Music

Inspired by nature

Taos Chamber Music Group to perform 'Storm and Stillness' concerts

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The Taos Chamber Music (TCMG) continues its 25th season with "Storm and Stillness," a program devoted to music that is inspired by the richness of the natural world.

As is often the case with TCMG programs, contemporary composers are featured alongside the greats. This program includes Katherine Hoover's "Mountain & Mesa," Jennifer Higdon's "Light Refracted," Ludwig van Beethoven's "Piano Quartet No. 2," Ernest Bloch's "Three Nocturnes" and Alex Shapiro's "Desert Thoughts."

"Storm and Stillness" will be performed Saturday and Sunday (Feb. 17-18) at 5:30 p.m. at the Harwood Museum of Art, 238 Ledoux Street.

"From storm to stillness, the dramatic skies, luminous light, sublime silence and numinous landscape of our area have informed TCMG's programming for a quarter of a century," says TCMG Director Nancy Laupheimer.

"Storm and Stillness" includes the works of three living female composers. This is not unusual for TCMG's programs, and it is helping to create a new norm in the music world.

Composer Alex Shapiro, who is included on the program, recently commented to Laupheimer on this aspect of TCMG. "I'm really impressed that the ensemble programs so many composers who happen to be female without making a big deal about that detail. You're doing a great deal to naturally incorporate our work as part of the norm, and thus affecting the way in which audiences view it."

Shapiro describes "Desert Thoughts," which was written in 2008 for flute, clarinet and piano, as driven by the vision of a still, dry desert landscape overtaken by a sudden rainstorm that refreshes the flora and fauna, bringing the scene to life.

Katherine Hoover's "Mountain and Mesa" is a composition for flute and piano with three movements that explore world flute traditions from the gypsy music of a Hungarian lassu to the melody of a Hopi lullaby joined with birdsong to the dance music of a Chinese bamboo flute.

Jennifer Higdon recently won her second Grammy award and is a Pulitzer Prize winner. Her composition, "Light Refracted," for clarinet, violin, viola, cello and piano was written in 2002.

"The opening of the gorgeous first movement, 'Inward,' connects to stillness, and the tumultuous second movement, 'Outward,' seems to depict a storm," says Laupheimer.

Works by these three living composers are performed alongside compositions by Ernest Bloch and Ludwig van Beethoven. Bloch was born in Switzerland in 1880 and moved to the United States in 1916. Laupheimer said his musical interests included Asian scales and sonorities, French impressionism, American spirituals, Neoclassicism and Judaism and Hebraic music. Bloch died in 1959.

Beethoven (1770-1827) composed "Piano Quartet No. 2 in D Major" in 1785 when he was only 15 years old. Written in the classical style of Mozart and Haydn, its three movements convey a youthful exuberance as well as a touching lyricism, noted Laupheimer.

"I think that mixing newer and older works makes for more balanced programs and gives music from all eras different contexts in which to be heard when combined in the same performance," Laupheimer said.

"I like to put a more recognizable work, such as the Beethoven, after pieces that are new to our audiences," Laupheimer said. "I think they will hear the quartet in a totally new way!"

"Storm and Stillness" will be performed by TCMG musicians Elizabeth Baker (violin), David Felberg (viola), Sally Guenther (cello), Nancy Laupheimer (flute), Keith Lemmons (clarinet) and Kim Bakkum (piano).

Asked to reflect on the 25th anniversary of TCMG and the role the organization has played in bringing world-class chamber music to the Taos community, Board President Mary Burns responded: "It seems to me that Taos was ripe for year-round chamber music when we got started in 1993. We were able to find enough donors in the early years to get established."

Burns commended flutist Nancy Laupheimer for her ability "to attract better and better musicians" to join her in performances.

"We got a lucky break when the Harwood Museum expanded and wanted to present music in its gallery space upstairs, which gave us a consistent home," Burns continued. "It got even better when the Harwood expanded again and added the Bell Auditorium. The rest is history as they say."

Board member Jean Kenin added, "Our listeners and musicians alike count on consistently innovative programming, which seeks to find that exquisite balance between old and new music with young and seasoned players."

Tickets are $25, $12 for students with a 20 percent discount available to Harwood members if tickets are purchased at the musuem gift shop. Tickets are also available at taoschambermusicgroup.org. After the performances, concertgoers may receive a dinner discount from Doc Martin's, Martyrs, the Gorge Bar & Grill and Lambert's restaurants.

For more information, call the venue at (575) 758-9826 or visit taoschambermusicgroup.org.

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