Each season, the Taos Chamber Music Group highlights young chamber musicians in a program it calls "Play It Forward." This year, TCMG presents a dynamic group of youthful musicians from Boston. Oregon ArtsWatch calls Hub New Music "one of the most talked about younger contemporary classical ensembles." The Boston Globe says, "Go, listen and be changed."
The Play It Forward concerts will be given Saturday and Sunday (Nov. 9-10) at 5:30 p.m. both days in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street, Taos.
Hub New Music features flutist Michael Avitabile; clarinetist David Dziardziel; violinist Alyssa Wang; and cellist Jesse Christeson. They will be performing Mason Bates' "Life of Birds," Takuma Itoh's "Faded Aura," Kati Agócs' "Rogue Emoji" and Robert Honstein's "Soul House." TCMG director and flutist Nancy Laupheimer will join the group for Itoh's piece.
To find out more about Hub New Music and what they will be bringing to Taos, I corresponded with Avitabile, Christeson and the group's manager, Stuart Wolferman.
"Our Taos Chamber Music Group program is a hefty one which showcases Hub New Music's broad range of artistry and virtuosity," Christeson said. "This program has something to offer every type of concertgoer."
Christeson has been with Hub for the past three years. He told me his favorite part of the job is commissioning and premiering new works by brilliant contemporary composers.
Wolferman said that it is because the group is playing on that cutting edge of new music all the time that their audiences pick up on that energy and enjoy the ride.
"Hub does such a killer job of bringing audiences into the music, into the performance, which isn't always the case with classical music - maybe especially new music. I think people can expect an invigorating, intense and intimate experience," Wolferman wrote.
Avitabile, who is the founder of Hub New Music, said, "From the beginning, the cornerstone of Hub's mission is our dedication to cultivating a repertoire for our unique instrumentation and bringing our best artistic selves to that process."
He said the ensemble has continued to develop in many different directions. These include stepping out of the Western classical music with projects that draw from popular and non-Western idioms. In addition, Hub has started a several-year commissioning process involving composers who perform their works with the group.
"Hub's repertoire is different from traditional chamber music in that the vast majority of it is written for us and highlights our unique instrumental combination of two winds and two strings, a combination not heard in the standard repertoire," Avitabile commented. "Our quartet lends itself to wildly colorful writing which audiences will hear in each piece. One thing we particularly love about our repertoire is the diversity of influences in very new works. On this program, audiences will hear sounds reminiscent of Ravel and Brahms, more experimental sounds and works influenced by jazz and pop."
Hub starts their program with "Life of Birds" written by composer Mason Bates, who won a Grammy for his opera "The (R)evolution of Steve Jobs." Named Composer of the Year in 2018 by Musical America, Bates is a DJ and curator who also writes for film and teaches composition and music technology at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music.
"With recent heartbreaking news of how many birds are disappearing, this piece is particularly timely," Laupheimer said. "Bates' musical vocabulary is so engaging, and he makes wonderful use of the colors of the winds and strings in movements ranging from 'The Caged Bird Sings' to 'On a Wire Mating Dance.'"
Itoh is a personal friend of Hub New Music, and composed "Faded Aura" in 2017 for Hub and Silk Road shakuhachi player Kojiro Umezaki. For TCMG's version, two flutes will be played. Laupheimer will play a "straight ahead" flute line and Avitabile will play the breathy and bendy shakuhachi part. Both flutists will be performing on metal Western concert flutes.
"This is the piece that initially captivated me when listening to Hub's recordings," noted Laupheimer. "It has a quality of timelessness that transcends cultures and centuries within its own ethereal sound world."
Kati Agócs' "Rogue Emoji" is the most recently written composition on the program. Born in Canada in 1975, Agocs currently teaches at New England Conservatory in Boston. She was awarded a Guggenheim Fellowship in 2013 and the American Academy of Arts and Letters Award in Music in 2014. Agócs has written that, "Beneath the work's light, humorous surface is something deeper: an exploration of order versus control, and the embrace of chaos."
"Soul House" by Robert Honstein is the longest piece on the program. Honstein, was born in 1980 and his music has been performed by the Tanglewood Music Center, Cabrillo Festival of Contemporary Music, Bang on a Can Summer Institute and the American Composers Orchestra. In composing this piece, Honstein has said he was thinking of his childhood home as a "soul house."
Hub New Music has recorded and mastered "Soul House," and is in the process of ironing out the recording's release details. Hub is also involved in a number of additional recording projects, including one with Kojiro Umezai, with whom Hub has played and toured extensively. For more on the group, visit hubnewmusic.org.
Tickets to the TCMG's "Playing It Forward" concerts are $25; and $12 for anyone age 30 and under as a special incentive to attend these shows. To purchase tickets and for additional concert information, visit taoschambermusicgroup.org or call the Harwood Museum where there is a discount for museum members. A dinner discount is being offered to concertgoers after the performances from Doc Martin's, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert's restaurants.
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