2 locations, March 18th at Hutchins Street Square in Lodi and March 19th at Grand Theatre Center for the Arts in Tracy.
Concert sponsors: Byron and Christine Alvarez–Alvarez Properties
Guest artist sponsors:
Guest artist accommodations: Hal and Debbie Lurtsema
Composer, producer, violinist, and vocalist Caroline Shaw is always “trying to imagine a world of sound that has never been heard before but has always existed.” She began learning violin at age two from her violinist mother, who was also a singer. At age ten she began writing pieces in the style of classical compositions, and she formed her own string quartet in high school, all the while singing in church choirs. She earned degrees in violin from Rice and Yale Universities and, without composition training, earned a fellowship to write string quartets in England. After moving to New York, she embraced the contemporary music scene that had evolved away from dissonant serialism. In 2009 she joined the experimental vocal group Roomful of Teeth, for which she began composing her Partita for Eight Voices, adding bits over several years. Meanwhile she began studying composition at Princeton, finding teachers who fostered her exploratory, collaborative ideas.
In 2013 she became the youngest ever to win the Pulitzer Prize in Music—for Partita. Since then, commissions and opportunities have poured in. She has composed more than one hundred works—ranging from those for the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Yo-Yo-Ma, and Renée Fleming to works for television and film, such as Mozart in the Jungle, in which she also made her acting debut as herself. She has also collaborated as a producer and won several Grammy Awards.
Shaw’s projects for this year alone—mind boggling in their scope and variety—include the scores to Fleishman Is in Trouble for FX/Hulu and Josephine Decker’s The Sky Is Everywhere for A24/Apple, music for the National Theatre’s production of The Crucible, Justin Peck’s Partita with New York City Ballet, the premiere of Microfictions Vol. 3 for the New York Philharmonic and Roomful of Teeth, tours of the performance installation Graveyards and Gardens created with choreographer Vanessa Goodman, and tours with So Percussion featuring songs from Let the Soil Play Its Simple Part (Nonesuch). She also makes occasional chamber music appearances as violist for the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota and the La Jolla Music Society.
Entr’acte, originally for string quartet, was first performed in April 2011 by the Brentano Quartet during their inaugural season as the first quartet-in-residence at Princeton University, where Shaw was a doctoral student. In 2014 she arranged it for string orchestra for the Boston-based ensemble A Far Cry.
The composer writes that she composed the piece “after hearing the Brentano Quartet play Haydn’s Opus 77, no. 2—with their spare and soulful shift to the D-flat major trio in the minuet. It is structured like a minuet and trio, riffing on that classical form but taking it a little further. I love the way some music (like the minuets of Opus 77) suddenly takes you to the other side of Alice’s looking glass, in a kind of absurd, subtle, technicolor transition.”
In a traditional minuet-trio-minuet layout, the piece unfolds as a delightful mix of Classic string quartet sonorities infused with extended string techniques, some invented by Shaw specifically for this piece. It ends with whispered violin arpeggios fading away “like sandpaper wings” that give way to solo cello pizzicato meant to sound like “recalling fragments of an old tune or story.”
Scored for strings
—©Jane Vial Jaffe
Haydn composed his D major Cello Concerto in 1783 for the great cello virtuoso Anton Kraft, principal cellist at the Esterházy court from 1778 until 1790 when the orchestra was disbanded. The piece was published in 1804 “after the original manuscript of the author,” but this manuscript then disappeared. Three decades later Gustav Schilling, in his six-volume music encyclopedia, attributed the Concerto to Kraft, apparently based on something said to him by Kraft’s son Nicolaus. This misattribution persisted for well over a century, its supporters reasoning that it was hard to conceive of a non-cellist having composed all the brilliant technical effects for the cello—especially all the high-register and double-stop passages, which were unheard of in Haydn’s day.
Then in 1951 Haydn’s autograph manuscript resurfaced in Vienna, erasing doubts as to its authorship. Thus we can ascribe the special features of the solo writing to a collaboration between Haydn and Kraft, much like other historic concerto collaborations—Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, Brahms and Joseph Joachim, Shostakovich and Mstislav Rostropovich, to name just a few. It is also possible—given that Kraft studied composition with Haydn—that the cellist may have even contributed some thematic material.
The history of Haydn’s D major Concerto was further muddied by a truncated and Romantically orchestrated performing edition made by François-Auguste Gevaert in 1890. This version remained in use until 1935, when the original edition was reissued. Though universally panned now, Gevaert’s version brought immense popularity to the D major Concerto, making it the earliest cello concerto to be heard in the concert hall with any regularity. Though that honor now goes to Haydn’s C major Cello Concerto, composed c. 1761–65 but not discovered until 1961, both of Haydn’s Cello Concertos raised the bar of solo cello playing to lofty heights.
Dvořák’s beautiful String Serenade was the product of a time of great promise in his life: he had learned in February 1875 that he had been awarded the handsome sum of 400 gulden as an Austrian State Stipendium for “young, poor, and talented painters, sculptors, and musicians.” He had also recently married and was not yet touched by the shadow of the death of his two young children, and he was composing at an amazing rate. In March he completed his G major String Quintet and his Moravian Duets, op. 20; between May and June alone he wrote the present E major Serenade, the B-flat major Piano Trio, and the D major Piano Quartet; and by July 23 his Fifth Symphony. It would be his next group of Moravian Duets, op. 32, that would catapult him into the international spotlight through the interest of Brahms, who sat on the Austrian State Stipendium jury.
On the first page of the manuscript score of his E major Serenade Dvořák wrote, “Begun on May 3, 1875,” and on the last, “Finished on May 14, 1875, at 10:00 p.m., Antonín Dvořák.” Thus we learn that this incredibly charming work was composed in the short space of twelve days. It is also possible, however, that it is a reworking of an octet for clarinet, bassoon, horn, two violins, viola, bass, and piano, once listed as Opus 22, and subtitled “Serenade,” that the composer completed in September 1873. How similar the two may have been cannot be determined since Dvořák destroyed the octet.
The premiere of the String Serenade was to have taken place in Vienna under Hans Richter, but the performance never materialized. Instead, Adolf Čech conducted the piece with the combined strings of the Czech and German Theater orchestras in Prague, on December 10, 1876, thus launching what became one of the most beloved works in the string orchestra repertoire.
The Serenade unfolds in five movements, each following the simple idea of excursion and return—A-B-A—and the charm of the work comes throughDvořák’s elegant developments or episodes and modified recapitulations. The composer’s gift for melody also captivates—the opening lilting melody over pulsing thirds shows him at his best, as does the lovely tune of his Larghetto (fourth movement).
Dvořák’s penchant for juxtaposing harmonic third relationships, a love he shared with his mentor Brahms, appears between all movements and often within movements. The lilting opening Moderato makes an excursion by third relationship for its dancing middle section, as does the third movement’s scherzo for its haunting middle section. Dvořák also indulges in the harmonic contrast within sections—the waltz’s second theme, in dotted rhythms, relates to the main theme by the interval of a third and the waltz’s trio features a development section beginning a third away. Another unifying feature involves cyclic self-references: just before the end of the songful Larghetto a tail-end fragment of the theme from the first movement reappears. More obvious is the recall of the first movement near the end of the last movement, which brings a mood of repose before the brilliant presto coda.
—©Jane Vial Jaffe
Scored for strings
Isaac Pastor-Chermak leads a diverse and active musical life at home in Northern California and around the United States. A quintessential twenty-first-century artist, he engages deeply as a cellist, teacher, conductor, and administrator, motivated by an abiding love of sharing great music with friends and collaborators.
Though he is active in nearly every facet of today’s classical music profession, Mr. Pastor-Chermak is a career orchestral player. Any given weekend of the season, he can be found performing as principal cellist of the Vallejo and Waterloo-Cedar Falls symphonies; assistant principal cellist of Opera San Jose, the Fresno Philharmonic, and the Stockton Symphony; and as a member of the Berkeley, Monterey, Santa Cruz, and Santa Barbara symphonies and the Reno Philharmonic. During the summer season, he is principal cellist at the Eisenstadt Classical Music Festival in Austria and was principal cellist of the now-defunct Lake Tahoe Music Festival.
In the world of chamber music, Mr. Pastor-Chermak partners regularly with pianists Alison Lee and Miles Graber in sonata programs, in addition to myriad one-off creative projects and recordings. His recent duo highlights include the complete sonatas of Beethoven (2020) and Brahms (2022) with Ms. Lee and an upcoming recording of Elliott Carter’s Cello Sonata with Mr. Graber on Carter’s piano. Pastor-Chermak’s CD catalog includes The Shadow Dancer with the Auriga String Quartet, Backlash Bach with Red Cedar Chamber Music, and Preludes and Prologues with Ms. Lee. Preludes and Prologues was entirely crowdfunded and self-produced. A CD release of the complete Bach Cello Suites is planned for fall 2024.
During the pandemic Mr. Pastor-Chermak and Ms. Lee performed roughly twenty-five online concerts as a duo and with guests, reaching audiences from Alaska to Florida. They also got engaged, and they tied the knot in July 2022 in Glacier National Park, Montana.
A community leader in the arts, Mr. Pastor-Chermak sits on the board of directors of two worthwhile organizations: the East Bay Music Foundation, which presents competitions and showcase concerts for young musicians, and Calliope East Bay Music and Arts, a performing-arts presenter. He also teaches an award-winning studio of cello students and is an adjunct professor of music history at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. He is founder and music director emeritus of the Solano Youth Chamber Orchestra, a highly selective youth orchestra he founded in 2013 and conducted for five seasons.
Mr. Pastor-Chermak earned his Bachelor of Arts degree with honors from the University of California–Berkeley and his Master of Music degree with honors from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Isaac and Alison live in a 100-year-old house in the Berkeley Hills with their cat, Waffle.