Harmonia Chamber Players III

Saturday, April 20, 2024 • 2:00 p.m.
The Unitarian Church at 6556 35th Avenue NE

Laurie Heidt, Robin Stangland, Carey LaMothe , JJ Barrett, horn
Chris Peterson, Eliza Siracusan, Kristin Nygaard, clarinet
Steven Noffsinger, clarinet • Kerry Philben, bassoon • Patrick Hunninghake, trumpet
    Leah Anderson, violin • Matthew Wyant, cello • Alex Fang, piano
Stephen Provine, violin • June Spector, violin • Katherine McWilliams, viola
    Max Lieblich, cello • Alex Fang, piano


Megan Vinther (*1980)
How Can a Girl…

Jacques-Jules Bouffil (1783–1868)
Trio, Op. 7, No. 3

Bohuslav Martinů (1890–1959)
La revue de cuisine

— intermission —

Dmitri Shostakovich (1906–1975)
Piano Quintet in G minor, Op. 57

About the Concert

Harmonia musicians and friends perform a prize-winning horn quartet by local composer Megan Vinther, a delightful trio by French clarinetist Jacques-Jules Bouffil, a ballet suite by Czech composer Bohuslav Martinů, and one of Dmitri Shostakovich's greatest pieces of chamber music.

Complimentary refreshments will be served at intermission.

Featured Artist

Alex Fang

A versatile pianist whose playing has been described as “sincere, brilliant and sensitive,” Alex Fang finds himself at home engaging in solo and collaborative projects featuring standard repertoire as well as lesser-known works.

Recent performances include Rachmaninov’s Piano Concerto No. 1 with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Orchestra and chamber performances with renowned faculty at the Icicle Creek Chamber Music Festival. He has also performed alongside leading pianists of today in SFJazz’s Beethoven Portrait: 32 Sonatas for Piano. In Seattle, he has premiered pieces in many facets, including as harpsichord soloist with Harmonia Orchestra and Chorus, as the collaborative pianist for the Seattle Jewish Chorale, and as a teaching assistant for the University of Washington Modern Music Ensemble.

Alex’s musical successes include firsts in the San Francisco Conservatory of Music Piano Concerto Competition, firsts in the United States Open Music Competition, and alternate winners in the MTNA Young Artist Performance Piano Competition in Washington and Illinois. He has performed in several international festivals, including the Bowdoin International Music Festival, the Orford Academy, the Amalfi Coast Music Festival and the Rebecca Penneys Piano Festival. He also has performed in masterclasses of esteemed artists, including Garrick Ohlsson, Kirill Gerstein, Jeremy Denk, Jerome Lowenthal, Ursula Oppens, the Dover Quartet and the Notos Quartett.

Alex graduated with a Bachelor’s of Music from Northwestern University and a Master’s of Music from San Francisco Conservatory of Music. Under the guidance of Craig Sheppard, he is currently pursuing a Doctor of Music and Arts at the University of Washington. Previously, Alex’s principal teachers have included Sharon Mann, Yoshikazu Nagai, Alan Chow and James Giles.

Outside of music, Alex holds a combined Bachelor’s/Master’s in computer science from Northwestern University. In his free time, he enjoys playing badminton and Tetris, and exploring the hikes and food in the Seattle area.

Program notes

Seattle-area composer Megan Vinther is director of instrumental music at Everett High School and conductor of the Edmonds College concert band. She holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees with a focus in French horn performance from the University of Oregon and performs with her Celtic band, The Stumbling Fiddler. As a composer, her recent commissions include works written for the Wintergrass Youth Orchestra, North County Honor Band and Bluegene Brass Quintet. How Can a Girl …, premiered by the Quadre Horn Quartet in September 2023, was “inspired by the number of times I have been questioned about my ability to be successful at my job based on my gender,” writes Vinther. “The piece begins with feelings of joy and excitement at a new project, only to be interrupted and challenged by the question, ‘How can a girl … ?’ Feelings of anger, self-doubt, impostor syndrome and frustration eventually give way to a rebuilding of confidence, joy, completion and success.”

Jacques-Jules Bouffil was born in Southwestern France and studied clarinet and harmony at the Paris Conservatoire between 1802 and 1809, then played in the Opéra-Comique orchestra until 1831. Shortly after joining the Opéra-Comique, he began studying composition with Antonín Reicha, and would play in the ensemble that premiered Reicha’s famous 24 wind quintets. “The six trios for three clarinets,” writes Andrea Steele, “are substantial four-movement works in sonata cycle form in the concertant style. These works deserve to be better known because of their compositional rigor and unique place within the repertoire of clarinet chamber music.”

Bohuslav Martinů played violin in the Czech Philharmonic for several years before moving to Paris in 1923 to study composition with Albert Roussel. Blacklisted by the Nazis after the 1940 German occupation, Martinů fled Paris and eventually arrived in the United States, where he taught at Princeton. He composed his ballet La revue de la cuisine in 1927 for a Prague dance troupe. Based on a story called Temptation of the Saintly Pot, it relates the comic romantic troubles of a group of kitchen utensils: “Pot and Lid are engaged to be married, but Pot succumbs to the flattery of Stirring Stick, and Dishcloth flirts with Lid but is challenged to a duel by Broom. The situation is cleared up when an enormous foot appears from the wings and kicks Lid back on the stage. Pot and Lid kiss and make up, while Stirring Stick goes off with Dishcloth.” Scored for a chamber ensemble of clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, violin, cello and piano, the ballet incorporates many jazz and popular dance elements. In 1930, Martinů extracted four of the work’s 10 movements for a concert suite.

Shortly after premiering the first string quartet of Dmitri Shostakovich in 1938, the Beethoven Quartet (which would later debut all but two of his 15 quartets) asked their friend to write a piano quintet, which they premiered in November 1940 with the composer at the keyboard. “The result,” writes Gerald McBurney, “was one of the his most unusual pieces, an intense half-hour structure in five movements, that has become a chamber-music classic of the 20th century. This is the younger Shostakovich at his most serious and purely musical. There are no distracting jokes and little melodrama. Instead, a spacious and haunting neo-Classical story unfolds, looking back to chamber music masterpieces of the Romantic age and often glancing towards Bach, while at the same time speaking a language of its own, of unusual purity and plainness. Every note is clean and poised, the music moving seamlessly between the apparently lighthearted and the intensely moving. The finale is strikingly simple and powerfully memorable. As so often with this composer, we can hear dark shadows lurking and gathering in the background, which is hardly surprising given that this quintet was composed as Western Europe was already at war and the USSR soon to be invaded by Nazi Germany. This quintet is the song before the storm.”