In The Press

Praise for the Taos Chamber Music Group!

"One of the great treasures of Taos" -The Taos News
"Big magic...silken ensemble playing"
-Albuquerque Journal
“A remarkable concert of juxtaposed styles”
-Horse Fly
“Depth, vitality and inventiveness”
-Spencer Beckwith, KUNM

TCMG fills “Blank Canvas” with Music and Art

As Resident Chamber Music Group of the Harwood Museum, the Taos Chamber Music Group has enjoyed a fruitful cross-pollination with the visual arts. Its 26th season continues on Saturday and Sunday, March 2 and 3, 5:30 p.m. with music inspired by various artists, including some that have work in the museum. Jennifer Higdon’s “American Canvas” for flute, cello and piano with its O’Keeffe and Pollock movements will be followed by Stephen Paulus's “Seurat: A Sunday at the Grand Jatte” for cello and piano. The first half of the program will end with Bruce Wolosoff’s “The Loom” for piano trio based on Eric Fischl’s watercolors. Glen Roven’s “Three Paintings by Agnes Martin” for violin and piano opens the second half, and Claude Debussy’s youthful “Piano Trio in G Major” concludes the concert. TCMG performers are Elizabeth Baker, violin, Sally Guenther, cello, Nancy Laupheimer, flute, and Debra Ayers, piano.

Laupheimer, who is also TCMG’s Director, cited two quotes she found while deciding on the program’s title, “Blank Canvas.” One is by Robert Rauschenberg who said “An empty canvas is full;" and the other, attributed to Danny Kaye, is “Life is a blank canvas, and you need to throw all the paint on it you can.” Laupheimer adds that she thinks of a blank canvas as an opportunity for creativity - in art, music and life.

Jennifer Higdon, the award-winning contemporary composer born in 1962, took this to heart when she was commissioned by the Dolce Suono Trio to write a piece that was inspired by art. In “American Canvas,” she looked at the general style of artists she admires rather than a particular painting. Higdon writes: “Every image painted by O’Keeffe has clean lines and is very articulated. When studying her paintings one gets a sense of the air that surrounds each object, so I’ve made sure there are moments of breath. To reflect her lifetime philosophy of repeatedly painting certain objects with slightly different framing of color or perspective, I’ve used a smaller amount of musical material and reframed it in different musical contexts.”

Higdon calls Pollock more chaotic, and crafts a rhythmically propulsive, interwoven explosion of lines. Because she considers all elements of equal value in a Pollock painting, “balance of color, shape of gesture, ever-swirling, lots of layers, so are the musical gestures of equal importance here. No one voice stands out, but the entire whole of the movement reflects the energy in sound equivalent to the energy of the image on canvas.”

In addition to two other works on the program (the Wolosoff and Roven), the Seurat movement from “Art Suite” by Stephen Paulus (1949-2014), was suggested by TCMG pianist Debra Ayers. Ayers has been an avid proponent of music connected to art, having both commissioned and recorded several compositions with her group Montage Music Society.

Paulus was best known as a choral and opera composer. He received grants from the National Endowment for the Arts and Guggenheim Foundation and was commissioned by such notable organizations as the Minnesota Opera, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and the American Composers Orchestra. This version of “Art Suite” for cello and piano is adapted from the original “Art Songs” in which the lyrics were based on poems about the paintings. This one is by Ira Sadoff (b. 1945) and, like the music, depicts a languorous afternoon by the Seine.

Wolosoff (born 1955) is a composer whose work has been recognized for combining modern, classical, jazz and blues together into a style that has been called "an authentic American voice." He attended Bard College and the New England Conservatory, where he met jazz composer-pianist Jaki Byard, an artist who had a significant influence on his musical development.

“The Loom” was commissioned by the Eroica Trio and inspired by watercolors of Eric Fischl. Says Wolosoff: “The title refers to intertwining stories that music and art tell...Ever since I was a young boy, I have been inspired by paintings. Certain paintings, for some reason I don’t understand, cause me to spontaneously hear music in my mind. When I came across the beautiful watercolors of Eric Fischl, I immediately felt this inspiration and began sketching out the music that I was hearing.” Wolosoff worked with Fischl, experimenting with images and narratives.

Glen Roven (1958 – 2018) was an American two-time Emmy winning composer, lyricist, conductor and producer. “Three Paintings by Agnes Martin” was inspired by three of his favorite Martin works which were exhibited at the 2016 Guggenheim retrospective. In Untitled #5 (1998), “Martin’s barely yet visible strips of color, both pleasing and constraining, are reflected by the unsettled melody in the violin that can’t find resolution within the restricting harmony of the piano,” wrote Roven. “Little Sister (1962) is both playful and unexpected with shifting meters, and in Untitled #1 (1967) the two identical perfectly geometrical mountains topped with small yellow snow caps inspire music that ascends and descends over wide registers.” The images will be projected behind the musicians for this piece as well as for the Paulus and Wolosoff.

Independent of visual art but highly influenced by the fertile cultural environment of “La Belle Epoque,” especially in Paris in the late 1800’s, Claude Debussy wrote his one and only piano trio while still a student. Although still informed by Romanticism, this charming work lays the groundwork for the modal harmonies and more fluid structures of his later style.

For tickets and more information, visit the Taos Chamber Music Group website at Tickets are also on sale at the Harwood Museum, 758-9826, where there is a discount for museum members. Lambert's Doc Martin's, Martrys and the Gorge Bar and Grill restaurants offer TCMG ticket holders dinner discounts after the concerts.

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