On tap for Da Camera of Houston's 2012-13 season: Cassandra Wilson, three world premieres, the beginning of the Shostakovich string quartet cycle, a self-produced multimedia show, gospel, an homage to Rothko Chapel and a John Cage centennial two-part fest. There's more.
That Da Camera's 25th anniversary season is set to be a tour de force is not a surprise. Classical music and jazz fiends have become accustomed to artistic and general director Sarah Rothenberg's praxis in curating a playbill.
"I am most proud that we have arrived at 25 years and haven't backed away from our core values or shied away from music we believe in."
"I am always pleased when a concertgoer learns something new at Da Camera, though my intention is not to teach, " Rothenberg explains. "It is to open a variety of access points into the music to intensify the listening experience."
What's notable is that in spite of general difficulties in fundraising across the nonprofit sector, Da Camera's subscriptions are up 20 percent, a record benchmark for the $1.7-million arts presenter.
"Da Camera started with a great spirit of innovation," Rothenberg tells CultureMap. "As you grow, it is often hard to combine innovation with institualization. I am most proud that we have arrived at 25 years and haven't backed away from our core values or shied away from music we believe in."
The financial security enables Rothenberg to plan further out and consider more involved projects across seasons, in addition to expanding free events. That's what concert goers will find in "Da Camera...Where People and Music Meet": An assemblage of daring programs that serve as a gathering spot for music lovers to meet other like-minded friends, an avenue to discover remarkable artists and music genres, with musicians and themes that have strong Da Camera connections.
Opening night and three commissions
Rothenberg turns to Shepherd School of Music composer Pierre Jalbert to crown Opening Night: 25th Anniversary Celebration (Sept. 28). Fanfare Da Camera follows recent commissions by Houston Friends of Chamber Music to commemorate its 50th season and Houston Symphony's Shades of Memory as an homage to 9/11.
Also on the program is Bach's Keyboard Concerto No. 1 in D Minor. With Rothenberg at the helm, the accompanying orchestra amasses three generations of Da Camera friends: Musicians who performed in Da Camera's first season, those performing in recent years complemented by the company's young artists. Mendelssohn's Octet closes this joyful musical bash.
Synergies between Da Camera and Rothko Chapel fuse in the world premiere of Sombre in "Music for Rothko Chapel with Kaija Saariaho" (Feb. 23-24, 2013). Commissioned from the Finish composer in collaboration with the sacred place, the work nods to Morton Feldman's Music for Rothko but turns to text by Ezra Pound. The instrumentation is sure to be mindful of the reverberant acoustics of the chapel. To pull it off, baritone Daniel Belcher, bass flutist Camilla Hoitenga, harpist Bridget Kibbey and percussionist Matthew Strauss band together with Rothenberg on the piano.
Joined by Shepherd School viola professor James Dunham, the Diotima Quartet: Paris-Houston (April 9, 2013) includes the world premiere of Richard Lavenda's String Quintet. The concert also marks the French foursome's first appearance in Houston. Since winning the 1999 FNAPEC Competition in Paris and the Contemporary Music Prize at the 2000 London String Quartet Competition, the group has blown up in the international music scene. The program includes Janacek's String Quartet No. 2.
More Houston and Da Camera Firsts
With the Beethoven and the Bartok cycle with the Juilliard Quartet and the Elliot Carter set with the Pacifica Quartet already fixed in Da Camera's history, the Jerusalem String Quartet, which made its Houston debut via Houston Friends of Chamber Music last year, takes on the Tsar of Russian string chamber music. The Shostakovich Cycle: Parts I and II (Oct. 15-16) begins chronologically with quartets one through six. The complete set of 15 will continue in future seasons.
The Houston premiere of Argentine composer Osvaldo Golijov's Kohelet is in lineup of St. Lawrence String Quartet with Stephen Prutsman, Piano (Nov. 2). That gig includes Dvořák's Piano Quintet and Haydn's String Quartet in F Minor, Op. 20, No. 5.
This season Bejamin Bagby and Norbert Rodenkirchen of Sequentia painted a tuneful picture of 9th century medieval Europe. Da Camera's early music fix is quenched with another Houston debut. Le Poème Harmoniques "Venezia" (March 9, 2013) morphs Wortham into 17th-century Queen of the Adriatic with a semi-staged concert with flickering candlelights.
Sarah Rothenberg's In the Garden of Dreams
More than just a recital, this multimedia show and season finale draws attention to Rothenberg's cross-artistic curating abilities. In the Garden of Dreams (May 3-4, 2013) summons the creative crew of The Blue Rider of 2010 —Marcus Doshi and Sven Ortel — to meld elements of Freud's The Interpretation of Dreams, Brahms's late piano works, Strindberg's A Dream Play, Max Klinger's graphic Brahms-Fantasy, Gustav Klimt's erotic paintings and Schoenberg's song cycle, The Book of the Hanging Gardens.
Russian pianist Alexei Lubimov was heard as part of the 2006 International Piano Festival at UH with works by Glinka, Pärt, Schubert and Debussy. Passions and Meditations (Nov. 13) programs Liszt's Sleepless. Question and answer, Sursum cord and Nuages gris, Mahler's Trauermarsch from Symphony No. 5 and Debussy's 12 Preludes Book II.
Alongside harpsichordist John Gibbons and the Enso Quartet, guitarist Eliot Fisk was featured in two concerts back in 2009-2010. Guitar Masters: Eliot Fisk ad Bill Frisell (Jan. 26, 2013) pits classical guitarist against jazz guitarist. Not a competition, per se, rather a friendly adventurous musicale of solos and duets with music by Bach to Frisell's originals.
Violinist Jennifer Koh retuns for Bach for Solo Violin/Part II (Feb. 12, 2013).
Da Camera Jazz
Just as classical musicians are finding themselves in bars, Da Camera is taking jazz mavens to the concert stage. The series begins with Cassandra Wilson (Oct. 20). Her vocals fuse country, folk and blues genres, a style that suffuses her 2010 record, Silver Pony. Chucho Valdés (Nov. 16) switches gears in this Latin jazz-inspired concert.
Making his Da Camera debut is trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire (Dec. 1) and quintet. Bassist Christian McBride (Feb. 8, 2013) comes back with his Inside Straight quintet.
Da Camera goes gospel with clarinetist and saxophonist Don Byron (March 22, 2013) and his New Gospel Quintet. Together they look back at timeless melodies by Chicago composer Thomas A. Dorsey. Houston drummer Eric Harland Voyager (April 19, 2-13) closes the jazz series. As a High School for the Performing and Visual Arts graduate, he gathers a band of greats including saxophonist Walter Smith III, guitarist Julian Lage, pianist Taylor Eigsti and bassist Harish Raghavan.
A John Cage two-part celebration at The Menil: Musicircus and 4'33"
When Cage began his journey with using chance in his compositions, he lost many notable friends who couldn't stand behind his approach. Musicircus (Sept. 15) emerges from this period in his career. It involves many of Cage's works to be performed simultaneously during which the outcome is an artistic gamble. Da Camera will be joined by students from across the state to pull off this sonic escapade on Museum District Open House.
4'33" is this generation's Le Sacre du Printemps, classical music's most scandalous riot. Although 4'33" wasn't received with catcalls, whistles, boos, arguments and fist fights, if it had, Cage would have approved. Rothenberg will "perform" the seminal work in "Music for Silence" (Oct. 9).