Piano Trio

Janet Sung, violin

Calum Cook, cello

Kuang-Hao Huang, piano

September 15, 2020

Rush Hour Concerts

Robbie Ellis, host


Rebecca Clarke – Piano Trio

I. Moderato ma appassionato

II. Andante molto semplice

III. Allegro vigoroso

Dinuk Wijeratne – Love Triangle

Hailed by The Strad for her “ravishing tone” and “compelling” performances, violinist Janet Sung enjoys an acclaimed international career and has performed worldwide with orchestras including the Pittsburgh Symphony, Busan Philharmonic, Göttinger Symphonie Orchester, Omsk Philharmonic, Britten Sinfonia, Cairo Symphony and Buffalo Philharmonic, as well as orchestras of Delaware, Boise, Dubuque, Hartford, Las Cruces, Tacoma, Wyoming and others across the U.S.

Ms. Sung has made multiple concerto and recital appearances at Switzerland’s Lucerne Festival, the Aspen Festival, Britt Festival, Peninsula Music Festival, Sewanee Festival, Bellingham Festival, and the Conciertos de La Villa Festival de Santo Domingo. She has also presented recitals in Boston, Chicago, Cleveland, Louisville, New York, Pittsburgh and St. Louis, Odense, Denmark, Lausanne, Switzerland, Queenstown, New Zealand and Jiangyin, China.

Celebrated for her equally riveting performances of repertoire from Bach to works of the 21st century, she has recorded Vivaldi’s The Four Seasons and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No.1, the latter with members of the Gewandhaus Orchestra, as well as music by Britten, Enescu, Ravel, and living composers Augusta Read Thomas, Kenneth Hesketh, Missy Mazzoli, Dan Visconti and Gabriel Prokofiev.  Her most recent recordings, Edge of Youth, released on Sono Luminus, and The Deeper the Blue, released on SOMM Recordings (UK), were critically acclaimed in major publications such as The Strad, Strings Magazine, and BBC Music Magazine.

Also a prolific and passionate chamber musician, she is Founder and Artistic Director of Chamber Music Chicago and is regularly heard at the Bowdoin, Kreeger, Newport and Green Mountain Chamber Music festivals.

Ms. Sung studied with legendary pedagogues Josef Gingold, Dorothy Delay and Masao Kawasaki. She graduated with honors from Harvard University with a degree in anthropology and music, and The Juilliard School. As artist-teacher, she is Head of Strings and Professor at the DePaul University School of Music and was a Clifton Visiting Artist at Harvard. www.janetsung.com

Calum Cook was born in Inverness, Scotland. He studied with Leonid Gorokhov at the prestigious Yehudi Menuhin School in Surrey, England, before winning a Scholarship to the Royal College of Music in London.

Calum has since enjoyed a successful and varied orchestral career, appearing as Guest Principal Cello with the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra, the BBC National Orchestra of Wales, Orchestra of Opera North, Scottish Opera, the BBC Concert Orchestra, the BBC Scottish Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of Welsh National Opera. For almost a decade he was a member of Kokoro, the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary music ensemble, a group with which he gave many concerts and live radio broadcasts of new music.

In 2014 Calum left his full time position in the Bournemouth Symphony Orchestra to become the Principal Cello of the Lyric Opera of Chicago. Calum now appears regularly in the Chicago area with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and as part of the CSO’s MusicNOW contemporary music series. He is now a regular member of the Rembrandt Chamber Musicians, and has also performed during the Northwestern University Winter Chamber Music series where he is now a member of the faculty.

Commended for his “perceptive pianism” (Audiophile) and “playing that is sensitive and wonderfully warm” (American Record Guide), Chicagoan Kuang-Hao Huang is a highly sought-after collaborative pianist whose performances have taken him throughout North America, Europe and Asia.  He has performed in New York City’s Weill Hall at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and Merkin Hall; in Washington, D.C.’s Kennedy Center; and at every major venue in the Chicago area, including the Harris Theatre and Symphony Center.  He is often heard live on WFMT and has also performed on WQXR and on Medici.tv.

A strong advocate of new music, Mr. Huang is a core member of Fulcrum Point New Music Project and Picosa.  He has also premiered numerous works, including pieces by Mason Bates, Jacob Bancks, Kyong Mee Choi, Stacy Garrop,  John Harbison, Daniel Kellogg and Shulamit Ran.

A dedicated teacher, Mr. Huang serves on the faculties of the Chicago College of Performing Arts at Roosevelt University and Concordia University-Chicago.  He has also taught at the Bienen School of Music at Northwestern University.

Mr. Huang is Associate Artistic Director for the International Music Foundation and is the driving force behind Make Music Chicago (makemusicchicago.org), a day-long, citywide celebration of music on the summer solstice.

Rebecca Clarke (1886-1979)

Piano Trio in e-flat minor (1921) 

Born to a musical family in Harrow, England, Rebecca Clarke achieved a series of glittering professional firsts: she was one of the first female students of Sir Charles Stanford, the preëminent composition-teacher of her time; one of the first six women to be made regular members of a professional orchestra in London, at full pay; one of the earliest evangelists of the viola, on a par with Lionel Tertis and her pal “Bill” Primrose; one of the earliest stars of the BBC, beginning shortly after its founding in 1922; and the only woman ever commissioned by the famous American patron Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. She performed throughout Britain, Europe, and the United States, and made a round-the-world tour, as a self-styled “viola player and composer.” A specialist in chamber music, she played with many of the greatest artists of the twentieth century, including Schnabel, Casals, Thibaud, Suggia, Rubinstein, Grainger, Hess, Monteux, Szell, and Heifetz.  Her Viola Sonata (1919) set off an international sensation when it deadlocked with Ernest Bloch’s Suite in an anonymous competition at Mrs. Coolidge’s 1919 Berkshire Festival. The Trio followed, under the same conditions and with a similar result, in 1921. Mrs. Coolidge commissioned Clarke’s Rhapsody, for cello and piano, for the 1923 festival. Like many British and American composers in her cohort, Clarke suffered an eclipse during the post-World War II triumph of serialism, but nowadays her works are performed and recorded on an almost daily basis around the world. Gramophone has hailed her as not only “one of the very best of her time,” but “almost certainly the best composer of any period to have also been a woman.”

Program Notes:

Clarke’s Trio followed directly upon her association with Bloch, and virtually the whole of its motivic material derives from two themes that haunt the final episode of Schelomo—a scrap of Jewish liturgical chant that Bloch’s father used to hum, and a related shofar-call. Clarke had already had a go at the chant-melody—it figures prominently in her choral setting of Psalm 91, begun in 1920—and the shofar-call would turn up again four years later, to very different effect, in her Adagio for string quartet. The Trio also reflects Clarke’s worship of Debussy’s Pelléas, and her respect for Ravel as a cutting-edge modernist—an aspect of his career now long since forgotten. But it was Bloch’s example that spurred a shift in Clarke’s language, from the visionary lyricism of the Sonata to a more theatrical manner, demonstrating “a skill that is dramatic—almost melodramatic—and one listens to her vivid statements of idea as to a powerful story,” as one early critic put it. “Nothing can describe [the Trio’s] passion or the soft beauty of the slow movement,”  wrote another. The piece has only grown in stature over time, and few today would argue with Calum MacDonald’s assessment, that “this explosive and emotionally complex score is one of the outstanding utterances in British chamber music of the period.”

Biography and Program Notes provided by Christopher Johnson, great-nephew of Rebecca Clarke

Dinuk Wijeratne (b. 1978)

Love Triangle (2013) 

Sri Lankan-born Dinuk Wijeratne is a JUNO, SOCAN, ECMA, and Masterworks-winning composer, conductor and pianist who has been described by the New York Times as ‘exuberantly creative’ and by the Toronto Star as ‘an artist who reflects a positive vision of our cultural future’. His boundary-crossing work sees him equally at home in collaborations with symphony orchestras and string quartets, tabla players and DJs, and takes him to international venues as poles apart as the Berlin Philharmonie and the North Sea Jazz Festival. 

Dinuk has also performed at Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Opera Bastille (Paris), Lincoln Center (New York), Teatro Colón (Buenos Aires), Sri Lanka, Japan, and across the Middle East. He was featured as a main character in ‘What would Beethoven do?’ – the documentary about innovation in Classical music featuring Eric Whitacre, Bobby McFerrin and Ben Zander.

Dinuk’s composition and performance collaborations include those with Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble, Suzie LeBlanc, Kinan Azmeh, Zakir Hussain, Sandeep Das, Joseph Petric, David Jalbert, Bev Johnston, Tim Garland, Ed Thigpen, Ramesh Misra, James Ehnes, Eric Vloeimans, Buck 65, the Gryphon Trio, TorQ Percussion; the Afiara, Danel, and Cecilia String Quartets; and the symphony orchestras of Toronto, Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Fresno, Buffalo, Illinois, Windsor, Victoria, Asheville, Thunder Bay, and KwaZulu Natal (South Africa).

Dinuk studied composition at the Royal Northern College of Music (UK), and was subsequently invited to join the Juilliard studio of Oscar-winner John Corigliano. Conducting studies followed at Mannes College under David Hayes, and doctoral studies with Christos Hatzis at the University of Toronto.

Dinuk served both as Conductor-in-Residence and Composer-in-Residence of Symphony Nova Scotia, and as Music Director of the Nova Scotia Youth Orchestra for thirteen seasons. He is the recipient of the Canada Council Jean-Marie Beaudet award for orchestral conducting; the NS Established Artist Award; NS Masterworks nominations for his Tabla Concerto and piano trio Love Triangle; double Merritt Award nominations; Juilliard, Mannes & Countess of Munster scholarships; the Sema Jazz Improvisation Prize; the Soroptimist International Award for Composer-Conductors; and the Sir John Manduell Prize – the RNCM’s highest student honor. His music and collaborative work embrace the great diversity of his international background and influences.

Program Notes

 Wijeratne’s LOVE TRIANGLE has been performed well over 100 times. 

“This fourteen-minute, single-movement piece entitled Love Triangle is not specifically autobiographical, nor is it similar to the many concept-driven pieces I write. The music evolved rather rhapsodically from two distinctive features: the Middle Eastern-inspired melody heard in the strings at the outset, and the underlying rhythmic pattern inspired by a seven-beat Indian Classical ‘time cycle’. It also attempts to integrate a Western Classical sense of structure with three very improvisatory cadenzas from each instrument – the musicians and I are aiming for an effect akin to that glorious ‘out-of-time’-ness that occurs when an Arabic Oud solos over the unyielding fixed groove of the band. There are several other melodic and rhythmic devices that are Middle Eastern and North Indian. This is music that is about the intersection of cultures, and about the blurred boundaries between what sounds improvised and what doesn’t”. 

     – Dinuk Wijeratne

Fast Facts

  • All of Dinuk’s music enjoys reconciling multiple cultural identities and musical genres.
  • In 2011 Dinuk wrote the first full-length, fully-symphonic Concerto for Tabla (the virtuosic North-Indian percussion instrument). This piece has since been performed around the world.
  • When he is not composing or performing, Dinuk serves as a Creativity Consultant, helping artists across disciplines live their best creative lives. 

This concert performance is generously sponsored by the Zell Family Foundation.

The Rush Hour Concerts series is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts

and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Don’t miss the Kontras String Quartet

next week on

Rush Hour Concerts!

Tuesday September 22, 5:45pm

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