Master Performers

Alex Klein, oboe

Lillia Woolschlager, piano

 

July 6, 2021

Rush Hour Concerts

Robbie Ellis, pre-concert talk host

Program:

William Grant Still – Incantation and Dance (5′)

Augusta Read Thomas – Song Without Words (5′)

Paul Hindemith – Sonata for Oboe and Piano (12′)

I. Munter

II. Sehr langsam. Lebhaft – Sehr langsam, wie zuerst – Wieder lebhaft

Pavel Haas – Suite for Oboe and Piano (14‘)

I. Furioso

II. Con fuoco

III. Moderato

One of the world’s leading oboists, Alex Klein received a Grammy Award in 2002 for his recording of the Richard Strauss Oboe Concerto with Daniel Barenboim and the Chicago Symphony, where Klein served as Principal Oboe and was later presented with a “Principal Oboe Emeritus” status by Riccardo Muti.

Klein began his musical studies in his native Brazil at the age of 9 and subsequently received his music degrees at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music under the tutelage of James Caldwell. Klein won the First Prizes in the International Oboe Competitions of Geneva, New York, Fernand Gillet and Piracicaba, with additional prizes in Tokyo and Prague.

Klein left the Chicago Symphony Orchestra due to complications arising from Musician’s Focal Dystonia, a neurological condition affecting a significant number of musicians and which took away control of two fingers of his left hand. After leaving the Chicago Symphony, Klein devoted his life to the advancement of young musicians and to foster music as a social tool in disadvantaged communities. In Brazil he founded and to this day is Artistic Director of FEMUSC – Santa Catarina Music Festival, which has served over ten thousand students from  over forty countries. He also founded the award-winning, “El Sistema”-inspired PRIMA –  Program of Social Inclusion through Music and the Arts placing fully-funded youth orchestras  inside high-risk communities, helping foster social change and sending scores of teenagers to  college, most for the first time in their family history.

During this convalescence period Klein relearned how to play the oboe around the limitations of focal dystonia, adapting his oboe with “sensory tricks” and following the latest ideas on how musicians might escape this peril. In time, Klein started recording again, playing recitals, and in 2016 again auditioned successfully for his former Chicago Symphony position before assuming the Principal Oboe chair with the Calgary Philharmonic in Canada. Klein is on the faculty of DePaul University in Chicago and the Aspen Music Festival, serves as Principal Oboe of the Aspen Chamber Symphony and performs regularly with the Chicago Pro-Musica Reed Trio with his former CSO colleagues John Yeh on clarinet and Keith Buncke on bassoon.

Alex Klein has recorded a wide variety of works for solo oboe for Cedille Records in Chicago, from baroque concertos by Antonio Vivaldi to modern works by Yano and Sydor written specifically for him. His latest recording project, 20th-Century Oboe Sonatas, released in 2019, was collectively nominated for a Grammy Award for “Producer of the Year”. His next major recording, also for Chicago’s Cedille Records, involves works by composers hit with extraordinary life changing circumstances. This very personal project will include the works of political exiles Klement Slavicky and José Siqueira, anti-war works by William Bolcom and Benjamin Britten, and two pieces included in this recital program written during their composers’ departure from the nazi regime in Germany, by Paul Hindemith as he was fleeing to Switzerland, and Pavel Haas, whose life ended soon after, at Auschwitz.

Lillia Woolschlager (she/her/hers) is a pianist and oboist in the local Chicago metropolitan area. As a freelance musician and teaching artist, she has played with various groups including the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, Northbrook Symphony, 5th Wave Collective, and Wisconsin Philharmonic. Lillia is an instructor of piano, voice, and oboe at various schools in Chicago including Musical Chairs Studio and Music House, as well as teaching students all throughout the country on Outschool Online Teaching.

Lillia attended the Crane School of Music in Potsdam, New York, studying with oboist Dr. Anna Hendrickson and pianist Dr. François Germaine. She obtained a dual Bachelor’s Degree in Oboe Performance and Musical Studies with a piano pedagogy concentration. During the summer of 2016, Lillia was accepted to the Banff Masterclasses for Winds and Strings in Alberta, Canada where she studied for three weeks with world-renowned oboist, Alex Klein. After graduating from the Crane School, she moved to Chicago to study with Alex Klein at DePaul University. Here she obtained her Master of Music Degree in Oboe Performance,  while continuing her piano career by accompanying her colleagues and student recitals and performing in solo and chamber settings. 

 

 

 

William Grant Still (1895-1978)

Incantation and Dance (1942) (5′)

William Grant Still was born in Mississippi and is commonly referred to as the “Dean of African-American Composers”. Born into a family of musicians and teachers, he moved to Arkansas as an infant and later studied violin. While earning a bachelor of science degree at Wilberforce University, he conducted the band and began to orchestrate and compose. He later completed his formal studies at the Oberlin Conservatory of Music.

Still entered the world of popular music before beginning his compositional career in New York and eventually moving to Los Angeles. His accolades include awards and honorary degrees from symphonic and educational institutions. Heavily inspired by black spirituals, he wrote over 150 musical works including operas, ballets, symphonies, chamber works, and arrangements of folk themes before his death in 1978.

Incantation and Dance, begins with the Incantation, a melancholy depiction of a far-off place, complete with lyrical vocal melodies. The piece then proceeds directly into the Dance, a joyful lilting exuberant display. We then return back to the opening materials for a short time before ending again with the exciting materials of the dance.

The music of Augusta Read Thomas is nuanced, majestic, elegant, capricious, lyrical, and colorful — “it is boldly considered music that celebrates the sound of the instruments and reaffirms the vitality of orchestral music” (Philadelphia Inquirer).

A composer featured on a Grammy winning CD by Chanticleer and Pulitzer Prize finalist, Thomas’ impressive body of works “embodies unbridled passion and fierce poetry” (American Academy of Arts and Letters). The New Yorker magazine called her “a true virtuoso composer.” Championed by such luminaries as Barenboim, Rostropovich, Boulez, Eschenbach, Salonen, Maazel, Ozawa, and Knussen, she rose early to the top of her profession. The American Academy of Arts and Letters described Thomas as “one of the most recognizable and widely loved figures in American Music.”

Thomas won the Ernst von Siemens Music Prize, among many other coveted awards. She is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Thomas was named the 2016 Chicagoan of the Year.

Augusta Read Thomas (b. 1964)

Song Without Words (2018) (8′)

 

This work is a transcription of a song setting of this text by e.e. Cummings:

Paul Hindemith (1895-1963)

Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1938) (12′)

Most oboists encounter the Hindemith Oboe Sonata in their early formative years, assuming it’s a simple, easy, unpretentious piece, void of any insurmountable technical challenge. It’s only when one looks into the composer’s life story that we learn that this piece was composed in 1938, the same year that German-born Hindemith was focusing on his opera Mathis der Maler and that he was forced to flee to Switzerland with his Jewish wife, in fear of Nazi persecution. While Hindemith did not claim any programmatic meaning to his instrumental sonatas, it is meaningful to view them with Hindemith’s life context in mind.

Composed in two movements, the opening movement is short, jaunty, and satirical. This movement starts and ends with a fast, active section, making humorous jabs and criticisms – like a jester mocking the court they serve. The second movement is much longer than the first, containing a theme and variations, elaborated through a variety of different characters and styles. This movement utilizes a slow, deliberate opening followed by a buoyant scherzo, a recitative section, a fugato, and finally, a repeating tone which drives the piece to the end.

 

Pavel Haas (1899-1944)

Suite for Oboe and Piano (1939) (14′)

Pavel Haas was a Jewish-born composer of Moravian descent who was murdered at Auschwitz during the Holocaust. During the Holocast, Haas divorced his non-Jewish wife, so that she and their daughter could escape, while he stayed behind. Pavel Haas was first sent to the concentration camp at Terezin from December 1941 until he was moved to Auschwitz in October 1944. While in Terezin, Haas composed at least eight works, only three of which survived. Given the shortage of manuscript paper, most compositions composed in Terezin were learnt by heart and notated by survivors, if lucky.

Its three movements seem to tell us his current story as one of confusion and anxiety, followed by a battle with the Nazis (which of course he lost, as predicted, even if he left them with a warning about the timelessness of art), and then the third movement with bells and imagery of a heaven-like chant indicating that “you can kill me for what I am, but you will never get rid of me”.

 

The Clare is the exclusive media sponsor for Rush Hour Concerts.

The Rush Hour Concerts series is supported in part by an award from the National Endowment for the Arts and the Illinois Arts Council Agency. Rush Hour Concerts are produced in partnership with St. James Cathedral and WFMT.

Don’t miss the KAIA Quartet next week on

Rush Hour Concerts!

Tuesday June 22, 5:45pm

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