The inner workings of Sarah Rothenberg's gray matter have been busy bees once again curating yet another season of concerts that extend beyond traditional performances. The Da Camera of Houston artistic director's signature style, in which she combines this piece with that composer with this instrument with that genre-defying artist to awaken a sense of listeners' imaginative and scholarly understanding of creativity, is something to examine under a microscope.
You could say that Rothenberg herself is the theme of Da Camera's 2014-15 season. Titled "Inventors and Explorers," the collection of classical music, jazz and multimedia performances draws attention to luminaries of science and art who were catalysts for change — on purpose or by chance.
"Diverse musical genres that span five centuries will vividly make connections between music and other aspects of culture," she says. "Special highlights include an international quartet series exploring the invention and development of the string quartet."
Fun in a Foursome
Papa Haydn is considered to be the progenitor of what's today the standard chamber music ensemble. It's fitting that St. Lawrence String Quartet opens the Da Camera season with The Birth of the String Quartet: Haydn Discovery (Sept. 27), a program that gallivants from Haydn's String Quartet No. 62 in C Major "Emperor" to Beethoven's String Quartet No. 9 in C Major. Expect newcomer violinist Mark Fewer plus violinist Geoff Nuttall, violist Lesley Robertson and cellist Chris Costanza to deconstruct the elements of each work before launching into a passionate interpretation.
"Diverse musical genres that span five centuries will vividly make connections between music and other aspects of culture."
The Quatuor Mosaïques (Nov. 4), a group that performs on gut strings, continues this adventure with Haydn's String Quartet No. 68 in D Minor, Mozart's String Quartet No. 15 in D Minor and Schumann's String Quartet No. 3 in A Major, a selection of scores that weaves the transition toward German Romanticism.
The Danish String Quartet (Feb. 10, 2015), first prize winner of the 11th London International String Quartet Competition, debuts in Houston with a program that includes Beethoven's String Quartet No. 14 in C Sharp Minor. Traveling beyond the confines of the continent, the music chosen by the Shanghai Quartet with pipe player Wu Man (April 21, 2015) reveals the universal quality of this flexible combination of instruments.
Contemporary flutist Claire Chase and percussionist Steven Schick join Rothenberg in a special event that's free for Da Camera subscribers. Morton Feldman's For Philip Guston (Nov. 2) is a four-hour athletic feat that requires determination, focus, stamina and a healthy dose of insanity to pull it off. In cahoots with the Menil Collection, the program complements the exhibition Art and Truth: Gandhi and Images of Non-Violence.
Presented in partnership with Houston Early Music, the planets align in period ensemble Tafelmusik's multimedia presentation The Galileo Project: Music of the Spheres (Nov. 13). With the music of Monteverdi, Vivaldi, Bach and Handel plus poetry readings, choreography and images from the Hubble telescope and Canadian astronomers, the program pays tribute to Galileo's first public demonstration of the telescope.
Composer Missy Mazzoli's chamber opera Song from the Uproar: The Lives and Deaths of Isabelle Eberhardt (March 20, 2015) rouses listeners to feel "the joy, risk and limitless potential of free spirits unbound" (New York Times). This Houston premiere, performed in a semi-staged concert format with video projections, celebrates the spiritual journey of a young Swiss woman turned Sufi trailblazer whose life was cut short by Mother Nature. Song from the Uproar will be performed by mezzo-soprano Abigail Fischer (daughter of Shepherd School of Music faculty members Norman Fischer and Jeanne Kierman Fischer) and the Now Ensemble.
The Rauschenberg Project is a multimedia presentation that celebrates the contributions of the pop art painter and graphic artist.
Gesualdo's Tristis ist anima mea from Responsoria, Stravinsky's Symphony of Psalms (arranged for two pianos and choir) and Messiaen's Visions d'Amen comprise a program titled Sacred Visions (May 2, 2015). In collaboration the Houston Chamber Choir and lighting designer Jennifer Tipton, Rothenberg curates an evening that travels from darkness to light that pledges to culminate in a climactic tour the force.
Vivaldi, Boccherini, de Falla, Villa Lobos, Albeniz and Celedonio Romero are on tap for a recital by a group who's referred to as the Royal Family of the Guitar. The Romeros (Jan. 24, 2015) are credited with the invention of the guitar quartet.
Tenor Nicholas Phan and guitarist Eliot Fisk offer a program titled From Dowland to Britten (Jan. 27, 2015), which meanders through folk songs, love ballads and art songs composed by John Dowland, William Walton and Benjamin Britten.
In Beethoven and Beyond (Feb. 20, 2015), young piano hotshot Jonathan Biss performs works by Alban Berg and Thomas Adés plus Beethoven's Piano Sonata No. 25 in G Major and his Piano Sonata No. 28 in A Major.
Becoming Modern: French Music for Piano (March 31, 2015) headlines Rothenberg in a program inspired by works of French provenance on view at the Menil Collection, such as those by Eugène Delacrox and Paul Cezanne. Compositions by Chopin, Satie, Debussy and Ravel trace the trajectory of an instrument whose aesthetic was reinvented in the 20th century.
All That Jazz
In his Houston debut, Chick Corea (Oct. 10) in all his badass glory sets in motion the Da Camera Jazz Series. The Houston debut of vocalist Cécile McClorin Salvant (Nov. 8) is followed by a performance that features Chilean singer/songwriter Claudia Acuña (Dec. 6).
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Center for the Arts at the University of Houston joins forces with Da Camera to present Houstonian Jason Moran, a MacArthur Genius Grant winner. As part of a multi-year residency, dubbed Homecoming, the pianist has been commissioned by Da Camera to produce The Rauschenberg Project (Feb. 7, 2015), a multimedia presentation that celebrates the contributions of the pop art painter and graphic artist.
Drummer Kendrick Scott (March 7, 2015), a graduate of the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts, brings his group, Oracle, to the Wortham Theater Center. The 2014-15 jazz series comes to a close with the De Camera debut of saxophonist Branford Marsalis (April 18, 2015).
Subscription for Da Camera's 2014-15 season may be purchased online or by calling 713-524-5050.