Piano Trio, a commissioned work by Kenneth Frazelle, will be performed at 8 p.m. Thursday and Friday, Aug. 7 and 8, as part of the closing "Music Now: Voices of Our Time" concert performed at St. Mark's Episcopal Church in Palo Alto. The composer, who lives in North Carolina, said he plans to attend the premiere.
The program's West Coast premieres are "Scenes from the Poet's Dreams," a piano quintet by Jennifer Higdon; and "Songs of Cifar and the Sweet Sea," songs for baritone and piano by Gabriela Lena Frank.
The program will also include "Elegy: Snow in June," a set of variations on a theme for cello and percussion quartet by Tan Dun.
Enriching the repertoire
The Piano Trio premiere will be a fitting end to the summer festival, which offers chamber music concerts, master classes and lectures on the Menlo School campus and at St. Mark's. Pianist Wu Han, who with her husband, cellist David Finckel, founded and direct Music@Menlo, said the couple hopes "to cultivate the contemporary concert repertoire and continue to enrich the chamber music literature with new works."
In a recent e-mail, she explained: "The timing [of commissioning a work] was perfect because of this year's theme, 'The Unfolding of Music II,' which will trace the history of the chamber music literature from the early Baroque period and culminate in a program of works by living composers. What better setting for a world premiere?"
Wanting to commission a new work for pianist Jeffrey Kahane, a regular festival performer and lecturer, Mr. Finckel and Wu Han asked Mr. Kahane whom he might want to compose such a work.
"We were very fortunate that Kenneth Frazelle — the first name on Jeffrey's list — was open to and enthusiastic about the project," Wu Han said.
Mr. Kahane, she added, "has always been a passionate advocate for new music, not only as a chamber musician but also in his position as music director of the Los Angeles Chamber Orchestra and Colorado Symphony Orchestra."
Bringing music to life
This won't be the first time Mr. Kahane has performed a Frazelle composition. "Jeffrey's probably played — and also conducted — more of my music than anyone else," Mr. Frazelle said in a telephone interview.
Their musical relationship appears to be grounded in mutual admiration and confidence. When the pianist premieres or otherwise performs Mr. Frazelle's music, "I've never really had to explain anything to him," the composer said.
"He's uncanny. So I've got this great trust in his ability to bring my music to life."
Mr. Frazelle has also worked in the past with Joseph Swensen, the violinist performing in the trio's premiere. Festival co-founder Finckel will be in the cellist's chair for the premiere.
Mr. Frazelle said he determined right away to compose a three-movement work. From there, he found inspiration in a piece of art that he had been particularly moved by.
"I began with the second movement — I knew the second movement would have an elegiac feel, based on a collage by Irwin Kremen," he explained. The collage, "Unto Dust," was part of Mr. Kremen's Re'eh series, which the artist has described as "a monument to the victims of the Holocaust." The artwork, Mr. Frazelle said, "is incredibly evocative."
He echoed the collage's title in naming the Piano Trio's middle movement "Unto Dust," then went on to compose the first movement, "Of Water." In that section, he noted, he strove to evoke "an undulating, searching mood — the idea of something coming out of the water."
The third movement is entitled "Into Light." "After the sorrowful movement, I wanted to end with something more hopeful," he explained.
Mr. Frazelle acknowledges that titles can be "a tricky thing with music that's not programmatic." But, he added, "I think images help people enter into a piece of music."
He said he'll be in town the week of the premiere to sit in on the trio's rehearsal. "It's a great luxury to have these people playing my music," he said.
Piano Trio, by Kenneth Frazelle, will have its world premiere by the Music@Menlo chamber music festival at 8 p.m. Aug. 7 and 8 at St. Mark's Episcopal Church, 600 Colorado Ave. in midtown Palo Alto. For ticket information and reservations, go to musicatmenlo.org, or call 331-0202. Visit the Web site or call 330-2030 for information on other festival concerts.
This story contains 815 words.
Stories older than 90 days are available only to subscribing members. Please help sustain quality local journalism by becoming a subscribing member today.
If you are already a subscriber, please log in so you can continue to enjoy unlimited access to stories and archives. Subscriptions start at $5 per month and may be cancelled at any time.