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Ensemble LPR – Opening Concert 2016

June 14, 2016 @ 7:30 PM


Ensemble LPR, featuring Vasko Dukovski on clarinet, performs works by Ralph Vaughan Williams, Aaron Copland, Julia Wolfe, and Charles Ives.

Our 111th year of free concerts at the historic Naumburg Bandshell (directions). No tickets issued– 1,200 seats provided on a first come first serve basis. Benches around concert ground also available. The concert is weather dependent– no rain dates, no rain location. Thank you to our donors who generously support our series.

WQXR will broadcast every concert in this series live on 105.9 FM and via live stream on their website.

Program Details

Ensemble LPR

David Handler, Artistic Director

Vasko Dukovski, clarinet

Ralph Vaughan Williams, (1872-1958), Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis (1910)

Aaron Copland, (1900-90), Concerto for Clarinet, Strings and Harp (1947-49)

I. Slowly and expressively – Cadenza
II. Rather fast

Vasko Dukovski, clarinet


Julia Wolfe, (1958-), Cruel Sister (2004)

Charles Ives (1874-1954), The Unanswered Question (Revised Version ca. 1934)

**This performance by Ensemble LPR has been made possible by a generous grant from the MacDonald Peterson Foundation.**

WQXR HOST: Jeff Spurgeon

Download Program

Additional Information

Ensemble LPR

Named after and headquartered at the acclaimed New York City venue Le Poisson Rouge, Ensemble LPR is an assemblage of New York’s finest musicians. The group personifies the venue’s commitment to aesthetic diversity and artistic excellence.

Ensemble LPR performs an eclectic spectrum of music—from works by the finest living composers, to compelling interpretations of the standard repertoire—and collaborates with distinguished artists from classical and non-classical backgrounds: Timo Andres, Simone Dinnerstein, San Fermin, Daniel Hope, Taka Kigawa, Jennifer Koh, Mica Levi, David Longstreth (of Dirty Projectors), John Lurie, Ursula Oppens, Max Richter, André de Ridder, Christopher Rountree and Fred Sherry, to name a few.

In January of last year Ensemble LPR made its Deutsche Grammophon debut with Follow, Poet, featuring the music of Mohammed Fairouz and the words of Seamus Heaney and John F. Kennedy. Ensemble LPR’s acclaimed Central Park perormance followed in June, part of the 110th Anniversary of the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts.

In 2008 Le Poisson Rouge changed the classical music landscape, creating a new environment in which to experience art music. In doing so, Le Poisson Rouge expanded classical music listenership. The New York Times has heralded Le Poisson Rouge as “[a] forward-thinking venue that seeks to showcase disparate musical styles under one roof” and “[the] coolest place to hear contemporary music.” The Los Angeles Times raves, “[The] place isn’t merely cool…the venue is a downright musical marvel.” Le Poisson Rouge Co-Founder David Handler brings this same ethos to Ensemble LPR, of which he is Founding Executive & Artistic Director.

Julia Wolfe

For more information on Julia Wolfe, the composer of Cruel Sister [2004], who won the 2015 Pulitzer Prize in music, see either the Pulitzer Prize or the Composer’s own websites.


Fantasia on a Theme by Thomas Tallis is based on a hymn by Tallis published in 1567 in the Metrical Psalter. The melody sets the text, “Why fumeth in sight: the Gentiles spite, in fury raging stout?” and is written in the Phrygian mode (the scale you hear if you play the white keys on the piano starting on the note “E”). Three and a half centuries later, when asked to write a new piece for the Three Choirs Festival at Gloucester Cathedral, Vaughan Williams took this theme for inspiration. Opening with five of what Vaughan Williams called “magic chords” the theme is introduced in its entirety shortly thereafter in the lower strings. The score calls for three groups – a large string orchestra, a smaller and separate string orchestra and a solo string quartet – that perform together and separately as they echo and respond to one another. The open voicing (spacing of the notes harmonically) characteristic of English music, as well as the antiphonal writing are inherently suited to expansive spaces – once the Gloucester Cathedral, now the Naumburg Bandshell.

 In 1947, renowned jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman commissioned Aaron Copland to compose a work for him. “I made no demands on what Copland should write. He had completely free rein, except that I should have a two-year exclusivity on playing the work”, said Goodman. The result was Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, a two-movement work connected by a through-composed cadenza. The first movement is considered one of the composer’s most lyrical and melodious creations; the second is noticeably inspired by North American jazz and Brazilian popular styles, punctuated by a glissando or jazz “smear” at the end.

Cruel Sister is a stirring and fantastic Old English ballad. The tale is of two sisters — one bright as the sun, and the other cold and dark. One day, so that she can have the love of a young man who has come courting, the dark sister pushes the bright sister into the sea. Two minstrels find the dead sister washed up on the shore and shape her breastbone into a fine harp strung with her yellow hair. They come to play at the cold dark sister’s wedding. As the sound of the harp reaches the bride’s ears, the ballad concludes “and surely now her tears will flow.” While my piece references no words and quotes no music from the original tune, it does follow the dramatic arc of the ballad — the music reflecting an argument that builds, a body floating on the sea, the mad harp. —  Julia Wolfe

Charles Ives’ The Unanswered Question, despite its brevity, is one of the most remarkable and progressive works of the twentieth century. It deals with the metaphysical through what the composer called a “cosmic landscape”, consisting (like the Vaughan Williams) of three instrument groups. Above the “silence of the druids” – represented by an ethereal, barely audible suspension of strings (unaffected, unheeded) – the solo trumpet asks seven times “the perennial question of existence”, responded to by the wind quartet only six times, each with greater agitation. The question left unanswered is of course a question unto itself. While there is a precedent for the use of off-stage music, experimentation with spatial parameters, even the assignment of characters or dialogue to instruments, doing so in an un-staged concert work in order to express an abstract concept such as this makes the piece, in some ways, the first philosophical music.

Program Notes by David Handler


June 14, 2016
7:30 PM
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Historic Naumburg Bandshell
Naumburg Bandshell, Central Park
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