Music

'Play It Forward'

Taos Chamber Music Group concerts highlight young composers and musicians

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There’s something invigorating about being around young people. It’s almost like tossing back an elixir that makes even the most jaded people feel young again. Their spirit is alive and when you get to share in their explorations of ideas and challenges we’re already familiar with, it gives us the energy to keep at the things we love because we see how much a young person is in love with life and living.

In that spirit, the Taos Chamber Music Group will present “Play It Forward,” its annual program featuring younger composers and musicians, which this year also addresses the idea of “music as a transformative force,” according to a TCMG press release from director-flutist Nancy Laupheimer.

The program is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday (April 15-16), 5:30 p.m., in the Arthur Bell Auditorium at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux St.

Cellist Eddie Pogossian may only be 20 years old, but his list of accomplishments is long. He will solo in J.S. Bach’s “Second Cello Suite” and join the chamber group’s members for Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Piano Trio No. 2 in E minor” and David Lang’s “Shortfall” for piccolo, violin, cello and piano.

Robert Bradshaw’s “Concerto for Catherine” is a composition for flute, violin and piano. It was written for a flutist with cerebral palsy and is based on the idea of uneven gait being a kind of dance.

Conrad Tao’s “A Walk for Emilio” is a piece written for solo piano and is a reminiscence of a conversation with a past teacher.

In addition to Pogossian on cello, Elizabeth Baker will play violin, with Laupheimer on flute and Robert Tweten on piano.

With the support of the Nina Elizabeth Nilssen Scholarship Fund, Taos Chamber Music Group will not only feature a talented young performer, but three living composers will also be featured during the concert. They are Tao, who was born in 1994; Bradshaw, born in 1970; and Pulitzer Prize winner Lang, who was born in 1957. These works will be bracketed by a Bach composition for cello and Shostakovich’s composition, which is a reflection of the terror and repression in the Soviet Union at the close of World War II.

Pogossian comes to Taos via New York City, where he is a junior at the Juilliard School of Music. He is from Glendale, California, and grew up in a musical family, Laupheimer states. In Los Angeles, he studied with Ronald Leonard at the Colburn Young Artists Academy and was the winner of the inaugural Los Angeles Philharmonic Young Artists Competition. He won a recent Juilliard Concerto Competition and performed at David Geffen Hall in New York City and at the Harris Theater in Chicago, Illinois, with the Juilliard Orchestra under the direction of Itzhak Perlman.

Other notable performances include a recent concerto solo with the New Mexico Philharmonic and appearances at Carnegie Hall, Zipper Hall and on National Public Radio’s “From the Top” radio show. He has also been a soloist with the Colburn Chamber Orchestra live on KUSC-FM (a radio station broadcasting from Los Angeles) and performed Saint-Saens’ “The Swan” with the Moscow Ballet at Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles.

Pogossian has been a longtime participant of the Apple Hill Chamber Music Festival in New Hampshire. He also attended the Heifetz International Institute of Music, Pinchas Zukerman’s Young Artists’ Program, Kneisel Hall and the Meadowmount School of Music.

He states that he is dedicated to chamber music. He’s a founding member of the Zelda Piano Quartet, a group currently part of the Juilliard Honors Chamber Music Program. He has represented the Juilliard School at various high-profile occasions, including a performance for the first lady of China.

Laupheimer explained one special note about the choice of one particular piece in this performance. “At around the time I was working on the ‘Play It Forward’ program, I came across a piece written for a young flutist, Catherine Branch Lewis, who has cerebral palsy and who has drawn attention to disability through music.”

She said, “Lewis had worked with the composer Robert Bradshaw to create a composition based on the unevenness of her gait with the aim of showing it was not necessarily awkward, but its ‘own kind of dance.’ From watching video footage of Branch and other disabled people, Bradshaw found a surprising similarity to his compositional style.”

This is a rhythm made of “metered grace notes, pointillistic accompaniments, counterpoint and trading of melodic and internal lines.”

Having lived with multiple sclerosis herself for more than 20 years, Laupheimer said she “was deeply moved by the concept of changing the perception of disability through music and of translating difficulty walking into forward – if halting – musical motion. I then looked for other pieces to tie into the theme of gait.”

Another piece in the performance, which seems to be an artistic rendering of a halted gait, is a loud and rowdy work, Lang’s “Shortfall.” The composer has noted it “expends a large amount of effort to go a very small distance. Underneath all the activity, the actual notes fall only very slightly. It is as if the surface is so active that the subtle effects of gravity pass [almost] unnoticed.”

Laupheimer states in the press release, “Taking the connection to challenging gait further I found that Shostakovich, in addition to the intense psychological stress of being a composer in Stalinist Russia, suffered numerous physical challenges later in his life, including falling and breaking both legs. And I had heard of Conrad Tao as a superstar young pianist and then found he was a composer as well. The title of his beautiful ‘A Walk for Emilio’ captured my attention.”

This program of music spans musical styles, historical periods and generations of performers. It is a treasured recipe for a magical elixir that, if taken in, will change the listener forever, with altered musical ideas about time, our timelines and the way we see the way we progress through the temporal medium.

Taos Chamber Music Group will welcome Tweten back to Taos. He is active as an opera conductor and as a pianist. Baker, a violinist who has played with the Los Angeles Philharmonic for 30 years, will be moving to Taos in the fall.

This fall also signals the group’s 25th anniversary season, which will begin in September.

Tickets for “Play it Forward” are $25 and $12 for students. For tickets and more information, visit taoschambermusicgroup.org or call the Harwood Museum at (575) 758-9826, where there is a discount for Alliance members. Also, a special dinner discount is being offered to concertgoers after the performances from Doc Martin’s, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert’s restaurants.

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