Announcing the World Premiere of John Harbison’s Viola Sonata

December 17, 2018

News and Events from the Mead Witter School of Music

University of Wisconsin-Madison
455 North Park Street, Madison Wisconsin 53706
http://www.music.wisc.edu/

ANNOUNCING A WORLD PREMIERE:
Composer John Harbison pens new composition for Pro Arte Quartet violist Sally Chisholm

New strings scholarship also created

Composer and music educator John Harbison, winner of both a MacArthur Fellowship “genius” grant and a Pulitzer Prize in composition, has created a new work for Sally Chisholm, violist with the University of Wisconsin’s Pro Arte Quartet.

Sally Chisholm
John Harbison

The composition, tentatively entitled “Sonata for Viola and Piano,” will receive its world premiere with Chisholm and Minnesota pianist Timothy Lovelace at a special concert on the UW-Madison campus February 17, 2019, 7:30 PM, as part of a yearlong celebration of the composer’s 80th birthday. Across the world in 2018 and 2019, the celebration includes two other world premieres, over a dozen new recordings, a first book and many performances.

In tandem with the concert, the Mead Witter School of Music announces the Dr. Stanley and Shirley Inhorn Strings Scholarship, initiated with a $10,000 gift from the Inhorns, to be augmented with ticket proceeds from the concert. The scholarship will be awarded in the fall of 2019, and is available to both graduate and undergraduate strings students.

“As the cost of higher education increases dramatically, we recognize that the availability of more scholarships will greatly enhance the ability of the Mead Witter School of Music to attract both in-state and out-of-state strings students,” said Stanley Inhorn.

Susan C. Cook, director of the School of Music, expressed her thanks to the Inhorns. “Stan and Shirley Inhorn have been great and generous friends to the Madison music community. Their ongoing support of the Mead Witter School of Music will ensure that our wonderful students can realize their musical dreams.”

Harbison has known Chisholm for many years. “I have been aware of Sally’s extraordinary playing for quite some time,” says Harbison, whose actual 80th birthday is December 20, 2018. “She performed my composition called ‘The Nine Rasas,’ about an ancient Indian theory of states of being that were both interesting and refined. Sally was quite remarkable.”

The first half of the School of Music concert will feature the Pro Arte Quartet (with Chisholm, violinists David Perry and Suzanne Beia, and cellist Parry Karp) performing Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 76, No. 4, known as “Sunrise,” and Harbison’s “Four Encores for Stan,” an homage for string quartet and narration to Polish composer Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, former director of the Minnesota Orchestra.

The program’s second half will include solo performances by Lovelace, followed by Chisholm, who will play selections from Harbison’s “The Violist’s Notebook,” dedicated to fellow violists Kim Kashkashian, Marcus Thompson and James Dunham. Harbison’s new composition, written specifically for Chisholm, will close the program.

Harbison will be present for the premiere.

The performance will take place at 7:30 PM in Mills Concert Hall in the George L. Mosse Humanities Building, 455 N. Park St., on the UW-Madison campus. Tickets are priced at $25 and are available online.

Harbison currently teaches musical composition and arrangement in the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s jazz division. He has composed for the Metropolitan Opera, Chicago Symphony, Boston Symphony, New York Philharmonic, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, as well as scores of other large and small ensembles. His catalog includes three operas, six symphonies, twelve concerti, a ballet, five string quartets, numerous song cycles and chamber works, and a large body of sacred music that includes cantatas, motets, and the orchestral-choral works Four Psalms, Requiem and Abraham. His music is widely recorded on leading labels.

He also is a part-time Madison resident who, with his wife Rose Mary Harbison, each summer over Labor Day weekend hosts the weeklong Token Creek Music Festival, which features classical chamber pieces and jazz.

In 2014, Harbison was one of five composers commissioned by the Pro Arte Quartet to compose a piece commemorating the quartet’s 100th anniversary. His String Quartet No. 5 joined compositions by William Bolcom, Walter Mays, Paul Schoenfield and Benoit Mernier, both in performance and on a Pro Arte Quartet Albany Records recording.

Besides serving as violist for the Pro Arte Quartet, Chisholm was a founder of the Thouvenel String Quartet and the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota. She was a finalist at the Naumburg Chamber Music Competition and first prize winner in the Weiner International Chamber Music Competition.

Timothy Lovelace chairs the collaborative piano program at the University of Minnesota and performs all over the world. He and Chisholm have previously premiered works by Andrew Imbrie for the Chamber Music Society of Minnesota, and have performed frequently with many of this Society’s guest artists such as Nobuko Imai, Pete Wiley, and Robert Mann. “His musicianship gives freedom, imagination, and a purity that is beloved. When I see Tim’s name in concert programs at the Kennedy Center and throughout New York City, I think, ‘They are so lucky!’ “ says Chisholm.

Chisholm believes the new sonata will become an “instant classic.”
“After glimpsing just the first two movements, I recognize how wonderfully he writes for viola,” says Chisholm. “The opening measures are the heart of the viola sound, with brilliant expression and interplay with the pianist.”

The new composition departs from the standard sonata structure of three to four movements to include five and perhaps six shorter movements in its initial draft, Chishom says. The same style follows in many of Harbison’s other compositions, although not necessarily that of his prior viola sonata.

“Compared to Mr. Harbison’s Solo Sonata for Viola, written in 1961, the new Sonata for Viola and Piano is centered in the heart of the viola sonority and soulfulness,” Chisholm explains. “The composer comes through so clearly in both, but the geography in the first few movements of his latest work is more compact. We have not yet seen all movements, and are expecting surprises.”

Harbison is still putting the finishing touches on Chisholm’s sonata which he sees as more of collaborative piece and less of a virtuosic work, if only due to the nature of the instrument and its performers.
“Violists form a close community with a special temperament, which influences what I write for viola,” Harbison says. “Violists understand what they play, and that they share the musical texture with other performers.

“I am hoping for a certain type of musical character,” he adds. “Schuman wrote music for cello and violas called ‘fantasy pieces’ that have more informal characters,” he adds. “I believe my approach is more like that.”

In 2016, Chisholm was appointed to a Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation professorship which she named to honor Germain Prévost, violist with the Pro Arte Quartet from its inception in 1912 through 1947. The appointment included $75,000 in research support from WARF over five years. That, plus an unspecified amount from an anonymous admirer of John Harbison, will fund the commission and additional expenses.

Provisions of the commission required that the work be premiered during the composer’s 80th birth anniversary year and that those performances include premieres on either coast. According to Chisholm, former Juilliard String Quartet violist Samuel Rhodes and pianist Robert McDonald will perform the work’s New York premiere March 19 at The Juilliard School. Subsequent performances will include those by Kronos Quartet violist Hank Dutt in San Francisco, Rice University violist James Dunham at the Aspen Music Festival in Aspen, Colorado, as well as violists Richard O’Neill, Marcus Thompson, and Kim Kashkashian.
The anonymous benefactor also has requested premiere performances in London and Berlin, both of which have yet to be arranged.

Says Chisholm: “We are all so grateful to the WARF Professorship that enabled this commission to be seriously pursued. Funding enables the premiere to be performed at UW-Madison, for the consortium to be formed with world famous violists, the underwriting of our guest pianist Timothy Lovelace, the composer John Harbison in attendance, and a great new work to be added to the viola repertoire.”

Other Harbison-related events scheduled in February include a Madison Symphony Orchestra performance of his work “The Most Often Used Chords” ; a UW-Madison Memorial Library exhibit on his music; and a performance of the Grammy Award-nominated Imani Winds Wind Quintet in Shannon Hall at the Wisconsin Union Theatre. Other area ensemble tributes and musical activities are still in the planning stages.

Tickets ($25.00) may be purchased from Campus Arts Ticketing. All seats are general admission.
• Telephone: 608-265-2787
• In person: Memorial Union Box Office, 800 Langdon Street.
• Online: https://artsticketing.wisc.edu

About the Inhorns:
Stanley and Shirley came to Madison in 1953 – Shirley from Iowa to attend graduate school in biochemistry, and Stan from Columbia Medical School to become an intern at the Wisconsin General Hospital. Shirley is a pianist, and she also played the marimba in the University of Iowa band. Stan is a violinist who played in a string quartet in college and also started one in medical school. Stan courted Shirley by taking her to the Pro Arte Quartet concerts on campus, and soon they married and settled down to raise a family of three children. After he completed his training, Stan stayed on at the UW School of Medicine. One day, a neighbor, who happened to be the orchestra conductor at West High School, mentioned that he was going to audition for the Madison Symphony Orchestra. Stan joined him and subsequently played in the orchestra for several years until his academic responsibilities became too demanding. Their three children all took piano lessons, and in elementary school, each chose to play a string instrument – a violin, a cello, and a viola. Thus, the Inhorn String Quartet was created. Soon the children all joined the Wisconsin Youth Symphony Orchestras, in which both Shirley and Stan became life trustees. They also became board members of the Madison Symphony Orchestra and the MSOL for which they received the first John DeMain Award. They have also been supporters of the Pro Arte Quartet and other programs at the Mead Witter School of Music. More recently Stan has been a board member of the Oakwood Chamber Players. The Inhorns appreciate the vibrant music scene in Madison and are pleased to be able to contribute their time and resources to these organizations.