A Quartet of Chamber Works by Mark Carlson (b. 1952)
performed by members of Pacific Serenades
Mark Carlson, flute
Gary Gray, clarinet & bass clarinet
Roger Wilkie, violin
Roland Kato, viola
David Speltz, cello
Ayke Agus, piano (Piano Quartet & Quartet)
Joanne Pearce Martin, piano (The Hall of Mirrors & Abschied)
This recording is dedicated in loving memory to Charlie Swigart (1951-1990), without whom none of this music would ever have happened.
1. The Hall of Mirrors, for clarinet and piano (1990)
The Hall of Mirrors that inspired this piece is a magical one that reflects only the truth: as you gaze into the mirrors, the reflections reveal images that come from beneath your surface. And though you may find images that are familiar, you may also see things about yourself that surprise you—aspects that you wish were not true, or things that are more positive than you would have imagined. But the one thing that all of the reflections have in common is you, and thus you cannot deny their truth.
This generating idea is reflected in the piece as follows. The material (the identity, so to speak, of the "gazer") is very consistent, everything being based on the opening idea. However, its character shifts from one movement to the next, and from one section—or one moment—to the next within each movement, creating sometimes surprising juxtapositions. Hence, though there is a striking variety of musical character, all is unified by the consistency of the material. The piece also has an overall shape, moving from the relatively somber opening, gradually—and with further plunges in and out of deeper seriousness—to the lighthearted Scherzo, which though still a truth-telling hall of mirrors, is more like the fun house variety. The Hall of Mirrors was commissioned by Hope Pompei Freedman for Pacific Serenades and is dedicated to Gary Gray.
2. Piano Quartet (1992)
In October of 1990, Charlie Swigart, my closest friend and life-companion of nineteen years, died of malignant melanoma. About a year and a half later, I wrote my Piano Quartet, the first piece written entirely after his death. And though it was not consciously intended to be so, it is very autobiographical, written out of the intensity of the many emotions I have experienced in my grief.
Tradition has it that the nervous disorder tarantism, erroneously thought to be the result of the tarantula bite, was curable by dancing—or that it caused a mania for dancing—the wild and hysterical Tarantella. Though musicologists have taken away the fun of this by teaching us that this dance is merely one from the Italian city Taranto, tradition has a way of surviving. This Tarantella is an attempt, metaphorically, to eradicate not a spider's venom, but some pain, some difficulty, some frustration of life which won't seem to resolve no matter what we try. It is a series of dances which seem to say, "I'll try this, I'll see if this works, how about . . . " and which build to a hysterical, and ultimately futile, frenzy. In the second movement, however, healing does begin. This Song is especially for Charlie, whose name appears twice in musical form during the movement. Charlie was a chronic whistler, absentmindedly whistling his favorite music as he wandered around our garden, and I always felt as if I must be on the right track when I would hear him unconsciously whistling the very tunes that I was working on at the piano. The Capriccio is another dance, this one to celebrate the joy of that healing. Piano Quartet was commissioned for Pacific Serenades by Elizabeth H. Henderson.
3. Abschied, for cello and piano (1993)
Over the several years before I wrote Abschied, I had to make many painful farewells—to my sister Jan, who died in 1985; to my companion of nineteen years, Charlie Swigart, who died in 1990; to the house we had lived in together, which I sold and moved from; to my job at UCLA, which I held for eight years—and others. Though I tend to avoid foreign titles, the German word for farewell Abschied seems so aptly to embody the multitude of feelings that I have experienced in this series of farewells. At the premiere performance of Abschied, two people—both recently widowed—approached me separately and said, "I know exactly what you are speaking of in this piece." And though I am still touched by how directly the work moved them, I think that it speaks of experiences of other kinds of loss as well, and of the feelings that surround them. Since its premiere, Abschied has received numerous performances across the United States and in Europe. It was commissioned for Pacific Serenades by my parents, Dr. Paul & Dorothy Carlson, and is dedicated to David Speltz.
4. Quartet, for flute, clarinet/bass clarinet, cello, and piano (1994)
My Quartet is among a number of my pieces which follow a pattern of moving from emotional darkness towards light. The first movement, Haunted, though full of rather mocking whimsy, is agitated and practically in perpetual motion, suggesting a feeling of being pursued by something at once inviting and troubling. In Alone, the slow second movement, melodies appear and disappear among dark, eerie chords. The third movement, Future Perfect, is a waltz, which offers a sense of peace, of healing. The final movement, Mirthful, mirroring the nearly perpetual motion of the first, is joyful and celebratory. The work was commissioned for Pacific Serenades by Dr. Jack & Florence Irving.
With its commitment to the finest performances of past masterpieces and of newly commissioned works, the Los Angeles-based chamber music ensemble Pacific Serenades is an active participant in a new musical renaissance. Founded in 1982 by Artistic Director Mark Carlson, Pacific Serenades has since become one of the premier chamber music ensembles in Southern California and one of the longest-performing on the West Coast. It exists so that music lovers—listeners, performers, and composers alike—might experience chamber music as a living art—and [to] experience it in the intimate setting for which it is intended. It also focuses on some of the best musicians of the Los Angeles area. Each of its programs presents the premiere of a new work commissioned by Pacific Serenades along with standard repertoire. As of its 2010 season, Pacific Serenades has presented the premieres of 98 new works—more than any other group of its kind in the country. Representing 52 different composers, most of them from the Los Angeles area, many of these works have gone on to further performances by other ensembles throughout the United States and in Europe and Canada, and many of them have been published. This recording was the first of a series presenting works commissioned and premiered by Pacific Serenades.
Composer and flutist Mark Carlson is the Founder and Artistic Director of Pacific Serenades. His lyrical, emotionally powerful, and stylistically unique music has earned him the admiration of audiences and musicians throughout the United States, Canada, Mexico, and Europe. A versatile composer, his nearly 100 works include art songs, chamber and choral music, concertos, large ensemble works, and songs for musical theater.
The recipient of more than 50 commissions, Carlson has composed works for, among others, the National Shrine in Washington, DC, the New West Symphony, Westwood Presbyterian Church, First Methodist Church of Santa Monica, the UCLA Wind Ensemble, the Santa Monica College Orchestra, and for many individual musicians. His works include Concerto for Trumpet, Piano, and Orchestra, for Jens Lindemann, Jennifer Snow, and the UCLA Philharmonia, and Welcome Winter!, commissioned by the Boston Gay Men’s Chorus, and Night Music, for the horn quartet, Quadre, with flutist Molly Barth. One of eleven recordings of his works, The Hall of Mirrors, was a winner of the Chamber Music America/WQXR Record Awards for 2001. Sueños y canciones, commissioned by the Mexico City chamber ensemble Signos, appears on their CD Espejo/Mirror. New CDs include his Intermezzo, for alto saxophone and piano (on Centaur, performed by Douglas Masek and Louise Thomas), and Two Ballads (also for Centaur, performed by saxophonist Alan Durst and guitarist Corey Whitehead), Sonata for Cello and Piano (Pacific Serenades), and For Those Silenced on Joanne Pearce Martin’s CD Barefoot (Yarlung). His music is published by Yelton Rhodes Music, Pacific Serenades Music, and C Swigart Music (all in Los Angeles); by Thorpe Music in Boston; and by Black Squirrel Music, in Kent, Ohio.
Carlson is an avid performer of chamber music, including many works written for him. He was a member of the Pasadena Symphony, the YMF Debut Orchestra, and the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra, among others.
Born in 1952 in Ft. Lewis, Washington, Carlson grew up in California, attended the University of Redlands, graduated from CSU Fresno, and received MA and PhD degrees in composition from UCLA. His principal teachers were Alden Ashforth and Paul Reale (composition) and Roger Stevens (flute). He is on the faculty at UCLA, where he teaches music theory and composition. He also taught at Santa Monica College for many years. He is also a teacher of movement for musicians, having studied with Alexandra and Roger Pierce in Redlands.
Ayke Agus, a musical prodigy on piano and violin, served as Jascha Heifetz’s accompanist during the last 17 years of the great Russian violinist’s life. An Indonesian native of Chinese, Dutch, and Javanese descent, Ms. Agus began her concert career at age 7. She came to the US on a scholarship to study violin and piano in Buffalo, New York, where she became the youngest member of the Buffalo Philharmonic.
Although Ivan Galamian, the renowned violin pedagogue, recommended her for a scholarship at Juilliard, she auditioned instead for Jascha Heifetz and was accepted as a student on full scholarship in his masterclass at USC. Ms. Agus soon became the pianist for Heifetz’s masterclasses as well as his personal musical collaborator and accompanist. On occasion, she also performed chamber music with Heifetz and cellist Gregor Piatigorsky. Ms. Agus performs regularly at chamber music festivals in the US and with such internationally noted groups as the Ysaÿe String Quartet and the Jacques Thibaud String Trio. Her recordings for Protone Records include piano solo discs, Musical Mementos of Jascha Heifetz and Ayke Agus Doubles.
Ms. Agus is a member of the Pasadena Symphony and California Philharmonic. She was a faculty member at USC for 10 years and taught strings at Antelope Valley College. She regularly holds masterclasses entitled The Art of Collaboration (What to Expect from Your Pianist). Most recently she was sponsored by the American String Teachers Association (ASTA) to give workshops at George Mason University, Virginia; University of Maryland, in Baltimore; and Peabody Conservatory, at Johns Hopkins University, in the Art of Collaboration in the Heifetz tradition, emphasizing the art of performance. She also gave some presentations at ASTA's National Conference in Detroit, Michigan, in 2007. A CD of the Schubert Impromptus, along with the Fantasie in f minor for four-hands piano, is in production. Her book, Heifetz, as I Knew Him, is published by Amadeus Press and is in its fourth printing, in paperback. Since its publication, Ms. Agus has traveled the country appearing as guest speaker and giving masterclasses and recitals to help perpetuate the legacy of Heifetz.
Clarinetist Gary Gray enjoys a versatile career as a concert artist, studio musician, and professor of clarinet and chamber music at UCLA. He received his BM and MM degrees from Indiana University, where he studied clarinet with Henry Gulick and Robert McGinnis and chamber music with Janos Starker. The Los Angeles Times wrote of a recent concert, "Gray handled the clarinet solos with stunning ease and as mellow and gorgeous a sound as may be possible on his instrument." Formerly Principal Clarinetist of LACO, comments such as "Gray astonished with his liquid clarinet solos" were frequent in the press. As a soloist, his concerto CD with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra was nominated for a Grammy Award, and his CD of music for clarinet and piano, recorded in London with Clifford Benson, has also been a best seller for Centaur Records.
His most recent recording for Centaur Records includes two Romantic masterworks for clarinet and chamber ensemble: the Brahms Quintet Op. 115 and Dohnanyi's Sextet Op. 37. For this project Gray collaborated with the New Hollywood Quartet, pianist, Robert Thies, and french hornist, Richard Todd.
Gray is a founding member/performer of Pacific Serenades and was a Faculty Artist at the Aspen Music Festival, Chamber Music Northwest, the Sedona Chamber Music Festival, and the Aria Music Academy. The summer of 2005, he joined the Alexander Quartet to perform and teach at the CSU Summer Arts chamber ensemble workshop. Gray has been a member of the St. Louis Symphony and performed with the Aspen Festival Orchestra, the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, and has been soloist with the San Francisco Symphony, the Indianapolis Symphony, and LACO, among others.
He has collaborated with Aaron Copland, Malcolm Arnold, Benjamin Britten, Pierre Boulez, and Igor Stravinsky, as well as recording film scores with John Williams, Jerry Goldsmith, Henry Mancini, Thomas Newman, Bruce Broughton, and Don Davis, among many others. His website is: www.clarinetbygray.com
Described by the Los Angeles Times as "a brilliant virtuoso, playing with the perfect combination of energy and eloquence," Roland Kato, internationally acclaimed viola recitalist and soloist, has been a member of LACO since 1976 and was appointed Principal Violist by Iona Brown in 1987. He has also held the principal position in many orchestras, including the Music Center Opera Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, the California Chamber Symphony, and the Pasadena Chamber Orchestra. Mr. Kato plays chamber music with the Santa Clarita Chamber Players, Pacific Serenades, and other popular series in Los Angeles. As a guest artist, he recently was invited to play with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and has appeared with the New York New Music Ensemble. He was honored to perform chamber music with Yo-Yo Ma in a concert benefiting cancer research. In November 2002, he and LACO Concertmaster Margaret Batjer gave the West Coast premiere of Benjamin Britten's double concerto in B minor for violin and viola.
Mr. Kato has appeared as soloist/recitalist on both viola and viola d'amore throughout the US and abroad with LACO, Festival Casals in Puerto Rico, Grand Canyon Chamber Music Festival, Oregon Bach Festival, Festival Internacional de Musica (Costa Rica), among many other festivals.
Mr. Kato produced the award-winning premiere recording of Telemann's Quatrieme Livre de Quatours, a collection of six chamber pieces on the Koch Classics International label performed by the period instrument ensemble American Baroque. This recording has been re-released on the Music and Arts label. He has also recorded chamber music of Tania French released on the Centaur label, and composer Mark Carlson's Piano Quartet. The Carlson recording (The Hall of Mirrors) was awarded the Chamber Music America/WQXR Record Awards for 2001. Other chamber music recordings include those with Ransom Wilson and Marni Nixon.
As a commissioned arranger of music Mr. Kato has had his pieces played worldwide. His transcription of Prokofiev's Music for Children was recently given its New York premiere, and in Washington, DC, his arrangement of Ravel's Mother Goose Suite was premiered at the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts by the New Hampshire-based Apple Hill Chamber Players. It was given its European premiere in Ireland and has consequently been performed throughout Europe and the US by various ensembles.
Currently enjoying her 7th season as the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s Principal Keyboardist, Joanne Pearce Martin performs with the orchestra on multiple keyboard instruments, including the celesta, various synthesizers, and occasionally a Mac computer, in addition to the ubiquitous piano. Born in Allentown, PA, Ms. Martin performs all over the world as soloist, chamber musician, and recording artist. With the LA Phil, she has made numerous solo appearances on piano, harpsichord, and the Walt Disney Concert Hall organ, appearing with such conductors as Esa-Pekka Salonen, John Adams, and Miguel Harth-Bedoya. She is also a frequent soloist with the LA Phil during the summer Hollywood Bowl seasons. A graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music, she has been guest soloist with many other orchestras in the USA and abroad, including the Philadelphia Orchestra, LACO, San Diego Chamber Orchestra, Florida West Coast Symphony, and England’s Huddersfield Philharmonic. In great demand as a collaborative artist, she has performed with such artists as Joshua Bell, Lynn Harrell, Iona Brown, James Galway, Jean-Pierre Rampal, and Joseph Silverstein, among others.
Ms. Martin has performed at dozens of summer music festivals and concert series spanning four continents, including those in Aspen, Sarasota, Park City, Utah, New York’s 92nd St. Y, Carnegie Recital Hall, Lincoln Center Library, Kennedy Center, Costa Rica, Australia, Taiwan, Edinburgh, Cologne, and Nice. Southern California audiences have followed her performances of New Music and “standards” for years with the LA Phil’s Green Umbrella and Chamber Music Series, Pacific Serenades, Camerata Pacifica, Dilijan, South Bay, Ojai, Mainly Mozart, and San Louis Obispo Mozart Festivals.
This season Joanne and her husband Gavin Martin have continued to concertize together as a two-piano team. She has also performed multiple-piano works with Emmanuel Ax, Yefim Bronfman, Helene Grimaud, and Jeffrey Kahane. Her playing has been described by the Los Angeles Times as possessing "unusual fervor and fluency.” She has performed on all the major US television networks and recorded commercially for Centaur, Summit, and Albany records, as well as the Yamaha Disklavier Piano. Ms. Martin has also been the subject of a half-hour feature on The Learning Channel. Her latest recording project, a solo CD entitled Joanne Pearce Martin, Barefoot, was released in 2008 on Yarlung Records. Ms. Martin’s playing of Beethoven’s Triple Concerto can be heard on DreamWork’s upcoming movie release The Soloist, starring Jamie Foxx. Her newest and certainly freshest musical adventure is learning to play the Theremin—she is now the proud owner of a Moog “Etherwave Pro”.
When she's not making music, you might find Joanne up in the air—she is an instrument-rated airplane pilot and master-rated skydiver
David Speltz, cellist, began his formal studies with Eleanore Schoenfeld after being introduced to the cello by his father. Later, he was invited to join the Piatigorsky masterclass at USC.
He earned a master’s degree in mathematics from UCLA but soon realized that music—and the cello—was the path he should follow. In 1973 he helped form the Arriaga String Quartet, which went on to win first prize in the prestigious Coleman competition in Pasadena.
As a member of the Musical Offering ensemble, he performed at the Library of Congress, Lincoln Center, Casals Festival in Puerto Rico, and recorded on the Nonesuch label. He has played on many of the chamber music series in Los Angeles, including Pacific Serenades, Chamber Music in Historic Sites, the Bing series, the IMA, South Bay, and LACMA chamber music series. During the summer months, he participates in music festivals in Santa Fe, the Grand Canyon, and at the Oregon Bach Festival.
Speltz was a member of LACO during Sir Neville Marriner’s tenure and principal cellist of the California Chamber Symphony for eight seasons. In 1989 he was invited by Helmuth Rilling to serve as principal cellist of the Bachakademie in Stuttgart, Germany. He is also active in the Los Angeles recording field, performing on such films as Schindler’s List and Jurassic Park.
Roger Wilkie's violin playing has been described as "having surpassing virtuosity, a thrilling legato tone, and a sense of full emotional engagement" by the LA Times. Concertmaster of the Long Beach Symphony, Mr. Wilkie has also served in that capacity with LACO, the Los Angeles Music Center Opera Orchestra, and the Real Filharmonia de Galicia (Spain) under Helmuth Rilling. Mr. Wilkie has appeared as soloist with numerous orchestras including the Long Beach Symphony, the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra, LACO, and the Carmel Bach Festival Orchestra. He has given solo recitals for the San Luis Obispo Mozart Festival, LACMA/KUSC-FM broadcasts, Swiss National Radio, and is frequently heard on NPR's Performance Today.
An extremely active chamber musician, Mr. Wilkie has participated in the Santa Fe, La Jolla, and Mainly Mozart festivals. He has also served as the Principal Violinist of the Camerata Pacifica of Santa Barbara. As a founding member of the Angeles String Quartet (1987-1993) he toured throughout North America, performed in New York's 92nd Street Y, and recorded an interactive CD/video disc for the Voyager Company.
Recorded at Trompe l'Oreille Studio in Anaheim, CA, December 1997
Engineer: Steve Barker
Editing and Mastering: Jonathan Marcus
Session Producers: Ken Meyer, Bruce Olstad, Mark Carlson
Assistant Engineer: Benjamin Maas
Graphic Design: Daniel Shiplacoff, Shiplacoff Design
Piano provided by Yamaha Pianos
Executive Producer: Mark Carlson