Baryshnikov Arts Center (BAC) opens its fall 2018 season on Wednesday, September 19, 2018 at 7:30pm with BAC Salon: Syzmanowski, Berio + Debussy, a program of sumptuous, turn of the 20th century masterworks for string quartet by Karol Szymanowski and Claude Debussy, and Luciano Berio’s Sequenza III, one of the great modern feats for solo voice.
The Salon will be performed by the refined Tesla Quartet, and Canadian rising star Alexandra Smither in her first New York appearance. Smither’s performance is described as “huge, mature, and vocally stunning,” by VOICE Magazine. Of the Tesla Quartet, The International Review of Music reports that the group has, “Superb capacity to find the inner heart of everything they play, regardless of era, style, or technical demand.”
BAC Salon is a series of hour-long concerts with no intermission, performed in an intimate salon-style setting. Admission includes a beverage for concertgoers.
Dubbed “technically superb” by The Strad, the Tesla Quartet brings refinement and prowess to both new and established repertoire. The quartet performs regularly across North America, with recent international appearances in London, Vienna, Beijing, Shanghai, and Seoul. Recent highlights include debut performances in Germany and Hungary, concerts across America, and a residency with the Quad City Visiting Artist Series. The group recently took second prize as well as the Haydn Prize and Canadian Commission Prize at the 12th Banff International String Quartet Competition. The quartet has also garnered top prizes at numerous other international competitions, including the Gold Medal at the 2012 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, third prize and the best interpretation of the commissioned work at the 6th International Joseph Haydn Chamber Music Competition in Vienna, and third prize at the 2012 London International String Quartet Competition.
Canadian-British soprano Alexandra Smither is quickly making a name for herself in the world of old and new classical music. In May of 2017 Smither swept the Eckhardt-Grammate National Music Competition, taking home both first place and best performance of the commissioned work, Nicole Lizee’s Malfunctionlieder.
Her prize included a nationwide tour of Canada in fall of 2017 in which she performed a recital of contemporary works featuring Canadian composers. She made her triumphant debut with Houston Grand Opera as Younger Alyce in their production of Tom Cipullo’s Glory Denied. Additionally, she has appeared on the operatic stage as Gretel (Hansel und Gretel, Rice University), Mrs. Waters (The Boatswain’s Mate, Opera5), Esmeralda (The Bartered Bride, Music Academy of the West), and Lydia (Second Nature, Music Academy of the West). As a 2017 Soprano Fellow at the Tanglewood Festival, she made her Seiji Ozawa Hall debut at the Tanglewood Festival alongside Emanuel Ax and Bill Hudgins in Schubert’s Der Hirt auf dem Felsen.
The string quartets of Debussy (1893) and Syzmanowski (1917) exemplify groundbreaking harmonic pursuits of the time. Debussy paves decades to come with rare sonorities and a departure from the rules of traditional classical harmony. Though Syzmanowsky maintains a gentle harmonic language overall, he experiments with polytonality in the finale by assigning each instrument a different key signature to achieve a humorous, grotesque effect.
Fast-forwarding to the mid-20th century, Berio’s Sequenza III for solo voice (1966) incorporates coughing, laughing, whispering, speaking, and singing to push the boundaries of conventional vocal performance. Of the piece, Berio notes, “I tried to assimilate many aspects of everyday vocal life, including trivial ones, without losing intermediate levels or indeed normal singing. In Sequenza III the emphasis is given to the sound symbolism of vocal and sometimes visual gestures, with their accompanying ‘shadows of meaning,’ and the associations and conflicts suggested by them. For this reason, Sequenza III can also be considered as a dramatic essay whose story, so to speak, is the relationship between the soloist and her own voice.”
BAC continues its fall 2018 music programming with celebrated chamber group yMusic in the New York Premiere of a new album-length work by Bryce Dessner(October 15); Framing Time, an interdisciplinary collaboration featuring the music of Morton Feldman performed by pianist Pedja Muzijevic with dancer-choreographer Cesc Gelabert and set and lighting design by Burke Brown (November 1 and 2) co-presented by Baryshnikov Arts Center and Lincoln Center’s White Light Festival; and Quodlibet Ensemble in music spanning five centuries including a U.S. Premiere by Yevgeniy Sharlat (December 5).
The Baryshnikov Arts Center is located at 450 W. 37th St., New York City. Tickets are $25. Visit www.bacnyc.org for details.