Ventura Music Festival

Nuvi Mehta & Friends

“What’s The Score?” Pre-Concert Talk by Nuvi Mehta
6:15 pm

American Classical Music

Sunday, July 16, 7:00 pm
Ventura College Performing Arts Center
4700 Loma Vista Road, Ventura, CA

Nuvi Mehta
Zou Yu
Chi-Yuan Chen
Xian Zhuo

Rondino from 2 Pieces (String Quartet) Aaron Copland
Adagio from String Quartet in B minor, Op. 11 Samuel Barber
Quartet for Strings John Biggs
Lullaby for String Quartet George Gershwin
String Quartet No. 12 in F major, Op. 96 “American”
Allegro ma non troppo
Molto vivace
Finale: Vivace ma non troppo
Antonín Dvorák

NUVI MEHTA, Artistic Director of the Ventura Music Festival, appears across the U.S., Europe and Mexico as a concert violinist and conductor. As Special Project Director for the San Diego Symphony, he is known for his multi-media Symphony Exposé concert series and “What’s the Score?” talks that draw new audiences to classical music.

As a soloist, Chinese native ZOU YU she has given numerous recitals in Asia, Europe and the U.S., made many festival appearances and is an active promoter of contemporary music. She received her master’s degree from Yale School of Music and bachelor’s from Oberlin Conservatory. She recently joined the San Diego Symphony Orchestra as Associate Principal Second Violin.

Taiwanese violist CHI-YUAN CHEN has established himself as one of his generation’s leading violists, touring extensively and conducting highly acclaimed master classes. Top prize winner of both the 2000 Fischoff Chamber Music Competition and the 2004 Ville d’Avray International Paris Viola Competition, he is on the faculty of San Diego State University and holds the Karen and Warren Kessler Chair as Principal Viola of the San Diego Symphony.

San Diego Symphony Orchestra cellist XIAN ZHUO is praised for his stunning technique, sensitivity and superb artistry. The young Chinese musician is winner of the 2011 Isidor Handler Award at the 38th Dr. Luis Sigall International Cello Competition in Chile, among many awards. His recent engagements include concertos and master classes in Chile, Brazil, China and the USA. He has released an album String Poetic: Chinese Folk Music for Cello.

Aaron Copland (1900-1990) began his only works for string quartet—Movement & 2 Pieces (i. Lento molto; ii. Rondino) in 1920s Paris—while he was a 23 to 28 year-old student of Nadia Boulanger—in search of his own compositional voice and the creation of a distinctly American music. The Lento molto calls to mind Barber’s Adagio for strings and a jazzy syncopation backs the cool and abstract Rondino with its canonic counterpoint and whole-tone intervals—a harbinger of the new American idiom the composer would forge for himself throughout his career and for his U.S. successors to follow in the 20th century.

Samuel Barber (1910-1981) adapted the Molto adagio middle movement of his Op. 11 String Quartet to become his famous Adagio for Strings for full string orchestra that Arturo Toscanini premiered with the conductor’s newly formed NBC Orchestra. It was originally composed between two Molto allegro movements while he was in Europe under Prix de Rome and Pulitzer Travel Scholarships. The quartet version exhibits the same long slow arch of mellifluous line and lyric intensity that have impacted audiences and critics alike for generations since the adagio was created in 1936.

Ojai’s John Biggs (b. 1932) celebrates his 85th birthday with the Ventura Music Festival in 2017. A fiercely independent composer, educator and performer, he has crafted a multitude of accessible, inventive and emotionally resonant works of modern bent and classical depth—well illustrated by his sixteen-minute Quartet for Strings performed tonight—including chamber music, choral pieces and suites, symphonies and concertos for orchestra. A generous contributor of his work to local and area ensembles, he is well-loved for his enthusiastic support of live music performances throughout Southern California. Biggs received his Masters degree in composition from UCLA, where he later taught (also at LA City College and UC Berkeley), doing further study at USC and the Royal Flemish Conservatory in Antwerp, Belgium. He founded the John Biggs Consort touring internationally under Columbia Artists with medieval, renaissance and 20th century music. The composer has received Rockefeller and Fulbright Grants, the Atwater-Kent Award and the ASCAP “Serious Music Award” every year since 1974.

As a teenager Brooklyn-born George Gershwin (1898-1937) worked as a song-plugger for Tin Pan Alley, a core experience that became a springboard for his own compositions of complex rhythms, meters and melodies that combined American Jazz, Broadway styles and European classical tradition. The consummate pianist conceived his Lullaby at the keyboard then scored it for string quartet for friends to perform at private musicales. Its melody became an aria in his opera Blue Monday but the original string quartet did not get its first public performance until 1967. A high violin follows a unison opening; the cello carries the bluesy lullaby melody; then a questioning dialog takes over. When the violin takes the melody high again it’s time for a tremolo, sigh and plucky pizzicato finish.

In 1893 Czech composer Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) sketched out one of the most frequently performed chamber works in the world repertoire in a miraculous 72 hours and completed the entire score in twelve days—in hilly green Spillville (population 390). He was in this Iowan town settled by Czech emigrants and descendants on his first summer break from a two-year-plus tenure as director setting up what later became Julliard—New York City’s National Conservatory of Music. He had opened his school to all comers, black and Native Americans included, who opened him to their music and Negro spirituals. With his wife and children, in a landscape evoking home in Bohemia, he composed two string quartets and a Symphony (from the New World) that he later said “I should never have written...if I hadn’t seen America.”

The String Quartet in F major is known as the “American,” not only for its place of origin, but also for being unlike any of the composer’s chamber works written before or later. Its themes, scales, syncopation and repeating ostinato drum rhythms evoke African American and Native American music, while retaining Dvorak’s disarming melodic gifts to spin an astonishing number of variations on Slavonic tunes. The viola confidently introduces the first movement sonata while the slow second movement evokes the vast empty prairie landscape. The lively third movement scherzo evokes the song of a scarlet tanager that Dvorák would hear on his walks along Spillville’s Turkey River, followed by the rondo finale radiating an uninhibited joyfulness.

Schwab Charitable Fund
Gloisten Family Charitable Foundation
Peter Cannon

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