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The free Chamber Mondays Series hosts an interesting variety of musicians and musical styles. Concerts are held every Monday at 12:15 pm in the breathtaking Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center. Concerts are sponsored by the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events (DCASE). Chamber Monday concerts are a great lunch break if you work or attend school downtown. These concerts are also an excellent opportunity for music students to network, watch and learn from professional musicians.
Classical music needs to evolve in order to stay relevant and attract new, younger audiences. Ensembles like Picosa help expand the definition and perception of “classical” music. Picosa looks forward by choosing to play the works of contemporary composers using contemporary technologies. Picosa links the present and future with the past through it’s performance of standard works composed by the “masters” of classical music. Visit PicosaMusic.com to learn more about Picosa.
Picosa played to a receptive and appreciative audience. Picosa’s performances were well rehearsed and professionally presented (even though the room seemed unusually cold). I enjoyed the diversity of music they performed. It’s always exciting to discover something new during my exploration of Chicago’s music scene. Picosa performed works by a number of contemporary composers I had not previously heard of. Jonathon Kirks arrangement of Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun worked very nicely for the Picosa ensemble. My wife and I both enjoyed the concert. I highly recommend you schedule time to see a Picosa performance.
Mondays performance included a unique opportunity to hear flutist Jennie Brown perform “Wraith” accompanied by the composer Jonathon Kirk. Jonathon Kirk used contemporary digital effects technologies to interact and react in real time to Jennie Browns live, electronically modified flute performance. What makes this type of performance especially unique and interesting is it can never be performed exactly the same way twice. Cool! They both did a great job.
- Jennie Brown, flute
- Andrea R. DiOrio, clarinet
- Elizabeth Brausa Brathwaite, violin
- Sara Sitzer, cello
- Jeffrey Panko, piano
- Joann Cho, piano
- Jonathon Kirk, composer, electroncs
Hospital Suite for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano by Felipe Perez Santiago
Wraith for flute and electronics by Jonathon Kirk
Circulo, op. 91 for violin, cello, piano by Joaquin Turina
Three Miniatures for clarinet and piano by Krzysztof Penderecki
– Andante cantabile
– Allegro ma non troppo
Prelude to the Afternoon of a Faun for flute, clarinet, violin, cello, piano by Claude Debussy. Arranged by Jonathon Kirk.
I’m incredibly grateful to the many listeners of my new CD “Looking Back: Flute Music of Joseph Schwanter” (Innova Recordings #919, 2015) and for the following enthusiastic responses. To purchase a copy, please click on the album cover image below.
“As evidenced by this album, Jennie Oh Brown really understands Schwantner’s compositional intent, and her playing reflects the beauty, intensity, rawness, and virtuosity his music requires. She excels in changing characters rapidly, and her beautiful, expressive sound is perfectly suited to Schwantner’s emotional, lyrical, and acrobatic music.” Jennifer Slaughter, National Flute Association, Flutists Quarterly, Fall 2016
“Superlative performances…” Christian Carey, Sequenza 21, 2015
Featured on Relevant Tones, 2016, WFMT, with host Seth Boustead
Honorable Mention, Best Classical Music Recordings of 2015 , George Grella, The Big City Blog, 2016
“Brown plays Schwantner with firm technique and clear soaring sound. She understands the music and plays with conviction and joy!” Barbara Siesel, The Flute View, 2015.
“[C]ontemporary pieces ranging from melodic, ethereal to forceful. All interesting!” WRUV, Burlington, VT, 2015.
“In Looking Back, for flute and piano, the outer movements affect a rhythmic pulse, constant and gradually changing, which brings a dynamism that does not obscure, but rather is combined with catchy melodies, subtly tinged with melancholy, intertwined with balanced and pungent interplay of the two musicians. In the slow middle movement the flutist sings with an even voice, a mournful and virtuosic singing.” (translated from Italian) Filippo Focosi, Kathodik, 2015
“Brown, the flute professor at Elmhurst College, is to be applauded for assembling these musicians to beautifully perform the works of Schwantner. If you are looking for new repertoire, this CD offers several excellent choices.” Patricia George, Flute Talk, 2016.
“The musicians care about the music, and they put a lot of energy and expression into it.” Stephen Estep, American Record Guide, 2016.
Our third session of Credo Flute will be held on July 24 – 29, 2017 on the beautiful campus of Elmhurst College! More news to come!
Daily schedule includes intensive masterclasses in solo repertoire, ILMEA preparation, technique, and orchestral excerpts for flute and piccolo in symphonic and operatic literature, in addition to comprehensive strategies for success in high school, collegiate, and professional level auditions.
I am so incredibly grateful to Jennifer Slaughter whose thoughtful review of my Innova album “Flute Music by Joseph Schwantner” was featured in the most recent edition of the National Flute Association’s Flutist Quarterly (Fall 2016).
“As evidenced by this album, Jennie Oh Brown really understands Schwantner’s compositional intent, and her playing reflects the beauty, intensity, rawness, and virtuosity his music requires. She excels in changing characters rapidly, and her beautiful, expressive sound is perfectly suited to Schwantner’s emotional, lyrical, and acrobatic music.”
It’s been such a joy to showcase these fabulous works by Pulitzer Prize winner and former Eastman faculty member Joseph Schwantner, and I sincerely hope we see these move into the standard repertoire. They are incredibly fun to play and dynamic additions to any concert program! More details to come, but I’m especially thrilled to present all of these works (Black Anemones, Soaring, Looking Back, and Silver Halo) together with his fabulous Taking Charge for flute, percussion, and piano, which was written to celebrate my former teacher and mentor Walfrid Kujala, at Constellation Chicago on May 21, 2017. Hope you’ll join me and my fabulous friends to hear this great repertoire!
I’m so grateful to have Looking Back: Music of Joseph Schwantner recognized as an honorable mention in the Best of 2015 Classical Music category! Many thanks to George Grella, Big City Blog!
Many thanks to Filippo Focosi for this wonderful review!
Google Translate from Italian: The flutist Oh Jennie Brown is the star, in different configurations, this CD Innova dedicated to chamber works of American composer Joseph Schwantner, author best known for his orchestral compositions, which also earned him a Pulitzer Prize in 1979, but here shows a remarkable affinity with the technical and expressive possibilities of this tool. In Looking Back, for flute and piano, the outer movements affecting the rhythmic pulse constant and gradually changing, which brings a dynamism that does not obscure, but rather is combined with catchy melodies, subtly tinged with melancholy, intertwined with balanced and pungent interplay of the two musicians. In the slow middle movement the flutist sings, even voice, a mournful and virtuosic singing. For the same training are the two short pieces, each of the other lively ancestry twelve-tone, which serve as interludes than the other highlight of the collection, Silver Halo for four flutes. What strikes here is the intertwining polyphonic both macro- to micro-level, pointing in the latter case the ramifications texturali already experienced by Ligeti. The energy barely restrained in the first two movements, which in its perfect interlocking rhythmic Steve Reich recalls the eighties, is released fully in the third movement, concluding the trail listening with contagious optimism.
Many thanks to Christian Carey, who describes the “superlative performances” given by Jeff Panko, Karin Ursin, Janice MacDonald, Susan Saylor, and myself and the “excellent analysis” given in Cynthia Folio’s program notes.
Looking Back – Flute Music of Joseph Schwantner
Innova Records (Innova 919)
Jennie Oh Brown, flute; Jeffrey Panko, piano;
Karin Ursin, flute and piccolo ; Janice MacDonald, flute and alto flute; Susan Saylor, flute and bass flute
Joseph Schwantner has written a substantial body of work featuring flutes. On her Innova recording Looking Back, flutist Jennie Oh Brown provides superlative performances of several of these compositions. Brown’s interpretations are vividly detailed, presenting the various nuances of Schwantner’s scores in enthusiastic and vital fashion (one is recommended to flutist and composer Cynthia Folio’s liner notes; they provide excellent analysis and detailed descriptions of both compositional and technical aspects of the pieces at hand).
The title work, composed in 2009 and dedicated to the memory of legendary flutist and teacher Samuel Baron, is a case in point. The first movement is a challenging duet with the estimable pianistJeffrey Panko. They revel in contrapuntal dialog and cascading virtuosic doubled lines. The middle movement is a solo, which involves various extended techniques, including overblowing in the altissimo register, singing and speaking into the instrument, and stabbing accents. The final movement “Just Follow …” builds a lattice of ascending scalar interplay between flute and piano, sending the music aloft in a final valediction.
Black Anemones, another duo, revels in sumptuous harmonies, punctuated by piano octaves, with melodies that feature the flute’s lower register, played in sultry fashion by Brown. The short workSoaring has a more dissonant palette, with upper register punctuations and fleet-fingered runs culminating in a dazzling passage of repeated notes and a final flourish.
The flute quartet Silver Halo ups the ante and reprises the various playing techniques found in the other works, with several more added for good measure. Schwantner is a master colorist: the abundant variety of timbral combinations and imaginative doublings found in Silver Halo amply attest to this. Brown plays beautifully, and she is abetted by excellent colleagues: Karin Ursin, Janice MacDonald, and Susan Saylor. A compliment disguised as a minor quibble: one wants more! The disc clocks in at less than three quarters of an hour; it might have been nice to include another chamber work with flute. That said, Schwantner and Brown provide us with plenty to consider and savor: Looking Back is a winner of a recording.
Jennie Oh Brown: CD Review
Nov 2, 2015 by The Flute View
Jennie Oh Brown has just released a new CD, “Looking Back” of several flute pieces by composer Joseph Schwantner. The album includes: Black Anemones (1991), Looking Back (2009), the piece commissioned by a consortium of students of Samuel Baron (myself included) in his memory, Soaring (1986) written for Carol Wincenc and Silver Halo (2007) written for the 25th anniversary of the flute quartet, Flute Force. Schwantner who has a special affinity for the flute recently wrote “ the flute’s virtuosic and expressive possibilities have long captured my imagination providing potent stimulus for many of my musical idea’s.” This collection gives us a clear understanding of the breadth of his writing for flute and of his imaginative use of flute colors, technique and expression. I especially enjoyed the recording of “Silver Halo”, for flute quartet in which Schwantner displays his true mastery as a composer for flute…and all instruments!
Brown plays Schwantner with firm technique and clear soaring sound. She understands the music and plays with conviction and joy! The album is recorded on the Innova label, the label of the American Composer’s Forum. Dr. Brown is an Innova recording artist, and teaches at Wheaton College and Elmhurst College
As a graduate student at the Eastman School of Music, my circle of friends included many composers, particularly my roommate and dear friend, Maria Grenfell. I loved learning about new repertoire and composers from their vast knowledge of new music, and I especially loved watching and occasionally being part of the process of creating new works. Often, when these friends needed flutists to perform their works I would enthusiastically oblige. These were the few moments when I would also have contact with our stellar faculty, which included Joseph Schwantner, Christopher Rouse, Samuel Adler, and Augusta Read Thomas. Since leaving Eastman, I continued to follow the professional pursuits of these wonderful friends and faculty members with great curiosity.
When I heard about Joseph Schwantner’s flute quartet, Silver Halo, I wanted to find a copy right away. I asked a friend, Ellen Huntington, who was headed to the National Flute Association annual convention that summer, if she could pick up a copy for me. As it turned out, it wasn’t available at the time, but she thoughtfully brought back a signed copy of Joseph Schwantner’s Looking Back for flute and piano. I looked through the pages at the intricate rhythms and inspired writing, and I felt determined to perform it someday. Soon afterwards, I heard that Mary Stolper had acquired a copy of Silver Halo, and so I contacted her to see where I could pick up a score. She directed me to Sherry and Walfrid Kujala, my teacher from undergrad at Northwestern, who had been friends with Schwantner for many years. With their guidance, I found and eagerly purchased a score, and assigned it to a particularly strong and bright group of flutists who were studying at Wheaton College Conservatory with me at that time. Together, we worked on the score for about a year, daunting as it was, with much success.
The next year, Sherry and Wally contacted me to let me know that Joseph Schwantner would be coming to Chicago and asked if I might like to sit in on the class he would teach at Northwestern. Of course, I jumped at the opportunity and asked permission to bring my students who had been studying Silver Halo. When they asked Schwantner if I could bring these students, he recalled my support of my composer friends back at Eastman, and offered to meet with my students himself together with a graduate flute quartet from Northwestern! I couldn’t have been more thrilled. This generosity truly touched my heart, and marked the beginning of many such interactions in coming years.
I spoke to Schwantner about the possibility of recording his complete flute works, and he happily supported the idea. I was also excited to have wonderful friends involved. Karin Ursin (piccolo/flute), Janice MacDonald (alto/flute), Susan Saylor (bass/flute), and Jeff Panko (piano), are all among the most accomplished and highly regarded musicians in the Chicago area. Without question, these pieces were all formidable both technically and rhythmically, but they were artistically so intriguing. What I found most challenging, as we worked through each one, was Schwantner’s use of dynamics, particularly in his flute and piano pieces. Every last marking created a stunningly unique and unexpected sound, a new virtuosity of color and texture.
Although Silver Halo came together relatively quickly, Looking Back took considerably more careful thought. We wanted to capture every last nuance in a way that was natural and beautiful, despite the excruciatingly virtuosic writing. In the end, we created a recording that speaks to our interpretation of these pieces, with outstanding context and history of the pieces provided by Temple University Professor Cynthia Folio, as well as beautiful cover artwork by my sister, graphic designer Caroline Oh. Additionally, I am especially honored to have the support of Innova Recordings and the American Composers Forum. I’ve had the opportunity to perform both Silver Halo and Looking Back at National Flute Association Annual Conventions in both San Diego and Chicago, I’ve performed Looking Back at the Eastman School of Music, and I’ve performed Black Anemones and Looking Back at the Chicago Flute Club’s 25th Anniversary Celebration concert. Most importantly, I programmed Looking Back on the inaugural concerts for my chamber ensemble, Picosa.
Next month, I will be launching my album in three performances. On November 9th, I will be presenting Black Anemones and Looking Back on WFMT with highly esteemed pianist Kuang Hao Huang in a program of works by Chicago composers with my dear friend Mary Stolper and friends. On November 5th at Mayslake Peabody Estate (Oak Brook) and 14th at Gottlieb Hall (Chicago), I will be celebrating the launch of this wonderful album together with my chamber ensemble, Picosa. The program of the Picosa concerts creates a beautiful framework to showcase the works of the album. One of Schwantner’s earliest works, Consortium I (1970), will be performed alongside Taking Charge (2013), his most recent work involving the flute. Taking Charge was commissioned in celebration of Walfrid Kujala’s retirement from Northwestern University and consequently has a very dear place in my heart, not only because I am especially grateful to have been a part of Kujala’s illustrious teaching career, but also because my students and I were so privileged to be a part of Schwantner’s early visits to Northwestern at the beginning of this commissioning process. Additional repertoire in the Picosa program spans the centuries with works by Dvorak, Stravinsky, Chicago composer Stacy Garrop, and 2013 Pulitzer Prize winner Caroline Shaw. Nicholas Jeffery (viola) will perform with us on Consortium I, Jani Parsons (piano) will perform with us on Little Bits, and Peter Ferry and Chris Sies (percussion) will perform with us Taking Charge.
I hope you’ll join us, too! Tickets are $25 for adults, with discounts for students and seniors. Click here for more information.
Credo Flute 2015 was a huge success in its inaugural season. Bonnie Boyd, Tadeu Coelho, and I were especially thrilled to have Wally Kujala join us for a special session. Pictured below is Peter Slowik, Director of Credo, along with flutists Lauren Asimakoupoulos, Jean Lee, and Izzy Hance, my stalwart assistant. Twenty-seven flutists joined us on the campus of Elmhurst College for a week of learning and exploring music and faith together. It was an inspired time. More news to come!