St. Luke's Chamber Ensemble will perform chamber works by three composers who defined French music at the turn of the 20th century, along with a world premiere from American composer Sean Shepherd. Mr. Shepherd is currently working on commissions for the Cleveland Orchestra as a Daniel R. Lewis Composer Fellow, as well as for Carnegie Hall and the New York Philharmonic. His new commission for OSL, Quintet, was inspired by a work of Sergei Prokofiev that was also composed for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and contrabass and reflects the influences of 1920s Paris in Prokofiev's writing.
In a program note for his new commission, Shepherd wrote that Prokofiev "both absorbed and influenced the work of those, both French and foreign-born, around him. He embraced, for example, the high restraint of Neoclassicism and the fascination with machines and mechanical environments so thick in the air at the time...As someone who revels in feeling as a close as possible to one's idols, I jumped at the chance to work with this quirky, colorful, versatile group of instruments."
The remainder of the program features three great French composers and displays their skill in writing compositions for small ensembles, with a particular emphasis on the harp. Claude Debussy's Sonata for Flute, Viola and Harp is a somber, late work written during the Second World War. Originally conceived as a piece for flute, oboe, and harp, the composer later replaced the oboe with the viola, establishing a new instrumental combination that has been chosen by many composers since.
The harp transcription of Ravel's Sonatine en Trio for Flute, Cello and Harp was written by Carlos Salzedo, a harpist, composer and contemporary of Ravel who graduated from the Paris Conservatory and later served as harpist for the Metropolitan Opera orchestra.
The final piece, Camille Saint-Saëns' Fantasy for Violin and Harp, was dedicated to the performers Marianne and Clara Eissler and showcases high technique for both instruments. The piece reflects the composer's particular affinity in his later years for the sonorities of the harp.
St. Luke's 2012/2013 chamber series will continue with Three Part Inventions on April 28, May 1 and May 3, 2013 tracing the evolution of the trio over a period of 125 years with works by Schubert, Brahms and Bartók.