantship. He is also piano faculty, and teaches a studio of pianists of all levels, at the Community School of the Arts. Prior to his undergraduate studies at Brown University, Mo studied at the Music School of the Rhode Island Philharmonic Orchestra in solo piano and chamber music, both of which he finds equally exciting and challenging. Mo is an active member of the Music Club of Hartford, which has generously supported him through scholarships for his higher music education.