Impressionist Reverie

Embark on a dreamlike journey through French impressionism and the harp. Music and fantasy intertwine.

Featured Artists

Emmanuel Ceysson, harp

Chosen amongst 70 others of his best peers in a totally blind and anonymous audition process, he is since September 2020 the new Los Angeles Philharmonic Harpist under the baton of Gustavo Dudamel. This exciting symphonic position comes after almost 15 years playing opera in the pit, as Principal Harp: first with the Opéra National de Paris, a job he won aged 22, and then for 5 full seasons with the legendary New York MET Opera Orchestra.

Born and raised in France, he was admitted unanimously as a student of the prestigious Paris Conservatoire when only 16, and then managed to collect the highest international distinctions and prizes in the course of 10 years:

Gold medallist at the 2004 USA international Harp Competition, First Prize at the New York Young Concert Artists Auditions in 2006, and First Prize at the 2009 ARD competition in Munich; thus, securing a press acclaimed solo career, as recitalist in major concert venues like Carnegie Zankel Hall, Wigmore Hall, Salle Gaveau, Munich Gasteig, Wiener Konzerthaus, Hyogo concert hall, and as soloist with orchestras such as Bavarian Radio Orchestra, Deutsche Symphonie Orchester, RAI Orchestra Torino, Orchestre National de Lyon, PKF Prague Philharmonia.

He also took part in important music festivals all over the planet including the Cartagena Music Festival, the Mecklenburg Vorpommern Festival, Hong Kong Premiere Performance, Caramoor and Classical Tahoe.

Finally, he also invests lots of time teaching masterclasses worldwide, holds a Visiting Professor position for the next 3 years at the Helsinki Sibelius Academy, and teaches a harp studio at the Mannes School of Music.

Paul Neubauer, viola

Violist Paul Neubauer’s exceptional musicality and effortless palying let the New York Times to call him “a master musician.” He recently made his Chicago Symphony subscription debut with conductor Riccardo Muti and his Mariinsky Orchestra debut at the White Nights Festival. He alo gave the U.S. Premiere of the newly discovered Impromptu for viola and piano by Shostakovich with pianist Wu Han.

At age 21, Mr. Neubauer was appointed principal violist of the New York Philharmonic, and he held that position for six years. He has appeared as soloist with over 100 orchestras including the New York, Los Angeles, and Helsinki philharmonics; National, St. Louis, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco, and Bournemouth symphonies; and Santa Cecilia, English Chamber, and Beethovenhalle orchestras.   

He’s also premiered viola concertos by Béla Bartók (a revised version of the Viola Concerto), Reinhold Glière, Gordon Jacob, Henri Lazarof, Robert Suter, Joel Phillip Friedman, Aaron Jay Kernis, Detlev Müller-Siemens, David Ott, Krzysztof Penderecki, Tobias Picker, and Joan Tower. He performs with SPA, a trio with soprano Susanna Phillips and pianist Anne-Marie McDermott, with a wide range of repertoire including salon tyle songs. He has been featured on CBS’s Sunday Morning, A Prairie Home Companion, and in Strad, Strings, and People magazines.

A two-time Grammy nominee, he has recorded on numerous labels including Decca, Deutsche Grammophon, RCA Red Seal, and Sony Classical. Mr. Neubauer appears with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and is the artistic director of the Mostly Music series in New Jersey. He is on the faculty of The Juilliard School and Mannes College.

Jennifer Frautschi, violin

Two-time GRAMMY nominee and Avery Fisher career grant recipient violinist Jennifer Frautschi has appeared as soloist with innumerable orchestras including the Cincinnati Symphony, Chicago Symphony, Los Angeles Philharmonic, and Milwaukee Symphony. As chamber musician she has performed with the Boston Chamber Music Society and Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and appeared at Chamber Music Northwest, La JollaSummerfest, Music@Menlo, and many others. 

Her extensive discography includes several discs for Naxos including the Stravinsky Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra of London and two GRAMMY-nominated recordings with the Fred Sherry Quartet. She also recorded widely praised CDs featuring 20th-century works for solo violin with Gerard Schwarz and the Seattle Symphony. 

Ms. Frautschi attended the Colburn School, Harvard, the New England Conservatory, and the Juilliard School. She performs on a 1722 Stradivarius violin, “ex-Cadiz,” on loan with support from Rare Violins In Consortium. She teaches in the graduate program at Stony Brook University. 

Clive Greensmith, cello

From 1999 until its final season in 2013, Clive Greensmith was a member of the world-renowned Tokyo String Quartet, giving over one hundred performances each year in the most prestigious international venues, including New York’s Carnegie Hall, Sydney Opera House, London’s South Bank, Paris Chatelet, Berlin Philharmonie, Vienna Musikverein, and Suntory Hall in Tokyo. He has collaborated with international artists such as Andras Schiff, Pinchas Zukerman, Leon Fleisher, Lynn Harrell, Dmitry Sitkovetsky, Alicia de Larrocha, and Emanuel Ax.

Mr. Greensmith has given guest performances at prominent festivals worldwide. In North America, he has performed at the Aspen Music Festival, Marlboro Music Festival, Music@Menlo, La Jolla SummerFest, Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Cleveland Chamber Fest, and the Ravinia Festival. He is a regular guest of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and will undertake a national tour with Paul Huang, Wu Han, and Matthew Lipman in 2020. Internationally he has appeared at the Salzburg Festival in Austria, Edinburgh Festival in Scotland, Pacific Music Festival in Japan and the Hong Kong Arts Festival. As a soloist, Clive Greensmith has performed with the London Symphony Orchestra, Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, Seoul Philharmonic, and the RAI Orchestra of Rome among others.

Deeply committed to the mentoring and development of young musicians, Clive has enjoyed a long and distinguished teaching career. In addition to his fifteen-year residency with the Tokyo String Quartet at Yale University, Mr. Greensmith has served as a faculty member at the Yehudi Menuhin School and Royal Northern College of Music in England, the San Francisco Conservatory of Music and the Manhattan School of Music. In 2013, following the final concerts of the Tokyo String Quartet, Mr. Greensmith joined the faculty at the Colburn School where he is currently a professor of cello and coaches chamber music for the Conservatory of Music and the Music Academy.

In July 2019, he succeeded Günther Pichler as director of string chamber music at the Accademia Chigiana International Festival and Summer Academy in Siena, Italy. Also in 2019, Greensmith became the Artistic Director of the Nevada Chamber Music Festival. Mr. Greensmith is a founding member of the Montrose Trio with pianist Jon Kimura Parker, and violinist Martin Beaver.


About The Music

Ravel: String Quartet in F Major

Maurice Ravel (1875-1937), meticulous yet hot-headed, took after both of his parents, a Swiss engineer and a Basque peasant. Even though he was raised in Paris, Ravel was a perennial outsider who got himself expelled from the Paris Conservatory once as a piano student in 1895, and then again in 1900 after he returned as a composer and wouldn’t follow the rules for writing a proper fugue. His five consecutive rejections in the prestigious Rome Prize competition became something of a public scandal, and even his own teacher, Gabriel Fauré, piled on when he labeled Ravel’s final submission “a failure.” The submitted piece was none other than the String Quartet in F Major, which has long since taken its rightful place as a cornerstone of the quartet repertoire.

One musician who recognized the power of Ravel’s quartet was Debussy, who wrote to his younger colleague, “In the name of the gods of music and in my own, do not touch a single note you have written in your Quartet.” Ravel’s quartet in fact shares many traits with Debussy’s own string quartet from a decade earlier, in the way they both develop thematic connections that link the separate movements.

Ravel’s String Quartet opens with a sweet theme from the first violin, split into two balanced phrases—a promising start for a competition entry. It only takes five measures, though, for the harmonies to abandon the home key, while the telltale melody glides over mystical whole-tone sequences and Eastern-tinged minor modes.

A close kin of the opening melody returns as the basis of the second movement, marked “rather lively, very rhythmic.” The plucking textures and modal harmonies transport this scherzo-like statement to the realm of a Flamenco dance, reflecting Ravel’s fascination with his mother’s native Spain.

The central melody of the “very slow” third movement, introduced by the muted viola, is a drawn-out variant of the same unifying theme. The motive returns yet again as a secondary figure in the finale, but first the quartet presents music that lives up to the “lively and agitated” tempo marking. Having worked through this provocative material, the quartet rises to a bright F-major chord, reaching the conclusive home key in a manner contrary to everything Ravel learned in a classroom. 

Saint-Saens: Fantasie for Violin and Harp

The extraordinarily long and rich career of Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) began in the late 1850s, when his gifts as an organist and improviser won over important champions like Berlioz and Liszt. He went on to compose brilliant piano concertos that he performed himself, along with operas and symphonies that placed him at the forefront of French music. At the same time he rallied support for chamber music, a genre that had been neglected in France for generations, and his own efforts and his support for younger peers sparked a glorious renaissance.

The impetus for the Fantaisie in A Major for Violin and Harp (op. 124) that Saint-Saëns composed in 1907 came from the sisters Marianne and Clara Eissler, who had left their native Moravia to build a successful duo career performing violin and harp recitals. We know from letters that Saint-Saëns crossed paths with the sisters several times as they built up a following in England and France, and his contribution to their repertoire seems well-tailored to fit in with the type of salon fare they were known for. The genre of Fantasy gives a composer license to follow their fancies wherever the music leads, and this example explores everything from modern harmonies (taking some cues from the younger upstart Debussy) to old-fashioned Baroque dances.

Debussy: Danse sacrée et Danse profane

Two masterpieces of the harp repertoire, one by Ravel and the other by Claude Debussy (1862-1918), owe their existence to a rivalry between manufacturers. The Pleyel Company unveiled a new chromatic harp in 1897, and in 1904 they commissioned Debussy’s Danse sacrée et Danse profane for harp and string orchestra as a showpiece for the instrument. The next year, Érard responded by asking Debussy’s young rival Ravel to write a feature vehicle for their competing double-action pedal harp.

These designs were necessary because modern composers were loosening the rules of tonality and using all twelve chromatic tones to color their harmonies, meaning that old harps tuned to play a single scale or ones with rudimentary mechanisms to change pitches couldn’t keep up. In the “Sacred Dance” that comes first in Debussy’s set, we hear progressions that find pleasing combinations of chords that should belong to different keys. In the playful “Profane Dance,” a steady bass line that rocks back and forth sometimes clashes with what’s happening above it, so that the music seems to be in two keys at the same time. It was possible to play these harp parts on the cross-strung harp that Debussy was asked to write for—a design that has the equivalent of the piano’s white keys on one plane, and the black keys on another plane slightly askew—but in time the other design proved to be more effective, with seven pedals controlled by the harpist’s feet making it possible to raise or lower the pitch of any note.

Tournier: Féerie

Marcel Tournier (1879-1951), once a star pupil of the harp professor Alphonse Hasselmans at the Paris Conservatory, was selected to take over the harp department when Hasselmans died in 1912, an influential role through which he groomed generations of the world’s greatest harpists for the next 36 years. Besides performing and teaching, Tournier also wrote harp music that remains central to the repertoire, including a competition piece for his students that he completed during his debut year on the conservatory faculty. Feérie was designed to be playable either by a solo harp or with strings, a setting that adds extra shimmer to the ephemeral textures in Tournier’s indubitably French evocation of “magic.”

Thursday, April 25, 2024


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