Music is balm for the soul

By Dena Miller
Posted 3/19/20

'Music is the balm that we can turn to when the world seems to be spinning out of control: offering solace, inspiration and even exultation," said Taos Chamber Music Group director and flutist Nancy Laupheimer, in introducing the next program of TCMG's 2019-20's season.

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Music is balm for the soul


'Music is the balm that we can turn to when the world seems to be spinning out of control: offering solace, inspiration and even exultation," said Taos Chamber Music Group director and flutist Nancy Laupheimer, in introducing the next program of TCMG's 2019-20's season.

"We've chosen selections based upon the optimism expressed within the pieces we'll be performing."

"Youthful Exuberance" is the theme as the group's 27th season was set to begin on Saturday and Sunday (March 14-15) at the Arthur Bell Auditorium of the Harwood Museum of Art, where they remain as the resident chamber music group.

The performances were postponed due to COVID-19, but have been rescheduled for June 5th and 6th at the Harwood.

It's an uplifting program, featuring compositions for combinations of flute, clarinet, horn, violin, cello and piano, and with each piece having been written when the composers were under the age of 30. Works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Judd Greenstein, George Rochberg and Ralph Vaughn Williams are included for one's listening pleasure.

Begin with the most youthful piece, one of Mozart's delightful sonatas which was composed when he was just 8 years old. May we repeat that? Eight years old. "KV 12 Sonata in A Major for keyboard and flute" will feature Laupheimer on flute, of course, with Santa Fe musicians Debra Ayers on piano and Sally Guenther boosting the bass line with her cello.

Then consider Judd Greenstein's "A Moment of Clarity." Written in 2007, when Greenstein was 27, the piece is meant as the first movement of a longer work dedicated to the internationally acclaimed flutist Alex Sopp, and will be performed by Laupheimer and Ayers.

Greenstein began his composition career by making hip-hop beats in his Greenwich Village childhood home. Still an incredibly active part of the New York City new music scene, he has composed most of his works with particular musicians and ensembles in mind. Of Sopp and this particular composition he wrote, "I think of the piece as a reflection of Alex's unique character and musical personality -- bright and colorful, but also deeply passionate and intense. Clarity is a cardinal virtue for me, in life and in music, and Alex is a champion in this regard."

As always, TCMG attracts a stellar lineup of musicians which, in this program, includes newcomer Marianne Shifrin on clarinet. Shifrin is principal clarinetist of the New Mexico Philharmonic, and a member of the Arizona Opera Orchestra and the El Paso Symphony. In addition to her many chamber music group appearances, she has also performed at the Music Academy of the West, and the Aspen, Sarasota, Chautauqua and Bowdoin music festivals.

Shifrin will be joined by Taos' very own Jeffrey Rogers on horn and Elizabeth Baker on violin with Guenther and Ayers collaborating on the program's centerpiece: composer Vaughan Williams' little-heard "Quintet in D Major." Composed in 1898, when he was just 26 years old, the quintet presents an unusual but melodious combination. After its first performance in 1901, the piece sat on a shelf until it started to be performed again in 2001. More Brahmsian than what came to be Vaughan Williams' mature style, the work takes a bright-eyed look at Romanticism's often darker side.

Shifrin will also join Rogers and Ayers for a piece that was first written in 1947 by the American composer Rochberg, who later became known as a devoted atonalist. Written when he was 29, his "Trio in Bb Major" for clarinet, horn and piano, shows more of the influences of his teacher Gian Carlo Menotti - as well as Bartok and Stravinsky - than the father of serial music, Arnold Schoenberg. Mellifluous and contrapuntal, the piece was revised in 1980 when Rochberg's compositions returned to tonality.

Laupheimer said she slipped one more piece into the program for its exuberance and instrumentation rather than being based upon the age of the composer. Gary Schocker's "Water Music," written in 2010 for flute, horn and piano, has two movements - Waves and Sun - that are descriptive in their flowing form and exultant character. "The piece sounds like the ocean to me, and that is how I titled it," wrote Schocker of his composition.

The ambitions and continuing success of TCMG are, quite frankly, remarkable. "I think our biggest accomplishment over the decades has been our ability to attract the highest caliber of New Mexican, national and international musicians," Laupheimer said. "And as our audiences get more sophisticated, the bar for us gets set even higher.

"By now I think we've earned the trust of our patrons and donors, who know we are a quality organization dedicated to exploring music and treating our audiences to the finest programs," she concluded.

As in previous years the following venues will be offering post-concert dining discounts to ticket holders: Lambert's, Doc Martin's at Historic Taos Inn, Martyrs and the Gorge Bar and Grill. Contact them directly for the details.

And for TCMG tickets and information on upcoming programs, as well, visit Tickets are also available at the Harwood, where there is a discount for museum members. Call the venue for updates at (575) 758-9826.

Taos Chamber Music will be rescheduling other performances so do check calendar listings for updates.


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