Hidden Gems: Chamber Music for Winds and Strings

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Date(s) - Thursday, April 14, 2022
8:00 pm - 10:00 pm

First Church of Christ, Scientist


NOTE: There is a repeat performance on Saturday, April 16, at Swissvale Presbyterian Church at 1825 Monongahela Avenue in Swissvale, also at 8pm.

The First Church of Christ, Scientist, is in the Oakland section of Pittsburgh at the corner of North Dithridge and Bayard.

The Beo Quartet, a vibrant young touring ensemble based in Pittsburgh, will join the Winds for Hidden Gems, featuring two wonderful but neglected works for winds and strings. The first is the Oktett by Egon Wellesz, commissioned by the Vienna Octet for string quintet (including double bass), clarinet, horn, and bassoon. Wellesz, of Jewish descent, was well into a highly successful career in Austria when the advent of Nazism forced him to flee to England. Described as a “perennial outsider,” the Austrians didn’t want him back after the war and the English regarded him as a mere academic (by 31 he had deciphered the notation of Byzantine music). To this day his compositions remain largely neglected. His stunning Oktett of 1949 captures the emotional journey of Europeans in the middle of the twentieth century.

The second work – written exactly one hundred years earlier – is the Nonet in E-flat Major, Op. 38, by French composer Louise Farrenc. A fine pianist who received first-rate instruction in Paris, she married the flutist Aristide Farrenc in 1821. Wearying of constant touring after a few years, they started a publishing house which became one of the leading French publishers. Initially writing for her own instrument, she expanded into chamber music beginning in the 1830s. Her nonet, from 1849, was so successful that it allowed her to bargain for pay equity with the male teachers at the famed Paris Conservatory, where she was the only female professor in the entire nineteenth century. And yet the work still did not get published until the twenty-first century! Beo and the Winds will surely be giving the Pittsburgh premiere of her nonet.

Completing the program are two short works: Umoja for wind quintet by Valerie Coleman and Enthusiasm Strategies (2019) for string quartet by Missy Mazzoli.

This collaboration has been made possible by a grant from the Small Arts Initiative of the Heinz Endowments, which is devoted to the mission of helping our region prosper as a vibrant center of creativity, learning, and social, economic and environmental sustainability. Core to its work is the vision of a just community where all are included and where everyone who calls southwestern Pennsylvania home has a real and meaningful opportunity to thrive.

Photos, left to right:
Egon Wellesz (1885-1974), Louise Farrenc (1804-1875)