Commissions and Recordings
Garth Newel Music Center (GNMC) is thrilled to receive the Classical Commissioning Program Grant for the commission of a new piano quartet by composer David Biedenbender for the Garth Newel Piano Quartet (resident ensemble of GNMC). The inspiration for this commission derives from and celebrates the unique beauty inherent in the changing seasons of Bath County. The project is born of the organizations’s desire to reaffirm their identity in and connection with nature, which serves as a constant source of inspiration for the ensemble.
Garth Newel Music Center was the recipient of the 2017 Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant.
The profound experience of Garth Newel is rooted in its setting of natural beauty. GNMC is a historical landmark situated on the west side of Warm Springs Mountain with expansive views all the way to West Virginia. In 2013, the property was placed on the Virginia Landmarks Register and included on the National Register of Historic Places. Concerts are designed to accentuate the Center’s history as well as the changing seasons of the Allegheny Highlands.
Twelve grants totaling $231,550 have been awarded through the CMA’s Classical Commissioning program, which provides support to U.S.-based professional classical and world music ensembles and presenters for the creation and performance of new chamber works by American composers. Chamber Music America (CMA), the national network for ensemble music professionals, announced the distribution of twelve grants totaling $231,550 through its Classical Commissioning Program, supported by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Chamber Music America Endowment Fund.
The purpose of the Classical Commissioning Program Grant is to support U.S.-based professional ensembles and presenters for the creation and performance of new chamber works by American composers. The grantees were selected by independent peer panels.
About The Commission
After performing David Biedenbender’s Red Vesper, a work inspired by the US National Parks, the quartet felt a kinship with the composer’s relationship with the environment. His understanding of how nature can help one achieve a greater understanding of music and, ultimately, of oneself, deeply resonated with the musicians.
Biedenbender’s music has great communicative quality, and is readily accessible to audiences. Red Vesper was received with great enthusiasm on tour and the musicians believe David’s voice transcends the preconceptions that often create barriers to the enjoyment of contemporary works.
The commissioned work will be premiered in July 2018 in Herter Hall at GNMC, during the annual Summer Chamber Music Festival. The work is scheduled to be performed at the Center and on tour from 2018 through 2020.
“Garth Newel Piano Quartet believes in performing the creative voices of today and is constantly looking for new and captivating writing in the chamber music genre, “stated Evelyn Grau (Cello) and an Artistic Director for the Quartet. “Having loved and performed Paul Moravec’s “Tempest Fantasy” on many occasions, we felt that his exhilarating and radiant writing would result in a masterpiece for our instrumentation.” In March of 2012, the GNPQ commissioned Paul Moravec to produce a piece for them. Teresa Ling (violin) one of four resident Artistic Directors of the Garth Newel Music Center explains, “We were thrilled when Paul Moravec accepted our commission. The piece “Piano Quartet” is a four-movement, 20 minute work, comprised of explosive energy, lyrical melodies, wide-ranging contrasts of mood and color and virtuosic writing. Moravec exploits the unique character and technical range of each instrument and creates wonderful textures.”
On July 21, 2012 Paul Moravec’s new “Piano Quartet” premiered at the Garth Newel Music Center. The GNPQ later went on to perform the piece in Virginia, California and at New York’s Carnegie Hall. Moravec’s “Piano Quartet” is now a regular part of our repertoire,” explains Jeannette Fang (piano) another of the Artistic Directors of the Quartet. “The piece represents an aesthetic and character with which the GNPQ strongly identifies.” It has taken several years to garner the funds to record “Piano Quartet” but the GNPQ remained committed to recording the work for public release.
“Piano Quartet” is Moravec’s first composition for piano quartet and is a unique and important contribution to that currently-neglected genre, explains Isaac Melamed (Cello) and another of the Artistic Directors, “The GNPQ is the only group to have this work in their repertoire and they feel a responsibility as part of their guiding mission to make it known to the wider public.”
Always reluctant to prescribe too much programmatic information about his music; the only thing Moravec would say about the “Piano Quartet” before its premiere was: “all the movements begin with dissonance and slowly find their way back to consonance”. This concept makes the work taut and cohesive as his trajectory of search and repose is reflected throughout every large section. For example, the first movement’s opening is a twisting string lament, with long strained lines of grief that are suddenly smashed through by a raucous bebopping which is at once careening, manic, as well as joyful. The interchanging lines run upward and explode into a series of tight grooving rhythms. Immediately after what seems like a wild singing apex, the music hushes quickly and the opening lament is brought back; only this time it is harmonized with a restful chorale instead of the clashing dissonances of the opening notes.
Paul Moravec, recipient of the 2004 Pulitzer Prize in Music for his Shakespeare inspired 30 minute chamber work entitled “Tempest Fantasy” is the composer of numerous orchestral, chamber, choral, operatic and lyric pieces. He has been awarded the Rome Prize Fellowship, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and three awards from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, as well as fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Rockefeller Foundation. A graduate of Harvard College and Columbia University, Moravec has taught at Columbia, Dartmouth and Hunter College and is a Professor in the Music Department at Adelphi University. He was the 2013 Paul Fromm Composer-in -Residence at the American Academy in Rome and served as the Artist-In-Residence at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton NJ. He is a member of the American Philosophical Society.
The recording of Paul Moravec’s “Piano Quartet”, their first recording since 2003, marks a reinvigoration of the GNPQ under the leadership of Executive Director Shawn Puller. The Quartet now seeks to increase commissions and their efforts to provide exposure and education of contemporary chamber music to the greater public.
The recording was done at Wilson Hall of Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia. The engineer was University of Maryland’s Antonino d’Urzo, whom GNPQ had used for their previous recordings. Assisting him was Graham Spice of Washington and Lee University. The Producer is Grammy award winning pianist, Genevieve Feiwen Lee. Feiwen is intimately acquainted with “Piano Quartet” and has had a long and productive working relationship with both Moravec and the GNPQ.
1984: With funding from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Center formed a consortium with the Atlanta Virtuosi and the New England Piano Quartette to commission major works for piano quartet, resulting in the world premiere of Karel Husa’s Variations, Gunther Schuller’s On Light Wings, and Elliott Schwartz’s Dream Music with Variations.
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Garth Newel Piano Quartet
The Garth Newel Piano Quartet is known for their spirited and impassioned performances that offer an enlivened interpretation of both standard and new repertoire.