Song of the Redwood-Tree
The Music of Sunny Knable
Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, NYC
Tuesday, May 31, 2022 at 7:30 pm
Sunny Knable, composer
Scott Pool, bassoonist
Natsuki Fukasawa, piano
MSR Classics presents a concert initially scheduled for March 31, 2020, of music by award-winning composer Sunny Knable in celebration of his album “Song of the Redwood-Tree”. Featured performers include bassoonist Scott Pool and pianist Natsuki Fukasawa who commissioned Song of the Redwood-Tree, a song-cycle on poems by Walt Whitman (sung by Stefanie Izzo), and The Busking Bassoonist. This concert will include two world premieres written before and after the world-wide shutdown: ...the Place of Longing (2019) for Trio Cabrini and Tenacity (2022) for Parhelion Trio. Also featured are Elizabeth Pitcairn, violinist of the “Red Mendelssohn” Stradivarius, with her frequent collaborator, pianist Barbara Podgurski.
As Knable writes about his album: "If you had asked me ten years ago what my second composition album would consist of, I would probably give you a lofty answer, like an opera or a symphony. Though I have written those as well, I didn't know that this decade would define me as the composer of multiple successful pieces for bassoon. I had written for the often-underused bass instrument in woodwind quintets and large ensembles but had never fully explored its soloistic capabilities until I had the good fortune of meeting the rollicking performer that is Scott Pool. What emerged from our friendship was the commissioning of two of my most proud and personal achievements: Song of the Redwood-Tree and The Busking Bassoonist, which Scott performed multiple times with his long-term collaborator Natsuki Fukasawa. Further, both pieces were published by TrevCo-Varner Publications. Since then, I have written for bassoon in odd combinations, including for the singing-bassoonist Gina Cuffari, for the saxophone/bassoon group Xelana Duo, and more. So, it's safe to say that this is only the beginning of a long relationship I will have with this instrument."
The Green Violin (2019)
a fantasy on an Irish theme
Elizabeth Pitcairn, violin; Barbara Podgurski, piano
…the Place of Longing (2019)
on the subject of immigration: loss, memory and the city
Trio Cabrini: Nuno Antunes, clarinet/bass clarinet;
Gina Cuffari, bassoon/voice; Vlada Yaneva, piano/accordion
Song of the Redwood-Tree (2013)
a song-cycle on poetry by Walt Whitman
I. A California Song
III. Golden Pageant
Stefanie Izzo, soprano;
Scott Pool, bassoon; Natsuki Fukasawa, piano
an expression of artistic loss and hope in the times of COVID-19
Parhelion Trio: Sarah Carrier, flute;
Ashleé Miller, clarinet; Andrea Christe, piano
The Busking Bassoonist (2013)
I. Underground Blues
II. Park Bench Ballad
III. Street Changes
a bassoon sonata on the New York experience
Scott Pool, bassoon; Natsuki Fukasawa, piano
SUNNY KNABLE is a multi-faceted composer with numerous awards to his credit, including Best Composition Awards from the Festival of New American Music and the ANALOG ARTS Iron Composers Award. His works are widely performed throughout the US and abroad, from operas, symphonies, chamber works, song cycles, choral pieces, and works for solo piano. Dr. Knable serves as Music Director at The Church-in-the-Gardens and as an Adjunct Assistant Professor at Queens College and LaGuardia Community College (CUNY). He holds a PhD in Music Composition degree from Stony Brook University, a Master of Arts degree in Composition from CUNY Queens College, and a Bachelor of Music degree from CSU Sacramento. In 2021, his book of essays “Quarantine Chronicle of a Composer” was published with Vision Edition. A selection of his chamber music can be heard on the 2012 “American Variations” album on Centaur Records and the 2022 album “Keys” on Trouvère Records. www.sunnyknablecomposer.com
Steinway Artist NATSUKI FUKASAWA has performed at Carnegie Hall, Lincoln Center, and the Kennedy Center, as well as locations throughout the world. She received a rave review in Fanfare magazine and the Best Chamber Music Recording of the Year from the Danish Music Awards. Dr. Fukasawa is a sought-after soloist, performing Gershwin's Concerto in F, Beethoven Piano Concerto No. 4and 5, Brahms Concerto No. 1, Rachmaninoff Piano Concerto No. 2, and the Ravel Concerto in G. She serves on the artist faculty for the Talis Festival and Academy in Sarajevo, Orfeo Music Festival in the Italian Alps, and is a faculty member of American River College. Fukasawa records for Da Capo, Classico, and North Pacific Music labels, and her career was awarded the 2017 Nelson Marquis Lifetime Achievement Award. She earned degrees from the Juilliard School, University of Maryland, and studied at the Prague Academy of Music as a Fulbright Scholarship recipient. www.natsukifukasawa.com
New York native soprano STEFANIE IZZO has been hailed as possessing a “flawless soprano” and a “gorgeously rich and full sound” for her work in opera and musical theatre. Her performance as Maria in West Side Storywith St. Petersburg Opera garnered her a Theatre Tampa Bay Award nomination for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Musical. Stefanie made her off-Broadway debut in 2012 as Monica in Menotti’s The Mediumand her international operatic debut as Adina in L’Elisir d’Amorewith Musica Viva Hong Kong in 2011. Stefanie holds a BM from NYU and MA from CUNY Queens College, and was chosen as the inaugural recipient of the National Italian American Foundation’s Andrea Bocelli Music Scholarship. She is a co-founder of the chamber ensemble The Astoria Music Project and works as a program manager and voice teacher for the Metropolitan Opera Guild. www.stefanieizzo.com
Violin virtuoso ELIZABETH PITCAIRN has appeared as soloist with the Philadelphia Orchestra at the Academy of Music and gave her New York debut at Alice Tully Hall with the New York String Orchestra. She has since performed at Carnegie Hall, Walt Disney Concert Hall, the Fisher Center, and the Kimmel Center. She serves as President and Artistic Director of the Luzerne Music Center which provides training for gifted young musicians in upstate NY. Ms. Pitcairn attended the Marlboro Music Festival and is a graduate of the USC where she later taught alongside her former teacher, the renowned violin professor Robert Lipsett, and the Colburn School in LA. She performs with one of the world’s most legendary instruments, the Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius of 1720, said to have inspired the Academy Award–winning film “The Red Violin”. Pitcairn is a frequent performer for such charitable events as the American Cancer Society, the Breast Cancer Research Foundation, the Helping Hands and Hearts Foundation, and the Nakashima Foundation for Peace. www.elizabethpitcairn.com
BARBARA PODGURSKI holds a DMA in piano performance from The Graduate Center (CUNY), an MM and a BM from the Mannes College of Music. Dr. Podgurski has performed as soloist and chamber musician throughout the US, Canada, Mexico, Caribbean and Europe and has performed at many of the world’s finest venues. She has been featured in numerous television and radio broadcasts, including appearances on WQXR’s Young Artists Showcase, WNYC’s “Soundcheck”, NPR, WPLN Nashville’s “Live from Studio C”, WQED and numerous others. Ms. Podgurski was recently featured on a television documentary for NHK in Japan with her touring partner, violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn. She is a dedicated proponent of new music, focusing on premiering works of NYC based composers and programming such works each season as the Executive and Artistic Director of Musica Reginae Productions in Queens, NY. www.musicareginae.org/biography
SCOTT POOL currently serves as the Academy Director of the Talis Music Festival & Academyin Sarajevo. Recognized as a Moosmann Artist, Scott's performances have taken him throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia. Festival performances include the Orfeo Music Festival (Italy), RioWinds (Brazil), the Festival of New American Music(California). Published recordings can be heard on “The Woodwind Music of Robert Fruehwald Vol. II”, “Revelations”, “Eastern Discoveries”, “Vocalise”, and “Landscapes: The Double Reed Music of Daniel Baldwin”. He has served as principal bassoon with the Valdosta Symphony, the Albany (GA) Symphony, and the Savannah Symphony Orchestras and has performed with the Corpus Christi Symphony and Victoria Symphony Orchestras (TX), the Las Vegas Philharmonic, the Plano Symphony Orchestra (TX), the Tucson Pops, the Tucson Symphony Orchestra, and the Oklahoma City Philharmonic. www.scottpoolbassoon.com
The PARHELION TRIO was formed in 2010 at the Festival for Contemporary Performance at Mannes College. As strong advocates for contemporary music, Parhelion has presented workshops and performances for young composers of the New York Philharmonic’s “The Composer’s Bridge” program and the National Flute Association’s Annual Convention. Highlights from past seasons include performances at Carnegie Hall, National Sawdust, The Royal Danish Academy of Music in Copenhagen, and Metropolitan Museum’s “ETHEL and Friends” Series. They held residencies at Avaloch Farm Music Institute, Adelphi University, and New Music for Strings Festival, along with an ensemble fellowship at the 2018 Blackbird Creative Lab. The 2019/2020 season marked the launch of Sun Dog Collabs, a contemporary series featuring collaborations with all-star guest ensembles. www.parheliontrio.com
Taking their name from a boulevard in Washington Heights, the unique New York City-based TRIO CABRINI is really a quintet. Bassoonist Gina Cuffari doubles as a soprano and pianist Vlada Yaneva also plays the accordion, infinitely increasing the group’s repertoire possibilities. With clarinetist Nuno Antunes who also plays the bass clarinet, the Trio Cabrini can showcase unique and delightful programs highlighting their unusual combination of instruments. www.triocabrini.com
PROGRAM NOTES by the composer
The Green Violin was written for violinist Elizabeth Pitcairn, who plays the legendary 1720 Red Mendelssohn Stradivarius, and pianist Dr. Barbara Podgurski to be premiered on St. Patrick's Day weekend in 2019. The title is both a tongue-in-cheek dedication to the famous "Red Violin" for which it was intended and a reference to the green-clovered musical theme. In terms of musical material, the piece is inspired by the natural acoustical properties of each instrument, out of which I fashioned Irish-inspired melodies and dance rhythms. In this condensed six-minute work, the listener will hear an opening section inspired by the drone of Irish bagpipe songs followed by an Irish jig. If it leaves you wanting to stand up and dance, then I have done my job well as a composer.
…the Place of Longing is based on the book “Fado and the Place of Longing” by Richard Elliott, in which he outlines the experience of immigrants in three parts: Loss, Memory, and the City. This composition reflects that same progression from trauma in a homeland, escape, and reflection in a new land, and the celebration of life as those cultures are fused. The piece was commissioned by Trio Cabrini in 2019, whose own cultural background inspired my exploration and use of Portuguese song and Bulgarian dance-rhythms. It was also written to highlight the unique talents of Cabrini Trio – a bassoonist who sings, a clarinetist who plays bass clarinet, and a pianist who plays the accordion. This will be the New York City premiere tonight.
Song of the Redwood-Tree
Every piece I compose starts with the question, “Why does this work have to exist?” Until I answer the question, it seems like an impossible task to begin. When soprano Robin Fisher, bassoonist Scott Pool, and pianist Natsuki Fukasawa approached me in 2012 to commission a work for their unique trio, I pondered this question longer than usual and finally came to the answer when reading through Walt Whitman’s “Leaves of Grass”. In it, Whitman’s colorful and musical language depicts the scenery of the redwoods (like the opening bassoon line), the mechanization of the modern world (listen for the piano in the second movement), and the excitement of gold-rush country (heard in the soprano’s flare of the third movement) amongst all of California’s natural splendor. Something about the combination of Whitman, California, and my friends who commissioned the piece, makes Song of the Redwood-Tree a very personal statement – one that I hold dear to my heart. As it is also highly virtuosic for all three instruments, I am deeply indebted to the talents and hard work of those who commissioned it and gave it its premiere at The Festival of New American Music in 2012 and to those who continue to spread Song of the Redwood-Tree like “ships coming in from all around the world, or going out to the whole world.”
Song of the Redwood-Tree on the poetry by Walt Whitman from “Leaves of Grass”
A California song,
A prophecy and indirection, a thought impalpable to breathe as air,
A chorus of dryads, fading, departing, or hamadryads departing,
A murmuring, fateful, giant voice, out of the earth and sky,
Voice of a mighty dying tree in the redwood forest dense.
Farewell my brethren,
Farewell O earth and sky, farewell ye neighboring waters,
My time has ended, my term has come.
Along the northern coast,
Just back from the rock-bound shore and the caves,
In the saline air from the sea in the Mendocino country,
With the surge for base and accompaniment low and hoarse,
With crackling blows of axes sounding musically driven by strong arms,
Riven deep by the sharp tongues of the axes, there in the redwood forest dense,
I heard the mighty tree its death-chant chanting.
The flashing and golden pageant of California,
The sudden and gorgeous drama, the sunny and ample lands,
The long and varied stretch from Puget sound to Colorado south,
Lands bathed in sweeter, rarer, healthier air, valleys and mountain cliffs,
The fields of Nature long prepared and fallow, the silent, cyclic chemistry,
The slow and steady ages plodding, the unoccupied surface ripening,
the rich ores forming beneath;
At last the New arriving, assuming, taking possession,
A swarming and busy race settling and organizing everywhere,
Ships coming in from the whole round world, and going out to the whole world,
To India and China and Australia and the thousand island paradises of the Pacific,
Populous cities, the latest inventions, the steamers on the rivers,
the railroads, with many a thrifty farm, with machinery,
And wool and wheat and the grape, and diggings of yellow gold.
Tenacity is the third piece written for my dear friends of the Parhelion Trio. While they were scheduled to perform Sundog (2014)two years ago on March 31, 2020, I felt it would be fitting to write a post-pandemic piece for this occasion. In this new composition, I attempt to encapsulate the stages of the pandemic as I experienced them in seven short sections (all of which, for some mysterious reason unknown to me, start with the letter ‘S’), ending with an expression of tenacity (see below). This will be the world premiere tonight.
Six O’clock Clapping
Sixth Day of June
Signs of Hope
Season of Tenacity
The Busking Bassoonist came about for 13 reasons: in 2013, Scott Pool approached me about putting together a consortium commission for a bassoon sonata, and shortly thereafter, 13 amazing bassoonists signed up to hire me, led by Scott and his frequent collaborator, pianist Natsuki Fukasawa. The proposition was for a piece based on New York City – the noisy, irrepressible, and talent-laden place I call my home. The result is a three-movement work exploring the busking bassoonist in different settings: the first movement, Underground Blues, imitates the sound of the noisy subway station juxtaposed with brief respites of intermittent melody; the second movement, Park Bench Ballad, imagines the busker relaxing in a park on a breezy afternoon with onlookers reading their papers and novels; and the third movement, Street Changes, finds the musician on the hard, dirty pavement, intermingled with the fast and busy sounds of an unrelenting city.