This rendition of “Syrinx” marks the 101st anniversary of Debussy’s death in Paris on March 25, 1918. I’m in the Chapel of the Four Chaplains at Temple Performing Arts Center.
I played Syrinx for Debussy’s birthday while at the Kingston Chamber Music Festival, onstage between rehearsals at the University of Rhode Island. I was delighted to return to the festival and honored to be a part of its 30th anniversary celebration this summer. It was exciting to perform the premiere of David Ludwig’s Paganiniana with a wonderful group led by Jasmine Lin, solo violin, Ricardo Morales, clarinet, Noah Geller, violin, Efe Baltacigil, cello, Natalie Zhu, piano and KCMF Artistic Director, and Mari Yoshinaga, percussion. It was like a Curtis reunion with several of my classmates – we had lots of fun!
This year was a special one for my relationship with Debussy’s music, as my Dolce Suono Ensemble presented our “Claude Debussy Centennial Festival” marking the centennial of the great composer’s death in 1918. The two concerts are being broadcast on WWFM The Classical Network on August 21 and 23 in celebration of Debussy’s birthday.
Mimi Stillman will work with student composers on writing for the flute
It was a pleasure playing Syrinx surrounded by these beautiful bouquets I received for my birthday. As I played, I looked at individual flowers and felt I was responding to the profusion of colors and textures.
I am deeply saddened by the passing of Steven Stucky, my dear friend, colleague, mentor. My Dolce Suono Ensemble musicians and I worked closely with him on his commissioned piece for “Mahler 100 / Schoenberg 60” and other projects. Steve gave us so much more than his musical genius and towering intellect – his generosity of spirit, humor, humility, and all-encompassing love for music. The things I learned from my discussions with Steve, about music and his beloved literature and poetry, are without number. Yet he wore his many laurels gracefully, always rolling up his sleeves to help the performers (like the time he saved the day helping us put together a stubborn vibraphone right before a concert!). I miss him already, and he will always be a beacon of light and inspiration for me and all the many people whose lives he touched.
Mimi Stillman’s new CD “Freedom” (Innova Recordings) with premiere recordings by Richard Danielpour, David Finko, and Mieczyslaw Weinberg, ranked highly on Billboard‘s classical charts! In this recording of music for the triumph of artistic freedom and the human spirit, Mimi is joined by longtime duo pianist Charles Abramovic, and in the Danielpour, cellist Yumi Kendall.
Here are some early media coverage and rave reviews for “Freedom”:
I’m pleased to share the program notes for the concert I gave yesterday for the New York Flute Club, “A Centennial Tribute to Julius Baker,” which originated on my Dolce Suono Ensemble Presents series in Philadelphia last season.
It was an honor and a privilege to present this tribute to my beloved teacher and mentor Julius Baker for the New York Flute Club. Thanks to the board and members of the NYFC for this meaningful opportunity. It was a joy to make music with Bart Feller, flutist and fellow Baker student and Curtis Institute of Music graduate, and Charles Abramovic, pianist with whom I’ve been performing as a duo for 14 years. We were delighted to have Ruth Baker, Mrs. Julius Baker, and Maxine Baker, one of their children, with us.
I launched the project last season as part of the 10th Anniversary celebration of Dolce Suono Ensemble, seeing this is as a festive opportunity to pay homage to the legacy of Julius Baker, and I chose the music of Bach as the thread woven throughout the program. Jeffrey Khaner, my other teacher at Curtis, joined me in performing trio sonatas by J.S. Bach and C.P.E. Bach and the premieres of eight new “Inventions” commissioned by Dolce Suono Ensemble and me for this occasion by a group of distinguished composers: Andrea Clearfield, Richard Danielpour, Daniel Dorff, Jeremy Gill, Heidi Jacob, Jan Krzywicki, Robert Maggio, and James Primosch.
We were excited to give the New York premieres of the eight “Inventions” for the New York Flute Club yesterday, and hope that more flutists and pianists will perform them.
Please read on for the program notes from the original “Tribute to Julius Baker” concert presented by Dolce Suono Ensemble on January 18, 2015.
This first month of a new year seems an appropriate time to think of
anniversaries that have arrived or are to come. This season, Mimi Stillman and the Dolce Suono Ensemble celebrate their tenth year of presenting the most varied and interesting chamber concerts to be heard anywhere, and Philadelphia is fortunate to be the Ensemble’s home base. Today’s program is remembering Julius Baker during this 100th anniversary year of his birth. How wonderful to have Jeffrey Khaner, a former student and friend as guest artist, along with Mimi, former student and friend, remembering my husband’s life and musical legacy. My daughter and I are honored to be part of today’s celebration. – With gratitude, Ruth Baker.
It is a great pleasure to play this concert in honor of my teacher, Julius Baker. Mr. Baker was closely linked to the music of Bach, having been the founding flutist of the famed “Bach Aria Group”. He used the Bach flute sonatas extensively in his teaching, and I have many wonderful memories of working on them with him. I still have in my ear the sound of him demonstrating, and remember keenly the sense of revelation after just listening to him play them. How fitting a tribute to have these composers add to our repertoire in his name and in this manner! – Jeffrey Khaner
Notes by Mimi Stillman
We are delighted to welcome you to this afternoon’s concert, the third in the Dolce Suono Ensemble Presents 2014-2015 season. We are still riding on the momentum of our exciting 10th Anniversary Celebration concert on October 12, at which 16 DSE artists played a dazzling program to a capacity crowd at Field Concert Hall at the Curtis Institute of Music, and our concert of mostly Baroque music, with interpolations of Haydn and Abramovic, at Old Pine Street Presbyterian Church in Society Hill in December. Today, we start the new year with a concert whose theme is very close to my heart, “Tribute to Julius Baker.” Since my beloved teacher passed away in 2003, I have had the privilege of participating in tribute concerts presented by organizations including the National Flute Association, but I have always had in mind to present an event honoring his memory with my own Dolce Suono Ensemble. A constellation of circumstances came together to make this tribute happen now, as Dolce Suono Ensemble celebrates its 10th Anniversary season, and as we enter 2015 approaching the 100th anniversary of Julius Baker’s birth (September 23, 1915).
The music of Bach is the major staple of my repertoire as a solo and chamber flutist. I perform a Bach sonata or the solo partita on almost all of my recitals and frequently perform the Brandenburg concertos or Suite in B minor. Dolce Suono Ensemble has developed a tradition of performing arias from Bach’s cantatas at our Baroque concert each season. Through all my practice and wide-ranging research into Bach’s music, I keep returning to Julius Baker’s interpretations of this repertoire and thinking about my studying it with him. His career had many highlights, but his association with the music of Bach is a thread woven throughout. Baker’s recordings of the Bach sonatas are some of the gold standards in the genre, and as a founding member of the Bach Aria Group, he was part of the revival of the Bach cantatas in the United States. The musicologist and philanthropist William H. Scheide, who died in November 2014 at age 100, formed the Bach Aria Group in 1946 to perform and record Bach’s cantatas, the only ensemble of its kind at a time when these magisterial works were hardly being performed. For this, he gathered some of the most eminent artists of the time – Julius Baker, soprano Eileen Farrell, contralto Maureen Forrester, tenor Jan Peerce, oboist Robert Bloom, cellist David Soyer.
Julius Baker was at the center of this important generation of Bach interpretation and scholarship, a tradition he imparted to all of his students. He edited a collection of the solo flute arias from the cantatas and passions that I have used since childhood and still refer to for Dolce Suono Ensemble programming. Mr. Baker had all of us start our lessons with the Allegro movement of Bach’s Sonata in C Major, his favorite piece for practicing the technique of double tonguing. When a few years ago I was invited to perform Bach arias on a concert honoring William Scheide at Princeton University, I felt a direct connection to Julius Baker’s legacy of Bach.
When it came time to meet the challenge of planning today’s program – for indeed it is hardly possible to represent in a single concert program an artist with a talent as extraordinary and a career as stellar and varied as that of Julius Baker – it was natural to turn to the greatness and the genius of Bach as the keystone of our tribute. We perform trio sonatas by J.S. Bach and his son C.P.E. Bach, sparkling examples of this classic Baroque genre. Along with both Bachs, composers including Vivaldi, Purcell, Handel, and Telemann were inspired to write trio sonatas after Corelli’s genre-defining Opus 1 collection of 1681. Bach’s Trio Sonata in G Major, BWV 1039 is his only such work for two flutes with continuo. Musicologists present different possible dates for its composition, the earliest being Bach’s period as court musician in Weimar (1708-1717) or around 1720, when he was Kapelmeister to the prince of Köthen. There is an Italian flavor to the work, in keeping with his study of Vivaldi and other Italian composers while in Weimar; but the prevalence of chamber music and flute works in Bach’s Köthen period, including some of the sonatas and the solo partita, could point to that time frame. The trio sonata might be familiar to listeners in the version Bach later made for gamba and harpsichord.
The opening Adagio unfolds with the two flutes exchanging a flowing melody, with intertwining lines in a low, warm tessitura. The Allegro ma non presto is brisk but stately, with a distinctive melody in which the downbeats are gracefully emphasized with trilling flutes. The repetition and slowly changing harmonies in the third movement, Adagio, bring to mind the dreamlike slow movements of some Vivaldi concertos. The work closes with an energetic Presto, with cello emerging from the continuo texture as a virtuosic partner to the flutes.
C.P.E. Bach composed his Trio for Two Flutes and Continuo, Wq. 162 in 1749 while serving as chamber musician to Frederick the Great in Berlin. It was just two years after the famous visit by his father that resulted in Johann Sebastian composing The Musical Offering on a theme suggested by Frederick. The timing of the Trio suggests that Carl Philip Emanuel wrote it for Johann Joachim Quantz, one of the most famous flutists of the day and his colleague as court musician, to perform with Frederick the Great, an avid flutist and composer who managed to pursue his musical interests while substantially building the power of Brandenburg-Prussia through warfare and diplomacy. C.P.E. Bach embraced the galant style of late Baroque transitioning into early Classical period music, in which moods shift suddenly and widely in contrast with the earlier doctrine of Affektenlehre, in which a piece or section would evoke a single mood. Striking dynamic and emotional contrasts are apparent in this Trio, particularly in the first movement, in which melodic motifs of differing durations and a variety of rhythms and articulations create a subtly inflected texture. The soulful Adagio di molto showcases the singing qualities of the flute. The mood is lightened in the Allegro assai, a playful romp with echoing passages and a witty finale.
What better way to celebrate Julius Baker, Bach, and DSE’s 10th Anniversary than with new works written especially for this occasion? I asked a group of eight distinguished composers, who are also friends and colleagues, some of whom are previously commissioned DSE composers, to write 2-3 minute works inspired by Bach. Our ensemble is thrilled with the stylistic variety and brilliance of these “Inventions.”
I am honored to perform this afternoon with Jeffrey Khaner, my teacher and mentor along with Julius Baker at the Curtis Institute of Music, who joins us as guest artist. Together with pianist Charles Abramovic, DSE founding member with whom I have performed as a duo for 13 years, and cellist Gabriel Cabezas, core member of the ensemble, we play in the spirit of friendship and the passion for music that Julius Baker brought to everything he did.
For me, Mr. Baker was like another grandfather as well as my teacher and guide. He was already my favorite flutist by the time I met him when I was 11 years old. My mother had brought home a recording of him for me and I was captivated by his lush, open sound, the singing quality and expressive tone colors. I announced immediately that I wanted to sound like him and put away my recordings of other flutists! When the National Flute Association annual convention came to my home town of Boston, I was excited to have the opportunity to meet him. Just before he was to give a demonstration for Yamaha, he asked me if I knew any Mozart. I replied that I knew the Mozart Concerto in G, and he asked me to perform it at his demonstration. I performed the first movement, which Mr. Baker invited me to perform again the next day. It was a dream come true to meet Julius Baker, but to get to play for him was beyond thrilling! Two months later, he was scheduled to do an event for the Greater Boston Flute Association, and invited me to perform a duet with him at his recital. (To see a video of that performance, go to YouTube.com/mimistillman.) After that, my parents took me for monthly lessons with Mr. Baker at his home in Brewster, NY, where we came to know the wonderful Ruth Baker, and the Baker family. I remember listening to Baker’s recordings of the Bach sonatas in the car on our drive from Boston. It wasn’t long before Mr. Baker suggested I apply to Curtis. I never thought I would be accepted, but I was, and at 12 became the youngest wind player to be accepted at Curtis.
I kept a diary of my lessons with Julius Baker, but the memories are as fresh as the first time I heard his famous, glowing sound, just two feet away from me at a lesson, my skin erupting in goose flesh and my eyes producing tears at the sheer beauty. I remember playing duets with him in those early years at Curtis, always trying to match and blend my sound to his. I imagined the two flutes awakening echoes of his own lessons with William Kincaid in the same studio in the 1930s. I remember playing the Franck Sonata for Mr. Baker my first semester at Curtis, his urging me to “change the bow” in certain turns of phrase, his exhortations to “sing” and his many analogies of the flute tone to the human voice. He often did not describe exactly how he wanted me to play, rather played for me so that I would plumb the range of my own tone colors in search of elusive nuances. There are pieces in my repertoire that I will always associate with Mr. Baker, by Gaubert, Caplet, of course Bach, and so many more. I remember him demonstrating from one of the plush armchairs in Curtis’s Salzedo Room, almost reclining and holding a pencil between two fingers while playing, at around 80 years old, as beautifully as we strive to play at any age.
I remember his humor, for Baker was a well-known raconteur and teller of jokes. When I asked him where to breathe in the famously difficult first movement of the Bach Partita, he replied “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” A great flute fixer, he was always sending me to get Scotch tape or rubber bands so he could make an impromptu repair to his flute. And he was full of stories of his colleagues – the musical giants of our time. He talked about “Lenny,” Leonard Bernstein, who called him “Julie baby,” with whom he performed as principal flute of the New York Philharmonic for 25 years. He talked about going to the Waldorf Astoria after a Philharmonic concert to record with Frank Sinatra at 2:00am.
At 15, while I was still a student at Curtis, my other great teacher Jeffrey Khaner brought me in to substitute in The Philadelphia Orchestra as second flute in Brahms’s Ein Deutsches Requiem under Wolfgang Sawallisch with soloists Dawn Upshaw and Thomas Hampson. Needless to say, it was one of the most memorable weeks of my life! After one of the rehearsals, Jeff and I walked over to see Julie at the Warwick Hotel, where he always stayed while teaching at Curtis, and I will never forget his smile, beaming as he embraced us.
Julius Baker was fond of saying that whatever piece he was currently playing was his favorite piece. Underlying this simple idea is the profound commitment and uncompromising enthusiasm that he radiated to all who knew him. I miss Julie. He believed in me, transformed my life by bringing me to Curtis, and helped me learn and grow and begin my career at a very young age while always caring about my well-being. His unmitigated joy and pleasure in music is always with me, as his sound is always in my mind’s ear. I offer this concert in memory of Julius Baker with all our love and gratitude. – Mimi Stillman
Notes by the Composers
Andrea Clearfield, AfterBach
AfterBach was written in celebration of Dolce Suono Ensemble’s 10-Year Anniversary. It is dedicated to my dear friend and consummate musician, Mimi Stillman, Artistic Director and Founder.
The piece was inspired by my early years as an accompanist for the studio of Ms. Stillman’s outstanding teacher and performer, Julius Baker, who gave flute lessons in my Philadelphia apartment in the 1980’s and 1990’s. The work is built from motivic materials found in the Allegro movement from Bach’s Flute Sonata No. 4 in C Major, a work that Baker required all his students to play at the start of the lesson. Fragments of other Bach Flute Sonatas and keyboard Inventions are also woven into the counterpoint as a nod to Mr. Baker’s fondness for puns. The piece is a playful tour de force serving as a small tribute to J.S. Bach, this important lineage of flute playing and to Mimi’s vision for creating a chamber ensemble devoted to excellent performances of traditional repertoire and the music of our day. May the Dolce Suono Ensemble continue to flourish and touch audiences in Philadelphia and beyond for many more decades to come.
I am grateful to the Ucross Foundation and The Corporation of Yaddo where this work was composed. – Andrea Clearfield
Richard Danielpour, Reconciliation
I see this short work as a conciliatory conversation between two individuals, hence the title Reconciliation. The entwining of the two lines is the equivalent of a braid, or bond that forms in any love relationship – so in a sense it is a musical image involving how “two become one.” For Mimi and Dolce Suono Ensemble in celebration of 10 extraordinary years. – Richard Danielpour
Daniel Dorff, Invention after BWV 1013
It was an exciting challenge to write a Bach-inspired invention for two extraordinary flutists, and I headed straight to the opening phrase of the Partita in A Minor, one of the staples of the repertoire. Although I didn’t know Julius Baker, many close friends studied with him, and I’ve heard Mimi perform the Partita many times. I used its opening motif to create a Bach-like invention – taking advantage of the 16th rest followed by seven 16th notes as an ideal dovetailing Baroque subject, followed by a second section where the rest is truncated out to provide a driving 7/16 variant. – Daniel Dorff
Jeremy Gill, Nearly Complementary Invention with Quasi-Canonized Bach
After composing a basically canonic second flute part to Bach’s original from the Allegro of his BWV 1033 sonata, I discovered that my counterpoint “complemented” the original in the 12-tone meaning of the word, by including the two pitches he doesn’t: C-sharp and E-flat. Serendipitously delighted, I wrote an invention that complemented the now dueling flutes in other ways. The piano part compacts the notes of the continuo into several chords that I transposed a tritone away (the most distant, hence complementary, key), and I devised a piano affect that was dreamy, improvisatory, and seemingly meter-less, to complement the driving, toccata-like character of the flutes (the pitches of this piano fantasy are the complementary pairs of those of the flutes, such that the notes Bach uses most frequently I use least frequently, and vice versa). I offer this little invention to Mimi Stillman and the Dolce Suono Ensemble (with my compliments) in celebration of 10 marvelous years, and wish her at least as many more as there are Cs in my canonized Bach (145, as it turns out). – Jeremy Gill
Heidi Jacob, Two Inventions
My two inventions loosely use the twelve tone row from Schoenberg’s Op. 25 Piano Suite, yet in ways that draw on tonal aspects of the row. Both inventions closely follow Bach’s structural models, with the materials and respective endings bringing them into a more contemporary idiom. The opening of Invention #1 is modeled on Bach’s Invention VI in E major, and the second Invention – purposely virtuosic in order to take advantage of the brilliant flutists performing this evening – is imitative of many of his livelier Inventions. Bach often brings in his last statement of the invention theme an octave lower than the opening exposition. I have done this in the first Invention while adding a slower tempo and making it softer, changing the Baroque aesthetic. In the second invention, I keep it at the same octave as the opening and change to a softer dynamic to create a similar type of modification.
The use of imitation also reflects Bach’s procedures. In the opening of his inventions there is usually imitation at the dominant or lower octave. In my first invention it is at the fifth below. In the second invention, given the limited range of the flute and the type of material I use, the imitation is at the unison. The extended repetition towards the end of the second invention is meant to be humorous. Bach will occasionally repeat several beats of material or repeat a measure in the middle of his inventions. I am having a bit of fun with this, akin to something Haydn might do. – Heidi Jacob
Jan Krzywicki, Gilt
Gilt (a thin layer of gold covering a substance, e.g. “gilding the lily”) uses J. S. Bach’s Invention in F major as a point of departure. The canonic nature of Bach’s original two voices is expanded to four voices while other contrapuntal devices such as inversion, prolation, augmentation, mirror, stretto and retrograde are included, resulting in a capricious work of faux Bach. The title is also a double entendre expressing the composer’s guilt at using another composer’s music for a piece bearing his name. – Jan Krzywicki
Robert Maggio, Aninventionersary
Aninventionersary, in keeping with the Bach-themed program celebrating Dolce Suono Ensemble’s 10th Anniversary Season, is both an invention and an anniversary gift, hence the playful title. The main theme consists of three motives, one for Julius Baker, in whose honor the concert program was organized, and one each for two of Baker’s most exceptional students, Jeffrey Khaner and Mimi Stillman, who gave the premiere of this piece. The meters and notes of each of the three motives is a reflection of the three names, based on the number of syllables and letters of the musical alphabet found in them. – Robert Maggio
James Primosch, Badinerie Squared
My piece takes off from the Badinerie, the closing movement of Bach’s orchestral suite in B minor. A badinerie is a scherzo in duple meter; I believe the term is related to “badinage” or “banter”. My work uses motifs from the Bach, but with some playful distortions of the original harmony. While the original movement features a single flute with strings and continuo, I have concocted a duet for two flutes alone – hence the name Badinerie Squared. I offer it with thanks to Dolce Suono for its rich contributions to our musical life over the last 10 years, and with good wishes for many more years to come. – James Primosch
On May 6, 2014, I performed at a Musical Fund Society of Philadelphia event honoring composer Jennifer Higdon with an award. As a board member of the Society, I was asked to put together a program of her music with my colleagues Charles Abramovic, piano, my duo pianist of 13 years, and Jennifer Beattie, mezzo-soprano. I was delighted to do this as Jennifer and I have been friends for years. The event took place at the historic Union League, a building dating from the 1860s. Before we performed, I slipped into the elegant library to record Syrinx.
Soprano Lucy Shelton is guest artist with Dolce Suono Ensemble for the premiere of Fang Man’s song cycle Earth this Sunday, April 14, 2013 at 3:00pm at Delaware County Community College in Media, PA. I am delighted to be working with a magnificent group that includes in addition to Lucy: Evan Hughes, bass-baritone;Tim Early, choreographer/dancer; Brittany Flaherty-Ryan, dancer; Jeremy Gill, conductor, and my wonderful colleagues in Dolce Suono Ensemble.
After rehearsal, I asked Lucy if she would be willing to do something with me for my daily Syrinx, and she joined me inan improvisation filled with dazzling vocalizations. It was a thrilling experience!