Kassia Ensemble presents
“Through-lines: Connecting Music Old and New”
featuring first commission “Kassia” by Judith Shatin
The Kassia Ensemble, a dynamic and unusual chamber music group, presents “Through-lines: Connecting Music Old and New,” a concert of new contemporary and Baroque music, on Saturday, January 22, 2022, 7pm, at Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty. Kassia Ensemble consists of the striking combination of string quintet, harp and clarinet. The program features the Ensemble’s first commission and world premiere of “Kassia,” for the complete septet complement, by celebrated composer Judith Shatin.
Renowned for her acoustic, electroacoustic and digital music, Shatin’s music combines an adventurous approach to timbre with dynamic narrative design. The Washington Post called her music “highly inventive on every level: hugely enjoyable and deeply involving, with a constant sense of surprise.” Her music is recorded on more than 30 albums, and she is William R. Kenan Jr. Professor Emerita at the University of Virginia, where she founded the Virginia Center for Computer Music.
Shatin takes inspiration from the Ensemble’s namesake, Kassia, a 9th century Byzantine abbess, poet and hymnographer. Her music is likely the first by a woman to survive until now. Shatin drew on melodic fragments of two of Kassia’s major chants, “The Fallen Woman” and “Augustus, the Monarch,” and on some rhythms of her poetry.Her new piece has a gentle opening, later evolving into lamentations suggested by the first chant, and ending with an ethereal rise to heaven. Composed during the 2020 pandemic, Shatin describes how her virtual sessions with the Kassia Ensemble musicians “provided inspiring connections in dark times.”
“Through-lines” pairs the new and the old, showcasing how early music still influences music of today. The program features three pieces by J.S. Bach, two string quartets and one duo arranged for harp and violin. These selections from “Art of the Fugue” and “Sonata V for Flute and Keyboard” set the stage for the other contemporary works on the program and form integral musical sets.
Solo cello opens the evening with movements from BYZANTINE CHANTS Sacred Concerto by Margarita Zelenaia. This moving work directly draws on Byzantine era music. The Ensemble will perform two works by Shulamit Ran, “Private Game” for Clarinet and Cello and “Bach-Shards” for String Quartet. In the later work, Ran composed a prelude to Bach’s Contrapunctus X. Using “Bach-like” materials and harmonic language, Ran creates a piece that directly leads to the start of Contrapunctus X, a natural culmination of the energy she built in the Prelude.
Reflections on the Theme “BACH” for String Quartet by Sofia Gubaidulina will also be performed along its Bach inspiration, Contrapunctus XVIII. Gubaidulina reacts and reflects on the great unfinished fugue at the conclusion of the Art of the Fugue, using the themes of Bach along with her own musical language. Her work sheds a new light on the moving Contrapunctus XVIII.
This concert is possible with the help of the Spark Foundation and Opportunity Fund of Pittsburgh.
General admission tickets are $15, with discounts available for students, seniors, and groups. To purchase tickets, please visit Events Archive - Kelly Strayhorn Theater (kelly-strayhorn.org/events). Tickets are also available for purchase at the door.