Concerts on the Slope Presents
Robert Sirota’s Piano Trio
Performed by violinist Tema Watstein, pianist
Cherie Khor, and cellist Benjamin Larsen
Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 3pm
St. John’s Episcopal Church
139 St. John’s Place | Park Slope, Brooklyn
Free and Open to the Public
Robert Sirota: www.robertsirota.com
New York, NY – On Sunday, November 16, 2014 at 3pm, Concerts on the Slope will present Composer-in-Residence Robert Sirota’s Trio for Piano, Violin, and Cello at St. John’s Episcopal Church in Park Slope (139 St. John’s Place). The concert will also include Schubert’s Nocturne, Marjorie Merryman’s Echo, and Brahms’ Trio in C Major, and will be performed by violinist Tema Watstein, pianist Cherie Khor, and Artistic Director of Concerts on the Slope, cellist Benjamin Larsen. Concerts on the Slope are open to the public and no tickets are required; a free will donation is suggested.
Of his piano trio Sirota says, “The Trio consists of three movements and two interludes. The first movement is the most rhetorical: a running conversation among the three instruments, which exchange a rather wide variety of ideas and moods. This is followed by the first interlude, a brief dramatic outburst, leading to the second movement, which is a kind of blues nocturne. The second interlude is the negative image of the first one; the piano plays what the strings were playing in Interlude I, and vice versa. The third movement is my version of a vigorous Latino dance.”
The 2014-2015 Concerts on the Slope season includes 14 concerts from August through July, performed by some of New York’s most talented up-and-coming musicians and ensembles including the Elmyr Quartet, Sandbox Percussion, ETHEL violinist Tema Watstein, and many more, as well as ensembles from out of town such as Orange County’s Trio Céleste and Margaret Brouwer’s Cleveland-based Blue Streak Ensemble. Artistic Director and cellist Benjamin Larsen has worked with Robert Sirota to create a cohesive yet stylistically diverse program for each concert. Over the course of the season, many of Sirota’s works will be performed including the world premiere of Canticle/Cantilena/Canzona (August 16), Assimilations for violin, clarinet, cello, and piano (September 14), Piano Trio (November 16), Triptych for string quartet (February 8), the world premiere of a new work for Sandbox Percussion (April 12), A Sinner’s Diary (April 30, Concerts on the Slope Gala), and Easter Canticles for cello and organ (June 14). A complete schedule of Concerts on the Slope’s 2014- 2015 performances and programs is available online at www.concertsontheslope.com/COTS/Calendar.html.
Benjamin Larsen, Artistic Director of Concerts on the Slope, and Robert Sirota met at the Manhattan School of Music, when Larsen was a student and Sirota was President and a member of the composition faculty.
Larsen says, “On multiple occasions, Dr. Sirota would sit in the cafeteria with students and have lunch with them, talking about different issues and answering questions. As the years moved on, I began to seek advice from him, particularly his opinions of my piano trio’s performance of a somewhat lesser known piece, Martinu’s d minor trio. He generously gave his time to us, helping us refine and shape our knowledge and performance of the work. We ended up working with him further on his own music, and I greatly enjoyed it. He has been a supporter, a mentor, and a friend on top of being a fantastic composer. His music alone speaks to the reason why I approached him about becoming our Composer in Residence this season, but in addition to that, we share a vision of what the future of Concerts on the Slope can bring to classical music and the Park Slope community. I consider myself, and the series, incredibly fortunate that he has embraced the position, and I am excited to work closely with him on this journey.”
“I am very pleased and honored to be named this season’s Composer-in-Residence of Concerts on the Slope, and to have the opportunity to work with truly superb young musicians in the preparation and performance of eight different works of mine as well as those by other outstanding contemporary composers,” says Robert Sirota. “It has been a joy to work with Ben Larsen in crafting programs that are eclectic, diverse, and entertaining. I am grateful to him, as well as to Cryder Bankes, Music Director at St. John’s Episcopal Church, for the spirit of collaboration, passion, and adventure they bring to the entire enterprise.”
About Robert Sirota: Over four decades, composer Robert Sirota has developed a distinctive voice, clearly discernable in all of his work – whether symphonic, choral, stage, or chamber music. The New York Times has described his style as, “fashioned with the clean, angular melodies, tart harmonies, lively syncopations and punchy accents of American Neo-Classicism,” and writes, “Thick, astringent chromatic harmonies come in tightly bound chords to create nervous sonorities. Yet the textures are always lucid; details come through.”
Robert Sirota’s chamber works have been performed by the Washington Square Contemporary Music Society, Sequitur, Chameleon Arts Ensemble, Left Bank Concert Society, Dinosaur Annex, the Chiara, American and Blair String Quartets, Ethel, The Peabody, Concord, and Webster Trios, and the Fischer Duo, and at the Tanglewood, Aspen, Yellow Barn and Cooperstown festivals. Orchestral performances include the Seattle, Vermont, Virginia, East Texas, Lincoln (Neb), Meridian (Miss), New Haven, Greater Bridgeport, Oradea (Romania) and Saint Petersburg (Russia) symphonies, as well as conservatory orchestras of Oberlin, Peabody, Manhattan School of Music, Toronto, and Singapore.
Sirota’s liturgical works include three major commissions for the American Guild of Organists: In the Fullness of Time, a concerto for organ and orchestra; Mass for chorus, organ and percussion; and Apparitions for organ and string quartet, as well as works for solo organ, organ and cello, and organ and piano.
Recipient of grants from the Guggenheim Foundation, the United States Information Agency, National Endowment for the Arts, Meet The Composer, and the American Music Center, Sirota is recorded on the Capstone, Albany, New Voice and Gasparo labels. His music is published by Muzzy Ridge Music, Boelke-Bomart (Hal Leonard), Music Associates of New York, MorningStar, Theodore Presser, and To the Fore. A native New Yorker, Sirota’s earliest compositional training began at the Juilliard School; he received his bachelor’s degree in piano and composition from the Oberlin Conservatory, where he studied with Joseph Wood and Richard Hoffman. A Thomas J. Watson Fellowship allowed him to study and concertize in Paris, where his principal teacher was Nadia Boulanger. Returning to America, Sirota earned a Ph.D. from Harvard University, studying with Earl Kim and Leon Kirchner.
Before becoming Director of the Peabody Institute of the Johns Hopkins University in 1995, Sirota served as Chairman of the Department of Music and Performing Arts Professions at New York University and Director of Boston University’s School of Music. From 2005-2012, he was the President of Manhattan School of Music, where he was also a member of the School’s composition faculty.
Sirota makes his home in New York and in Searsmont, Maine, with his wife, Episcopal priest and organist Victoria Sirota, Canon Pastor & Vicar of the Congregation at The Cathedral of Saint John the Divine. For the Sirotas, music is a family affair. They frequently collaborate on new works, with Victoria as librettist and performer, at times also working with with their two children, Jonah and Nadia, both world-class violists. In his spare time, Sirota is an amateur painter and often depicts the landscape around Muzzy Ridge and Levenseller Mountain near his home in Maine.
About Concerts on the Slope: Concerts on the Slope is an exciting young series producing monthly chamber music performances in the picturesque, historical parish of St. John’s Episcopal Church in the heart of Park Slope, Brooklyn. The aim of this series is that audiences from all over New York City will come out to Brooklyn to escape their busy lives, sit outside and enjoy the peacefulness of the courtyard, and then come inside to enjoy some world class chamber music, performed by some of today’s most exciting musicians. The concerts at St. John’s are free of charge, with a free will offering collection in the back of the church going 100% to the performers. Patrons are therefore asked to give generously if they can, to show the appreciation to the performers, and help keep the series thriving. Tax deductible donations are also accepted to the series itself, to help cover costs of piano maintenance, performance equipment, and to enable the series to better compensate participants in the future and explore exciting opportunities such as commissioning new works to be premiered in the concerts.
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