Quiet Strength, like CROSS ISLAND's first album, Explorations, offers an eclectic mix of duets (cello/piano and clarinet/ cello) and trios spanning centuries, genres, and styles:
Cecile Chaminade: Allegro (Mvt. 1, Piano Trio in G Minor)* - a powerful and stirring classic, with the violin part transcribed for clarinet by our cellist, Suzanne Mueller.
Jeffrey Harrington: Nocturne for Cello and Piano* - A very different nocturne, progressing through a sweeping arc from quiet introspection through roiling passion and back to a graceful descent back to peace. Per the composer, this work is dedicated to the memory of Wilma the crocodile, a long-time denizen of Sanibel Island, Florida.
Next, a pair of contrasting works by CROSS ISLAND's dear friend, Andreas van Haren, both arranged especially for us by the composer:
The Lost Child *(cello/piano) - A work with two contrasting musical ideas - one that we always feel would be right at home in a film by Cocteau or Fellini, the other filled with a sense of repose.
Nature Awakes * (trio) - A peaceful work that , almost feels more like the representation of a full day. While listening to it, one can easily hear the transition from the peace of twilight through a glorious sunrise and the arc of the day, into a serene dusk and gentle sunset.
Meira Warshauer: In Memoriam, September 11, 2001* (a clarinet/cello version arranged for us by the composer) - Evocative and haunting , rising to a powerful scream and then sinking into silence, like the settling of the ashes.
Frank Bridge: Cradle Song (cello/piano) - A lovely, lyrical work.
Roger Blanc: Saint Vitus Was Here* (clarinet/cello) - A fun new work, with a twist, arranged for us by the composer.
Rick Sowash: Lullabye for Kara (cello/piano) - A jazz-inflected, atypical lullabye which the composer describes as being in a "Late Gerswhin" style - what Gershwin might have been writing had he lived longer.
Mark McCarron: The Big Picture* (trio) - A jazz waltz arranged especially for CROSS ISLAND and offering Elinor the chance to show off her improvising prowess.
Keri Degg: Fuerza Tranquila *(cello/piano) - A milonga (precursor to the tango). This is the album's title track, arranged by the composer for CROSS ISLAND.
James Grant: To Become World (clarinet/cello) - Written for the wedding of friends and inspired by words of Rilke, this work perfectly captures the many moods of marriage, with a charming country waltz in the middle and a section of balanced dynamics (contrary, overlapping crescendos and diminuendos as the two instruments hold the same note).
Paul Schoenfield: Andante (Mvt. 2, Cafe Music)* (trio) – Another transcription from violin to clarinet by Suzanne, with the composer's approval, and the change brings a delightful new dimension of slinkiness to it. This work was commissioned by the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra and inspired by the composer's turn as house pianist at Murray’s steakhouse in Minneapolis, where the musical styles run the gamut. True to that provenance, this movement has inspirations from traditional Chasidic melodies through Broadway.
Ruth Schonthal: Tango for 2 (clarinet and cello) - A tango with overtones of a habanera. Written for this instrumentation, it makes excellent use of the strengths and characteristics of each.
And, finally, two tracks by Arkadie Kouguell - This composer was introduced to us by his son, Alexander Kouguell, a master cellist and one of Suzanne's teachers.
Kaddisch (cello/piano) - A work, at times intimate; at others powerful, combining traditional, classical, and jazz elements.
Melodie et Danse Hebraique (trio) - Again, Suzanne’s transcription of the violin part for clarinet brings out a whole new character, helping to create a Klezmer sensibility. This work makes the listener feel that they're part of a family gathering.
We hope that you’ll love this music as much as we do!
About the Musicians
Formed in August, 2007, CROSS ISLAND’s foundation is a shared love of programming that brings together music from diverse periods, genres and styles, and presents to listeners a mixture of well-loved familiar composers and works together with quality music that is unfamiliar. We especially enjoy collaborating with composers, and several of the works on "Quiet Strength" are the result of those collaborations. We’re pleased to be joined on "Quiet Strength"t by clarinetist Joseph Rutkowski, Jr., a frequent collaborator since 2008.
Cellist Suzanne Mueller is a graduate of both the Pre-College and College of The Juilliard School. Her teachers have included Marion Feldman, Alexander Kouguell, Lorne Munroe, Leslie Parnas, Channing Robbins, and Harvey Shapiro, and she has coached with artists including Joseph Fuchs, Margot Garrett, William Lincer, and, for non-classical cello and perspective, Eugene Friesen.
She made her New York recital debut under the auspices of Artists International, as a member of the piano/cello Elysian Duo, and went on to perform as half of its successor, Elysian II, for ten years. Currently, she is Beech Tree Concerts Artist-in-Residence at Old Westbury Gardens, where she presents a series of outdoor summer concerts. She enjoys collaborating with composers and has premiered several works – both solo and ensemble.
Suzanne is a member of the New Directions Cello Association and of the International Alliance of Women in Music. She performs and records with the Retro Folk duo Hungrytown, and has also appeared and recorded with singer/songwriter Terry Winchell, and in the jazz-inflected pop ensemble of Dave Rave & Mark McCarron.
She can be heard on the CDs: Robin Eve—Remembrance (2010); Hungrytown (self-titled album), Terry Winchell—Vice Versa, and Dave Rave and Mark McCarron—In the Blue of My Dreams (2007); Alli Collis—Signal on the Starboard and Lauren Agnelli—Love Always Follows Me (2004); and, Rebecca Hall—Sunday Afternoon (2002).
Pianist Elinor Abrams Zayas’s early teachers were Ruth Koch, Claude Gonvierre, and, at The Juilliard Pre- College, Howard Aibel and Leonard Eisner.
Undergraduate studies at the Manhattan School of Music were with Constance Keene, and chamber music with Artur Balsam. She studied jazz and improvisation with Valerie Capers, arranging with John Carisi, and performed in Jazz ensembles led by Dave Samuels and David Freidman. Her graduate studies, also at Manhattan, were with Robert Helps, who introduced her to contemporary music and to the techniques of Abby Whiteside. Sophia Rosoff—a Whiteside disciple, whose pupils included Gary Graffman and jazz pianist Barry Harris, was a major influence, as was the jazz pianist Joanne Brackeen.
Ms. Zayas formed the chamber ensemble Nepenthe in 1984. Nepenthe presented a successful concert series at the Boulton Center for the Arts and performed widely on Long Island. Elinor has also been the pianist for the Long Island Masterworks Chorus, and the Long Island Philharmonic Chorus, a musical director at the Gateway Playhouse in Bellport, NY, and a soloist in the metropolitan area, at such venues as Trinity Church in NYC, and the Friends of the Arts Beethoven Festival at Planting Fields Arboretum. She also performs with Cross Road, a string jazz group led by composer/bassist Reynard Burns.
Ms. Zayas is a native of Brightwaters, where she lives and maintains a private piano studio. She has served on the music faculties of Five Towns College and Hofstra University, and is currently on the music faculty of the Sachem Public Schools.
Hailed by the New York Times as "...an agile and powerful player" and by International Clarinet Magazine as a clarinetist with "awesome technical prowess," Joseph Rutkowski has performed with James Galway, Mstislav Rostropovich and Maurice Andre and under the batons of Alan Hovhaness, Karel Husa, Laszlo Halasz and JoAnn Falletta. His recording of Schubert's Shepherd on the Rock for Ali Mar Records was acclaimed in Richard Gilbert's The Clarinetist's Discography.
Joseph studied in New York and Germany, receiving degrees in performance from Mannes College and Queens College and in Educational Administration from Hunter College. His has studied with Lawrence Sobol, Heinrich Geuser and Eric Simon and has worked with composers Leo Kraft, Alan Hovhaness, Elliot Finkel, Nelson Kole, Michael Flamhaft, Roger Ames, Alan Schwartz and Dr. Karel Husa.
As Director of Instrumental Music at Great Neck North High School since 1991, Joseph is a two-time Presidential Scholars Teacher Recognition Award recipient. He served on the faculties of Queens College, Mannes College, Westchester Conservatory and was the Symphony Orchestra conductor and teacher at Stuyvesant High School for the eight years preceding his appointment in Great Neck.
Joseph resides in New York City In his leisure time, he enjoys playing classical music and jazz and with his sons: Benjamin (trombonist) and Daniel (trumpeter and pianist). They often perform jazz concerts together with Joseph's father, "Grandpa" Joe, Sr., a legendary polka band drummer.