Hailed by The Chicago Tribune for “powerful virtuosity and striking razor-sharp ensemble playing,” ANTARES was named First Prize Winner of the 2002 Concert Artists Guild International Competition, where the ensemble was also awarded the Victor and Sono Elmaleh Award, the WQXR Prize, and numerous performance prize engagements. Comprised of four virtuoso instrumentalists, Antares draws from an extensive and colorful repertoire for the piano-clarinet quartet formation, as well as its various trio and duo permutations. This versatility allows Antares to create programs which span the traditional eras of classical music from the 18th century through the music of today, and the group has quickly gained a stellar reputation for its dedication to the commissioning and promotion of music by living composers.
In January 2004, Antares received its second ASCAP/CMA Award for Adventuresome Programming. Since its founding in 1996 in New Haven, CT, (originally using the name, Elm City Ensemble, which changed to Antares in 2002), the quartet has won top prizes in four national chamber music competitions (Fischoff-grand prize, Coleman, Yellow Springs, and Carmel Chamber Music Competitions.) The New York Times accurately described Antares’ approach to performing: “The four musicians play with superb technical polish and, equally important, a sense that they not only are comfortable with this music but also understand its vocabulary and syntax.”
Engagements have included the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, New York’s Merkin Concert Hall, the Krannert Center at the University of Illinois, the Aspen School of Music, the Raleigh Chamber Music Guild, Friends of the Arts (NY) and the Newtown Friends of Music (CT). In April 2004, the ensemble’s distinctive sound was featured on a nationwide broadcast of Minnesota Public Radio’s ever-popular program “St. Paul Sunday.” (saintpaulsunday.org)
Since winning the Concert Artists Guild competition, highlights have included the ensemble’s highly praised New York debut at Weill Recital Hall, and their critically acclaimed recital at The Kennedy Center, presented by the Washington Performing Arts Society, as well as concerts and residencies at the University of Iowa’s Hancher Auditorium (possbile with a CMA residency grant,) the Los Angeles County Museum of Art, Market Square Concerts (PA), Brooklyn Friends of Chamber Music, and the La Jolla Chamber Music Society’s Discovery Series, where the quartet’s performance was described by The San Diego Reader as, “exciting, expressive, nuanced and captivating.”
Antares’ numerous festival appearances include a three-part series at the International Festival of Arts and Ideas (CT), the Chautauqua Institution (NY), the Great Lakes Chamber Music Festival (MI), the Norfolk Contemporary Music Seminar and the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival (CT). For the summers of 2002 and 2003, Antares was Ensemble-in-Residence at the Festival Eleazar de Carvalho in Fortaleza, Brazil, and in August 2003, they performed at the Tuckamore Festival in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Actively involved in commissioning new music, Antares has premiered works by such critically acclaimed composers as Ezra Laderman, Stefan Freund, Kevin Puts, and members of the Minimum Security Composers Collective. More recent commissions are by John Mackey, as a collaboration with the Parsons Dance Company at New York’s Joyce Theater, a work by Oliver Schneller through a Meet the Composer grant, and Carter Pann’s Antares, which was commissioned for the ensemble by CAG and premiered at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. In addition, the BMI Foundation has awarded Antares a grant to commission a young composer to write a new work for premiere during the 04-05 season. Antares has recorded Ned Rorem’s Summer Trio on the Newport Classics label, Fred Lerdahl’s Marches for Bridge Records, as well as works by Ezra Laderman and David Schiff.
Antares has had residencies at Columbia University, NY and Wesleyan University, CT and is on the Touring Roster of the Connecticut State Commission, which provides partial funding for various programs throughout Connecticut and New England.
Breakdown Tango* (2000) by John Mackey
Breakdown Tango, completed in May 2000, was commissioned by the Parsons Dance Company, with choreography by Robert Battle. The work was written in collaboration with the Elm City Ensemble (now Antares.) The piece is in a basic A-B-A form, with the outer, virtuosic, driving sections serving to bookend a somewhat sleazy, Klezmer-flavored tango. An orchestrated version of the work, "Redline Tango," was commissioned by the Brooklyn Philharmonic and premiered in 2002, and subsequently performed by the Symphony under the direction of Andrew Litton. A version of the work for wind ensemble was commissioned in 2003, and has received performances throughout the country. The original is still my favorite, though, as only Antares can play with both the rhythmic precision and humor that the work requires. I also love what Vessko does with the cadenza, although I can't take credit for whatever notes he chooses at any given performance! ~ JM
John Mackey holds degrees from The Juilliard School and the Cleveland Institute of Music, where he studied with John Corigliano and Donald Erb, respectively. Mr. Mackey particularly enjoys writing music for dance, and he has focused on that medium for the past few years. Mr. Mackey has received numerous commissions from the Parsons Dance Company, as well as commissions from the Brooklyn Philharmonic, the Cleveland Orchestra Youth Orchestra, New York City Ballet’s Choreographic Institute, the Dallas Theater Center, the Alvin Ailey dance company, the Juilliard School, the New York Youth Symphony, and many others. Mr. Mackey has been Composer-In-Residence with orchestras in Minneapolis and Seattle, and at the Vail Valley Music Festival in Colorado. Mr. Mackey was Music Director of the Parsons Dance Company from 1999-2003.
Eclipse (1995) by George Tsontakis
A 1995 lunar eclipse, which I was able to observe from my Shokan, NY home, inspired both a short story as well as the title of this quartet for clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Whether consciously made or not, the beginning, and mirroring ending of the work -- a broad clarinet solo accompanied by dark piano chord voicings -- reminds me of the eclipsing shadow of the full moon's light as it softly invaded the hazy, luminescent circle and, later, the shadow leaving the sphere just as quietly as it first entered. Between these two lunar poles lie music of very different levels of intensity, from a hyper-kinetic dance-like movement, through aquatic, melodic tremolos suggesting, perhaps, a rather large (and alliterative) metaphorical Mediterranean mandolin to dense textures of a Jazzy nature -- alternately skipping, pouncing and driving.
Eclipse was commissioned by Music in the Mountains in New Paltz, NY and premiered there on July 15, 1995. A revised, expanded version was first performed by the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble (which I founded and directed, from 1991-1999). The work is dedicated to my friend, Aspen colleague and inspirational composer, Christopher Rouse. ~ GT
George Tsontakis has become an increasingly prominent figure in American music over the last two decades. Works such as his Fourth String Quartet, Ghost Variations (which received a Grammy Nomination for Best Classical Composition) and Four Symphonic Quartets are now considered to be essential contributions to the modern repertoire. Several important works from his prolific catalogue have been rediscovered as contemporary masterworks through recent publications, performances and excellent recordings. He has composed a myriad of arresting works for America's finest soloists, chamber ensembles and orchestras. Born on October 24, 1951 in Astoria, New York, he studied first with Hugo Weisgall and later, for five years, with Roger Sessions at Juilliard. Through his experiences in Europe--first, as a Fulbright student of Franco Donatoni and more recently, as a Vilar Fellow at the American Academy in Berlin -- he was able to weigh the pros and cons of European aesthetics and musical thinking and his personal conclusions have helped inform his own creative inventions. He has been an influential teacher, guiding many of the country's most promising young composers through his teaching at the Aspen Music Festival -- where he was also founding director of the Aspen Contemporary Ensemble -- and most recently, at Bard College. He has lived in Shokan, NY for the past fifteen years, within the quiet environs of the Catskill Mountains. His music is recorded on the Koch, Hyperion, New World and CRI labels, among others and is published exclusively by the Theodore Presser Company.
BUZZ (2001) by James Matheson
“Buzz”… ‘cause it does
Since being awarded a 2000 Guggenheim Foundation Fellowship at the age of 29, James Matheson (b. 1970) has come to the attention of many of the nation's leading cultural institutions. Widely acclaimed, his music has recently been programmed by such organizations as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra Chamber Series, the American Composers Orchestra, the Albany Symphony, the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, the Civic Orchestra of Chicago, and Orchestra 2001 (Philadelphia), in addition to many preeminent music festivals, including those of Aspen, Spoleto, Santa Fe, Eleazar de Carvalho, Token Creek, Norfolk, Bowling Green and Hartwick.
Recent commissions and awards have come from Carnegie Hall, the Chicago and Albany Symphony Orchestras, the American Academy of Arts and Letters, the Bogliasco Foundation, the Stott Foundation, ASCAP, and a consortium of saxophonists. He has held residencies at Yaddo and Italy’s Liguria Study Center, and currently resides in New York.
SIMAKU* (1996) by Kevin Puts
I wrote "Simaku" in the summer of 1996 for the then Elm City Ensemble, (now called Antares) while attending the fellowship program at Tanglewood. At the time I was interested in repetitive music in which patterns change in various ways over time. For example, a lyrical violin melody gradually becomes "infected" by the rhythmic bustle of the other instruments, who in turn gradually shed the notes of their busy patterns in favor of longer notes. The tonality of the music is also perpetually shifting away from the "white-key" opening and back again. The piece is named after the Albanian composer Thoma Simaku, a friend of mine who was also in the fellowship program at Tanglewood that summer. The piece was premiered in Ozawa Hall with myself at the piano. I am delighted that, since then, Antares has made the piece part of their repertoire and truly made it their own!" ~ KP
Hailed by the press as “one of the best American composers of his generation”, Kevin Puts has had works commissioned and performed by leading ensembles and soloists throughout North America, Europe and the Far East. Known for his distinctive and richly colored musical voice, Mr. Puts has received many of today’s most prestigious honors and awards for composition. Simaku, by Kevin Puts, was premiered at Tanglewood's Ozawa Hall in 1996, and has been performed on several occasions by the piano-clarinet quartet, Antares. Other world-renowned artists and ensembles that have commissioned and performed works by Mr. Puts include Chee-Yun, Evelyn Glennie, Japan’s Ensemble Kobe, eighth blackbird, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, the Aspen and Spoleto Festivals, and orchestras such as the Atlanta, Saint Louis, Baltimore, Boston Pops, Cincinnati, National, Utah, Minnesota, and Belgrade symphonies, with upcoming works to be performed by Yo-Yo Ma and the Eroica Trio, among others.
A member of the faculty at the University of Texas at Austin, Mr. Puts received his Bachelor's and Doctorate Degrees from the Eastman School of Music, and a Master's Degree from Yale University.
dodecaphunphrolic* (1997) by Stefan Freund
While in a hurry to write a piece for the Norfolk Contemporary Music Seminar, I was forced to skip Bloomington's annual carnival, the Fun Frolic. I decided to create my own amusement through the piece with jerky rhythms and roller coaster-like arpeggios. The piece is based on a rhythm of 2+3+4+5 groups of sixteenth notes and diatonic scales which uses all twelve tones. This gives the work its title, which means "A Fun Frolic with Twelve Tones." All the material of the piece is derived from the theme that begins the piece. After some developments that include some carnival music, the arpeggio section appears and climaxes with an ostinato in the cello over piano clusters. A recap and brief coda finish the piece. dodecaphunphrolic was premiered by the Elm City Ensemble (now called Antares) at the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival. ~ SF
Stefan Freund received a BM from Indiana University and an MM and a DMA from the Eastman School of Music. His primary composition teachers included Christopher Rouse, Joseph Schwantner, Augusta Read Thomas, Frederick Fox, and his father, Don Freund. He studied cello with Steven Doane, Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi, and Peter Spurbeck, among others. He is presently Visiting Assistant Professor at the University of Missouri. Previously he was Assistant Professor at the Eastman School of Music.
Freund is the recipient of prizes from BMI, ASCAP, and the National Society of Arts and Letters. He has received commissions from the Phoenix Symphony, the New York Youth Symphony, the Pittsburgh New Music Ensemble, and other ensembles. His music has been performed at such venues as Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Weill Recital Hall, Tivoli Theater (Denmark), Queen's Hall (Denmark), and the National Gallery of Art.
Active as a performer and producer of new music, Freund is principal cellist of the new music ensemble Alarm Will Sound and serves on its production board. In the summer he is a faculty member of the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. In addition, Freund was recently appointed music director and principal conductor of the Columbia Civic Orchestra.
ANTARES* (2004) by Carter Pann
ANTARES (2003/4) was commissioned for Antares by Concert Artists Guild with generous support from Mr. Jim and Ceci Tripp. The piece is cast in a way different from most of my previous works—four mini concertinos surrounded by a main, culminating movement at the beginning and the end. Each inner movement showcases a member of Antares (and comes with a very personal title). This backward notion of pinpointing a specific player and moment in time (as opposed to presenting a piece into a timeless compendium) has attracted me before—Rags to Richard: a clarinet concerto for Richard Stoltzman.
The “Antares” movement (at the front and back) places the four-member group in a picture frame. All players are equal here. There is a stellar/cosmic element about the movement, harkening to both the super-giant star from Scorpius and Olivier Messiaen's, Quatuor pour la fin du temps. There is a measured stagnancy to these bookends with a very grounded E-flat major key center throughout—a secured valence protecting the whims within.
I. Eric (pianist), pulls away from the world of the first movement immediately. He is charged with unrelenting ribbons of 32nd notes like a finger study on the verge of a manic ragtime two-step. Precision is of utmost importance.
II. Rebecca (cellist), plays a haunted cradle song. Her lyric never wanders below the treble staff and peers above it often. The others provide a lilting ostinato in 6/8. Rebecca’s tone color is the primary feature here.
III. Garrick (clarinetist), plays an invention driven by scales and broken arpeggios set in F major. The center of the movement turns suddenly to A major, further decorating previously-introduced material. Garrick is backed by a very involved, contrapuntal accompaniment throughout.
IV. Vessko (violinist), like Eric, swings back to emblazoned bravura. This tarantella is riddled with actual spider bites coming from Rebecca's cello pizzicatos. Vessko's job is to survive these stings and get to the last bar. A real drama ensues as he shuttles back and forth between almost operatic moaning and running for his life.
The return of “Antares” abides by the law of things cyclical throughout the universe. -CP
In the last ten years Carter Pann’s music has become known for its blend of crafty, popular-sounding idioms, and both subtle and unabashed humor. His music has been performed and recorded around the world by clarinetist Richard Stoltzman, The Ying Quartet, pianist Barry Snyder, and many symphony orchestras including the London Symphony, City of Birmingham Symphony, National Repertory Orchestra, Vancouver Symphony, the National Symphony of Ireland, and various Radio Symphonies. In 2000 he received a Grammy nomination for his Piano Concerto and in 2001 his SLALOM was chosen for the Masterprize finals in London. As a pianist he has performed and recorded upwards from fifty premieres by composers living in the United States. Pann currently scales the balance beam between writing concert music and TV commercial jingles.
* written for Antares
Funded in part by the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, Inc.
Antares, by Carter Pann, commissioned through Concert Artists Guild
with generous support from Mr. Jim and Ceci Tripp
Recording engineer: Eugene Kimball
Recorded on March 15 and 17, 2004
Morse Recital in Sprague Memorial Hall at the
Yale University School of Music, Robert Blocker, Dean
Photos: Fran Collin www.francollin.com
Antares thanks Philip Blackburn, Richard Weinert,
Syoko Aki, Mr. Jim and Ceci Tripp,
George, James, John, Stefan, Kevin, Carter,
Polina Mann, Gene Kimball, and Fran Collin.