Ensemble Signal: Abbasi, Read Thomas, Shirazi, Zubel

Tuesday, August 15, 2023
7:30 pm

Mary Flagler Cary Hall

Anahita Abbasi
Faab IV / a femme fatale, 2016
for flute, clarinet, piano, violin, viola, cello

Augusta Read Thomas
Dance Mobile, 2021*
for flute, clarinet, alto saxophone, bassoon, trombone, pianos, percussion, and strings
* NYC Premiere

Aida Shirazi
The shadow of a leaf in water, 2018*
for bass flute, bass clarinet, percussion, harp, and cello
* NYC premiere

Agata Zubel
Chamber Piano Concerto, 2018*
for piano(s) and ensemble
* US premiere
with Ning Yu, piano

Ensemble Signal

Brad Lubman, conductor

Luke Poeppel, assistant conductor
Paul Coleman, sound director
Amir Farsi, flutes
Adrián Sandí, clarinets
Thomas Giles, saxophone/clarinet
Brad Balliett, bassoon
William Lang, trombone
David Friend, piano
Doug Perkins, percussion
Nicholas Tolle, percussion
Nuiko Wadden, harp
Courtney Orlando, violin
Lauren Cauley, violin
Molly Goldman, viola
Lauren Radnofsky, cello
Greg Chudzik, bass

Ensemble Signal Team
Lauren Radnofsky, Co-Artistic/Executive Director
Brad Lubman, Co-Artistic/Music Director
Erin Lensing, Project Management Assistant

Ning Yu


Concert duration: approximately one hour and fifteen minutes

Mary Flagler Cary Hall
DiMenna Center for Classical Music
450 W 37th Street
New York, NY 10018

Program Notes

Anahita Abbasi
Faab IV / a femme fatale (2016)

The Faab series focuses on relationships and attitudes of human beings to/and within each other. Each piece is a story, a collage of different images and situations and at the same time an observation of emotions and how we act and react to them in our daily lives. Faab IV is an observation of a femme fatale—a stock character of a mysterious and seductive woman whose charms ensnare her lovers and her surroundings. Her ability to entrance and hypnotize everyone and everything around her just with her presence, look, and her intensity is almost supernatural. She has the power to achieve her hidden purpose by using feminine wiles such as beauty, charm, and sexual allure.

Augusta Read Thomas
Dance Mobile, In Memoriam Oliver Knussen (2021)

Music for me is an embrace of the world—a way to open myself up to being alive in the world in my body, in my sounds, and in my mind. I care deeply about musicality, imagination, craft, clarity, dimensionality, an elegant balance between material and form, and empathy with the performing musicians. My works always spark and catch fire from spontaneous improvisations. It is music always in the act of becoming. I have a vivid sense that the process of the creative journey (rather than a predictable fixed point of arrival) is the essence. Poetry can give language to the ineffable. Music is, in an analogous way, akin to an infinite alphabet. Sounds can become like butterflies, hummingbirds, lights, rocks, trees, webs, gardens, and landscapes. Three virtuosic dances, each lasting circa four minutes and thirty seconds, are, as if hanging on an Alexander Calder-like mobile, suspended so as to turn freely in the air; lively, sprightly, spry, energetic, vigorous; animated, traveling, flexible, versatile, changing, fluid, and on the move.

Organic and, at every level, concerned with transformations and connections, the carefully sculpted and fashioned musical materials of Dance Mobile are agile and spirited, and their flexibility allows pathways to braid harmonic, rhythmic, and contrapuntal elements that are constantly transformed—at times whimsical and light, at times jazzy, at times almost Stravinsky-balletlike, at times layered and reverberating with resonance, pirouettes, fulcrum points, and effervescence. Across Dance Mobile’s fourteen-minute duration, there unfolds a labyrinth of musical interrelationships and connections that showcase the musicians of Ensemble Signal in a virtuosic display of rhythmic agility, counterpoint, skill, energy, dynamic and articulative range, precision, and teamwork.

Augusta Read Thomas. Doodle illustrating form of Dance Mobile

Aida Shirazi
The shadow of a leaf in water (2018)

The initial idea of The Shadow of a Leaf in Water is derived from the poem “Light, Me, Flower, Water,” by Sohrab Sepehri (Iran, 1928–80). “Light, Me, Flower, Water” contributed immensely to the process of generating melodies, harmonies, and timbres, which seem relevant to concepts such as light, darkness, reflection, shadow, movement, stillness, and the inherent aloneness that defined Sepehri’s work as a poet and painter. After coming up with the musical ideas, I challenged myself to abandon the poem and create an independent narrative, which is solely based on the musical material. The result is a work that unfolds slowly in time and creates momentary tension by repeating a handful of gestures in an obsessive manner. The title of the piece is taken from the last two lines of the poem: “I am filled with the shadow of a leaf on the surface of the water. How endless my alone-ness!”

Agata Zubel
Chamber Piano Concerto (2018)

Many experiences are linked to a scale or a context.

You have been sightseeing the entire country and you are far away from the area you know, but only in Greenland do you say, “Now I have really achieved something.” Despite the fact that many people have been there before you.

You have built a house, you have created a big garden, but you say, “Now I have really achieved something,” only when you have baked your own small loaf of bread. Despite the fact that many have baked such a loaf before you.

My piano concerto does not have to transgress any boundaries and is not sensitive to size. The idea of performing is put into practice by increased activity. In order to do that, all performers need to be willing to go beyond what is expected. The audience is beginning to listen to a piano concerto, and the musicians are starting to play the piano concerto. However, there is no orchestra and the pianist is playing a part arranged for two instruments. Despite this, from the very inception of the work until the very last note, I had no doubt it was a chamber piano concerto for piano(s) and ensemble.

Agata Zubel. Photo: Łukasz Rajchert

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