Locally Sourced Program Promo Photo.jpg

Gabriella Smith (b. 1991): Carrot Revolution
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet Op. 64 No. 2
Komitas Vartabed: Armenian Folk Songs
Jean Sibelius: String Quartet “Voces Intimae”

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Komitas Vartabed: Armenian Folk Songs
Joseph Haydn: String Quartet Op. 64 No. 2
Paul Wiancko (b. 1983): LIFT

The composers featured in "Locally Sourced" drew inspiration from their immediate surroundings: they used the powerful connections they felt to their environment, their world, and their time to create personal stories and vivid sound worlds. We open our program with Gabriella Smith’s Carrot Revolution, which also kicks off our debut album, Blueprinting. This piece was commissioned in part by the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia for a special exhibition where artists created responses to how Dr. Albert C. Barnes arranged paintings, metal objects and furniture to create unique “ensembles” that brought out their similarities and differences in shape, color, and texture. 

Inspired by these ensembles, Gabriella writes: “I envisioned the piece as a celebration of that spirit of fresh observation and of new ways of looking at old things, such as the string quartet—a 200-year-old genre—as well as some of my even older musical influences (Bach, Perotin, Gregorian chant, Georgian folk songs, and celtic fiddle tunes). The piece is a patchwork of my wildly contrasting influences and full of strange and unexpected juxtapositions and intersecting planes of sound, inspired by the way Barnes' ensembles show old works in new contexts and draw connections between things we don’t think of as being related.”

Joseph Haydn wrote the second of his Op. 64 quartets during the last year of his nearly thirty-year tenure as Music Director of the Esterházy court. Like Gabriella, Haydn often incorporated musical influences such as folk music, with a Ländler-like dance in the third movement as well as a wild, gypsy-inspired Finale. This quartet showcases the experimentation and invention that Haydn was able to achieve during this period. From the very beginning, Haydn keeps the listener guessing as to the key, something which is usually established firmly in the opening bars and is a grounding element in Classical-era music. Instead, he plays tug-of-war between major and minor until the very end. 

The second half of our program begins with a collection of songs by Komitas Vartabed, treasured as the father of Armenian classical music. An ethnomusicologist, composer, priest, choir master, and survivor of the Armenian genocide, Komitas collected folk music from rural villages at a time when music and art was infused with a spirit of nationalism. His passion and gift for hearing nuances in villagers’ songs led him to collect and transcribe over three thousand pieces of Armenian folk music. What is remarkable about these five short pieces we’ve selected is their sense of innocence. They range from contemplative (Yergink Ampel A, It’s Cloudy), to boisterous (Echmiazdni Bar, Echmiadzin Dance), and charming (Kaqavik, The Patridge). For us it was special to explore these songs with our cellist Karen Ouzounian, to discover more about her Armenian roots and the music which has become an enduring symbol of home and identity for a people separated from their homeland. 

Much like how Komitas established the sound and spirit of Armenian songs, Jean Sibelius created what we now recognize as the “Finnish sound” in classical music. When Sibelius worked on his string quartet in 1909, he was already gaining wider recognition in Western Europe through his early symphonies and tone poems. On the other hand, Sibelius also struggled with self doubt, alcoholism, and a health scare that lead to surgery to remove a tumor in his throat. At his home Ainola, isolated from life in Helsinki and surrounded by the stark landscape and an unforgiving climate, Sibelius approached composition from a place of deep introspection. 

When he was finished, Sibelius was proud of his quartet. The five-movement work features evocative writing not unlike tone poems, a juxtaposition of intimate and symphonic. We love uncovering the intertwining vines of internal dialogue, letting ourselves get carried away with swirling folk dances, and contemplating the mysteries of the ppp chords in the third movement that have voces intimae (intimate voices) written over them. We are excited to be sharing this incredible piece, in the context of the other works in this program which explore different sources of inspiration. 

Program Notes by Miho Saegusa