GRAND RAPIDS, MI – Musicians and midwives have something in common. Both help bring something new into the world.
Composers and women give birth, but seldom do they go it alone.
Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center gives the Midwest premiere of a new work by Pulitzer Prize-winning composer Zhou Long this week in Grand Rapids to conclude St. Cecilia Music Center’s Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center Series.
Earlier in April, the esteemed ensemble from New York City was overseas to give the world premiere of Zhou’s “Tales from the Nine Bells” in London’s Wigmore Hall.
“With any new sort of piece, it’s both exhilarating and sort of a daunting task,” said violinist Benjamin Beilman. “You’re birthing a new piece of art. You’re responsible for bringing it into the world for the first time.”
Zhou’s “Tales from the Nine Bells” is inspired by an ancient Chinese legend of great bells that ring spontaneously without being struck.
Grand Rapids will hear the new piece just two days after its U.S. premiere in New York City by the musicians who debuted the work by the Chinese-American composer who won the 2011 Pulitzer Prize for Music for his opera, “Madame White Snake.”
The debut of “Tales from the Nine Bells” was well received, according to Beilman, winner of a 2012 Avery Fisher Career Grant.
“When you’re performing it, you aren’t quite sure what the audience is picking out or hearing,” he said. “It went extremely well. Surprisingly well.”
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center returns to the elegant surroundings of St. Cecilia Music Center this week, armed with music by composers who regularly turned to folk music for inspiration.
“Music from Three Centuries” is the title for the program of music by Beethoven, Schumann and Brahms on May 8.
Eminent clarinetist David Shifrin, a three-time Grammy Award nominee, a winner of the Avery Fisher Prize, and former artistic director of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center from 1992 to 2004, returns to Grand Rapids for the program.
“These concerts feature the best chamber musicians in the world in thoughtful and unique programs that can be heard in Royce Auditorium and at Lincoln Center,” said Cathy Holbrook, executive director of St. Cecilia Music Center.
Zhou, born into an artistic family in Beijing in 1953, was sent as a child to work on a rural state farm during Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution, where he experienced the “natural scenes of roaring winds and fierce wild fires” that made a lasting impression on him.
Zhou later became composer-in-residence with the national Broadcasting Symphony Orchestra of China before moving to the United States to study at Columbia University.
In 2003, he was honored with a Lifetime Achievement Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters for a lifetime of composing music consolidating methods and techniques of Chinese music and Western classical music.
“He’s a very well respected composer,” Beilman said
Thursday’s program in St. Cecilia Music Center’s Royce Auditorium includes Brahms’ Sonata in E-flat major for Clarinet and Piano, Op. 120, No. 2, one of the composer’s final works, featuring Shifrin and pianist Inon Barnatan, winner of a 2009 Avery Fisher Career Grant.
Beilman along with violist Paul Neubauer, appointed principal violist of the New York Philharmonic at age 21; and cellist Torleif Thedeen awarded the Cannes Classical Award for his recording of J.S. Bach’s Solo Suites for Cello, will be featured in Beethoven’s Trio in G major for Violin, Viola, and Cello, Op. 9, No. 1.
Rounding out the program is Robert Schumann’s Trio No. 3 in G minor for Piano, Violin and Cello, Op. 110, the composer’s final work in the genre.
Thursday’s concert includes a complementary reception. A pre-concert reception including wine and hors d’oeuvres is available for $15. Call 616-459-2224 for reservations.
St. Cecilia Music Center is wrapping up the second season of its partnership with the Chamber Music Center of Lincoln Center, led by cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han, co-directors as well as husband and wife, both of whom appeared in Grand Rapids earlier this season.