Photo illustrating page  Mahan Esfahani  Czech Chamber Music Society

Czech Chamber Music Society • Mahan Esfahani


CSKH

Mahan Esfahani, an Iranian-American harpsichordist living in Prague, closes the series. With his British colleagues, he prepared a varied programme mainly with music of the 20th century including works by Kaija Saariaho (Finland), Elliott Carter (USA), Jörg Widmann (Germany), or composer and conductor Thomas Adès (UK), already well known to us.

Subscription series II
Czech Chamber Music Society

Programme

Claude Debussy / reconstructed by Kenneth Cooper
Sonata No. 4 for oboe, French horn, and harpsichord from the Six Sonatas for Various Instruments (15')

Kaija Saariaho
Mirrors (5')

Elliott Carter
Sonata for flute, oboe, cello, and harpsichord (16')

— Intermission —

Jörg Widmann
Air pro French horn solo (8')

Thomas Adès
Sonata da Caccia, Op. 11 (16')

Performers

Adam Walker flute
Nicholas Daniel oboe
Ben Goldscheider French horn
Isang Enders cello
Mahan Esfahani harpsichord

Photo illustrating the event Czech Chamber Music Society Mahan Esfahani

Rudolfinum — Dvořák Hall

Studentské vstupné
13 Apr 2022  Wednesday 7.30pm
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13 Apr 2022  Wednesday 7.30pm
Can't order online
13 Apr 2022  Wednesday 7.30pm
Can't order online
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Customer Service of Czech Philharmonic

Tel.:  +420 227 059 227

E-mail: info@czechphilharmonic.cz

Customer service is available on weekdays from 9.00 am to 6.00 pm.

Performers

Adam Walker  flute

At the forefront of a new generation of wind soloists, Adam Walker has won a number of awards including the Outstanding Young Artist Award at MIDEM Classique, a Borletti-Buitoni Trust Fellowship and was shortlisted for the Royal Philharmonic Society Young Artist of the Year.

As a concerto soloist Walker performs with the major UK orchestras including BBC Philharmonic, London Symphony and BBC National Orchestra of Wales and abroad with the Baltimore Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Seoul Philharmonic, Malmö Symphony and the RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland.

A committed chamber musician, Adam was invited onto the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center’s prestigious Bowers Program and is Artistic Director of the Orsino Ensemble. Recent recital highlights include Wigmore Hall, De Singel, Musée du Louvre, Hamburg Elbphilharmonie, Frankfurt Alte Oper and the Utrecht, West Cork, Musica Viva Australia and Moritzburg Chamber Music Festivals.

Adam Walker records for Chandos Records. His first disc featuring the Franck Sonata with pianist James Baillieu was released in Spring 2021.

Nicholas Daniel  oboe

Nicholas Daniel has long been acknowledged as one of the world’s great oboists but he dedicates his life to music in many varied ways. He records and broadcasts widely, supports and patronises many important initiatives, charities and trusts, directs several music festivals and concert series (i.e. Music Director of the Leicester International Music Festival and lunchtime series for many years). He is highly sought after as a teacher, being Professor at the Trossingen Musikhochschule in Germany.

As a soloist Nicholas collaborates with leading orchestras, as a chamber musician he is a founder member of the award-winning Britten Sinfonia, the Haffner Wind Ensemble and the Britten Oboe Quartet. He is also a principal oboist of Camerata Pacifica, California’s leading chamber music ensemble. Following his BBC Proms conducting debut in 2004, he works with many fine ensembles in a wide-ranging repertoire from Baroque to contemporary, and from small groups to opera. In October 2020 he was awarded an OBE.

Ben Goldscheider  french horn

Nominated by the Barbican as an ECHO Rising Star, this season Ben gives recitals at major concert halls including the Concertgebouw, Musikverein, Elbphilharmonie, Köln Philharmonie and LSO St. Lukes with an especially commissioned new work by Mark Simpson. He makes his debut with the BBC Symphony Orchestra (Ruth Gipps Concerto) and London Philharmonic Orchestra (the Knussen Concerto), returning to the Pierre Boulez Saal to give a solo recital, and to Wigmore Hall as soloist.

Highlights over the last year have included the release by Three Worlds Records of Legacy: A Tribute to Dennis Brain, a solo concerto recording with the Philharmonia Orchestra and his debut at the Aldeburgh Festival. Ben is a member of the Pierre Boulez Ensemble and principal horn of the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra. He was a prize-winner at the 2019 YCAT International Auditions and a BBC Young Musician Concerto Finalist in 2016.

Born in London, in 2020 Ben completed his studies with honours at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin with Radek Baborák. 

Isang Enders  violoncello

Born into a German-Korean musician family in Frankfurt in 1988, Isang began studying with Michael Sanderling at the age of twelve. His playing has since been influenced by his studies with Gustav Rivinius, Truls Mørk, and above all, by mentoring of Lynn Harrell. Isang was appointed principal cello of the Dresden Staatskapelle at the age of twenty, making him the youngest section leader in Germany.

He gave many successful stage debuts and performed as soloist with conductors like Zubin Mehta, Christoph Eschenbach and Eliahu Inbal. Isang’s recording of the Bach Cello Suites has received unanimous critical acclaim and his dedication for contemporary music gave him the opportunity to perform the Cello Concerto by Unsuk Chin.

Isang devotes himself to performing contemporary commissions and chamber music with partners and friends, especially as a member of the Sitkovetsky Piano Trio with whom he continues the Beethoven cycle with the label BIS (Diapason d’Or ARTE award). Isang’s latest album Vox humana received the Opus Klassik Award.

Mahan Esfahani  harpsichord

Mahan Esfahani has made it his lifeʼs mission to rehabilitate the harpsichord in the mainstream of concert instruments, and to that end his creative programming and work in commissioning new works have drawn the attention of critics and audiences across Europe, Asia, and North America. He was the first and only harpsichordist to be a BBC New Generation Artist (2008–2010), a Borletti-Buitoni prize winner (2009), and a nominee for Gramophoneʼs Artist of the Year (2014, 2015, and 2017).

His work for the harpsichord has resulted in recitals in most of the major series and concert halls, amongst them Londonʼs Wigmore Hall and Barbican Centre, Oji Hall in Tokyo, Carnegie Hall in NYC, Sydney Opera House, Los Angelesʼs Walt Disney Concert Hall, Berlin Konzerthaus, and the Leipzig Bach Festival, and concerto appearances with the BBC Symphony, Seattle Symphony, Auckland Philharmonia, Czech Radio Symphony, Orchestra La Scintilla, and Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra, with whom he was an artistic partner for 2016–2018.

His richly-varied discography includes seven critically-acclaimed recordings for Hyperion and Deutsche Grammophon – garnering one Gramophone award, two BBC Music Magazine Awards, a Diapason d’Or and ‘Choc de Classica’ in France, and an ICMA.

Esfahani studied musicology and history at Stanford University, where he first came into contact with the harpsichord in the class of Elaine Thornburgh. Following his decision to abandon the law for music, he studied harpsichord privately in Boston with Peter Watchorn before completing his formation under the celebrated Czech harpsichordist Zuzana Růžičková. Following a three-year stint as Artist-in-Residence at New College, Oxford, he continues his academic associations as an honorary member at Keble College, Oxford, and as professor at the Guildhall School of Music and Drama in London. He can be frequently heard as a commentator on BBC Radio 3 and Radio 4 and as a host for such programs as Record Review, Building a Library, and Sunday Feature, as well as in live programmes with the popular mathematician and presenter Marcus du Sautoy; for the BBC’s Sunday Feature he is currently at work on his fourth radio documentary following two popular programmes on such subjects as the early history of African-American composers in the classical sphere and the development of orchestral music in Azerbaijan.

Born in Tehran in 1984 and raised in the United States, he lived in Milan and then London for several years before taking up residence in Prague.

Compositions


Mahan Esfahani - evening programme

Sonata No. 4 for oboe, French horn and harpsichord was created by two composers. Claude Debussy (1862–1918) planned to write a work scored for this unusual instrumental ensemble, but failed to do so. His music is characterized by the same style as that of the late 19th-century Impressionist painters and Symbolist poets. This means capturing colors and moods and moments of beauty and life indescribable by words at the expense of adhering to established rules, and filling old forms with new, unsettling content. Debussy succeeded in translating the artistic endeavors (not to draw but to evoke an atmosphere) into musical language. Debussy’s music radiates delicious beauty, tenderness and sadness, emphasizing delight and excitement, changeability and intensity: all this not using images, but sonic colors. Although Debussy did not found a clearly defined school of composition, he remains almost exclusively a representative of Impressionism in music. We can only guess how Sonata No. 4 from his loose series of sonatas for various combinations of instruments would have sounded. Debussy did not leave any sketches of this composition, intended in 1917. However, the sonata does exist. It was reconstructed, or rather written in its entirety in 2011, by the American musicologist and harpsichordist Kenneth Cooper (1941–2021), a renowned early music soloist as well as a frequent performer of contemporary works, artistic director of the Berkshire Bach Ensemble, and teacher at several prestigious art colleges in the USA. In order to create this sonata, Cooper has combined three original piano pieces by Debussy. The first movement is an excerpt from the ballet La Boîte à joujoux (The Toy Box), which exists only in a piano score; the second movement is an arrangement of Étude pour les notes répétées; and the third movement is based on the finale from Debussy’s Images. The sonata is probably the most challenging for the horn player.

Kaija Saariaho (born 1952), a Finnish composer who has lived in Paris for four decades, writes music known as “spectral”. Spectralism has developed since the 1980s as a creative alternative to the rational serialism represented by Pierre Boulez. Rather than ordering and alternating tones, the then young composers wanted to deal with unstable and changing sounds with transitions between timbre and harmony, rhythm and frequency, or rhythm and intensity, i.e., with the transformations – the analysis and reverse synthesis – of the tonal spectrum over time. In this sense, Kaija Saariaho puts together live music with electronic and computer music. The Czech public in Brno had the opportunity to attend Saariaho’s internationally acclaimed opera L’Amour de Loin (Love from Afar), which is a compellingly lyrical piece conjuring with sounds and their colors. Its building blocks are not so much musical motifs and themes, but rather entire surfaces and layers. The plot of the opera is a magical parable. In the program notes to Mirrors, Saariho explains that it is a chamber composition for two to five musicians, or rather a music joke from 1997. She wrote Mirrors for a CD-ROM (an optical recording medium that stores computer data) entitled Prisma, dedicated to her music. The piece allows for different resulting forms, that is, the user/performer can create his own version from the given fragments: the rhythm, the timbre, the instrumental gesture of the music, its intensity... These are all variable parameters and Saariaho explicitly allows for “mirroring” of one or more of these dimensions simultaneously, horizontally and vertically.

The American composer Elliott Carter (1908–2012) was famous not only for his long life in which he was still very productive, but also for his ultra-modernist style, which in reference to specific string quartets was described as “such complex music that it is very difficult for the human ear to perceive”. Indeed, after a Neoclassical phase, Carter eventually arrived at atonal music, a quite distinctive musical language that placed him among the ultra-modernists. Sonata for flute, oboe, cello and harpsichord from the early 1950s stands at the beginning of this stylistic transformation. Carter’s teachers included the British composer Gustav Holst who attained fame with his Planets, and the renowned Parisian teacher Nadia Boulanger, who influenced a wide range of musicians from composers George Gershwin, Aaron Copland, Astor Piazzolla and Philip Glass to conductors Daniel Barenboim and John Eliot Gardiner. Carter himself has few notable pupils.

Jörg Widmann (born 1973) is an outstanding German composer, prominent clarinetist, principal conductor of the Irish Chamber Orchestra and teacher at the Barenboim-Said Academy in Berlin. His music often appears on the programs of major symphony orchestras such as the Berlin and Vienna Philharmonics, as well as in the projects of contemporary music specialists such as the Ensemble Intercontemporain in Paris and the Klangforum Wien in Austria. He has produced many orchestral works and instrumental concertos, a whole series of chamber pieces, the full-length opera Babel, avant-garde pieces such as 180 bpm (180 beats per minute), but also compositions that turn to the past. One of his favorite composers is Carl Maria von Weber, during whose opera Der Freischütz Widmann experienced initiatory moments as a child, and more recently, Ludwig van Beethoven. Widmann is a true child of his time. His compositions are full of intricate gestures and deliberately inaccurate quotations, as well as other amusing references to existing music. Air for solo horn was written in 2005 as a compulsory piece for the 54th International Music Competition of the ARD in Munich. Requiring highly virtuosic technique, it is based on the sound material containing various natural harmonic rows and micro-intervals as well as changes of open and muted playing. Despite all its complexity, also based on the closeness and distance of sound, the piece is oriented towards melody, as the logic of its title suggests.

The British composer Thomas Adès (born 1971) is a multifaceted figure in contemporary international music. His works are characterized by great sonic imagination, an impressive musical language, colorful themes and a distinct style. They have been performed by orchestras, at festivals and in opera houses around the world, often under his direction. However, Adès also appears as a solo pianist. This is how he is remembered from his Janáček piano recital in 2018 in Brno. In the Czech Republic, Adès as a composer was presented, among others, by the Czech Philharmonic, which a few years ago performed his almost brutally sounding piece for baritone, mezzo-soprano and orchestra entitled Totentanz (Dance of the Dead), inspired by German medieval texts and murals in Lübeck Cathedral partially destroyed during the Second World War. The National Theater in Brno featured his Powder Her Face, a provocative chamber opera dealing with the sexual exploits of Margaret Campbell, Duchess of Argyll, whose disclosure caused a real scandal in Britain in the early 1960s. Commissioned by the British BBC and premiered in Birmingham in 1994, Sonata da Caccia is the work of a 22-year-old young man. This piece brings the concert program back to the beginning. Indeed, Adès too was inspired by Debussy’s unrealized sonata for oboe, horn and harpsichord. But rather than an homage to the French Impressionist Debussy, Sonata da Caccia with its detailed ornamentation and complex structure is paying tribute to the French Baroque composer François Couperin, wistfully looking backwards at him. In fact, the score even allows for the use of the Baroque oboe as an alternative.

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