The Bottomless Well
Thursday, March 28, 2024 | 8pm
Benzaquen Hall, DiMenna Center
450 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
for voice, ensemble and electronics with video and audience participation
Bethany Younge, soprano
keepsakes / namesakes (2023-23)
six continuously-developing studies for solo piano
Miles Walter, piano
for clarinet and percussion
Carol McGonnell, clarinet
Josh Perry, percussion
Pierrot Lunaire (1912)
for soprano and quintet
Ariadne Greif, soprano
Michel Galante, conductor
Many listeners will already be familiar with the Commedia del’ Arte cast of famous characters such as Harlequin and Pulcinella, and Scaramouche, but in Pierrot Lunaire, Arnold Schoenberg’s uses only characters that can illuminate the rich, mercurial, and unfiltered mental illness of Pierrot. Two movements from book one, “Colombine” and “Der Dandy” focus, respectively, on Pierrot’s complex grief, and extreme narcissism. Whereas Book three’s “Gemeinheit” exposes his “Silence of the Lambs” level psychopathy. Here, Pierrot, as a homicidal agent of chaos, uses a custom-made skull driller to bore a hole into Cassander’s head before using it as a tobacco pipe. The Argento New Music project and soprano Ariadne Greif, whom the New York Times called "a beautiful and physically fearless young singer, " prepare to unleash the full, imbalanced mental landscape of Schoenberg’s masterpiece, at our concert at 8pm on March 28th at Benzequen Hall at the Dimenna Center for the Arts. To publicize this performance. Argento will digitally re-release one video each day starting March 1st. Each video will correspond to one of the 21 musical movements of Pierrot Lunaire, present fantastical journey through storytelling and images, and present English translations of the German poetic text.
Christopher Fox’s relentlessly virtuosic work, aptly entitled Reeling, is contemporary companion piece to Pierrot Lunaire in that it embodies frantic irrationality. Scored for clarinet and percussion, this work starts and continues at the fastest possible speed and energy. This is one of Fox’s first microtonal works, written after his encounter with composers Tristan Murail and Gerard Grisey in Darmstadt. Clarinettist Carol McGonnell and percussionist Josh Perry perform.
Argento is excited to present two composers who perform their own works:
Composer/vocalist Bethany Younge will sing the solo soprano part in her multi-media composition Bodyscape. In this work, the audience quietly mumbles descriptions of what they see in the 1920s film (projected in front of them). Music from the instrumental ensemble emerges while beautiful images, which were once scandalously pornographic, become recognizable. This is the first time Bethany Younge will be singing this work for an audience.
Composer/pianist Miles Walter will premiere his new work for solo piano entitled keepsakes/namesakes. This a structurally rich work in which Walter constructs a continuously, organically changing work that morphs gradually from the beginning of the work to its conclusion, while at the same time employing many compositional procedures and techniques that listeners will hear in Pierrot Lunaire.
Discussion with Miles Walter, Bethany Younge, Michel Galante, and members of Argento to follow the concert.
for chamber ensemble
Mother and Child (1943)
William Grant Still
for string orchestra
The Housatonic at Stockbridge (1921)
for soprano and piano
Three Places in New England (1903-1929)
for chamber orchestra
Hoarding Behaviors WORLD PREMIERE (2022-2023)
for soprano and eleven instruments
Made in America
Saturday, April 6, 2024 | 4pm
Benzaquen Hall, DiMenna Center
450 W 37th St, New York, NY 10018
Octandre, the angular, urban, and confrontational work for wind ensemble by Edgar Varèse, epitomizes the intransigence of 20th century modernism.
Mother and Child, a lullaby for string orchestra written by Varèse’s student, William Grant Still, embodies the complete opposite of Octandre. It is sentimental, traditional, and vernacular.
Three Places in New England, by Charles Ives, somehow fuses these two disparate worlds together. Ives, America’s musical alchemist, creates a world in which rugged modernism and familiar folk melodies inhabit the same world, creating an experience that is neither exclusively urban, nor exclusively pastorale, but instead, feels cosmic, universal, humane, and all-encompassing.
Sang Song’s Hoarding Behavior for Soprano and Ensemble, which is inspired by the tragic case of Homer Collyer and Langley Collyer, commonly known as the Collyer Brothers. When they died in 1947, it was discovered that their Harlem townhouse contained more than 140 tons of junk amassed over several decades. Song finds instances of (quasi) hoarding behaviors in Ludwig van Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations (a set of 33 variations when Beethoven was commissioned to write just one), J. M. W. Turner’s bequest to the National Gallery (a heap of 20,000 drawings and sketches) and Alfred Lord Tennyson’s In Memoriam A. H. H. (a collection of 133 elegies with a total of 2,916 lines), and turns them into a musical reflection on human frailty as evidenced by the Collyer Brothers. Hoarding Behaviors is commissioned by Fromm Foundation at Harvard University.
All four works on this program were and are conceived, written, and premiered in America.
La Chute d'Icare
Carol McGonnell, clarinet
Argento New Music Project
We are proud to release this special video performance of British composer Brian Ferneyhough’s virtuosic concerto for solo clarinet and ensemble La Chute d’Icare (1988), with Carol McGonnell as the featured soloist. This work depicts the violent and dramatic flight, fall, and ultimate death of Icarus, which is captured through the virtuoso interactions you will see in this short film. Ferneyhough took inspiration from a 16th century painting originally attributed to Brueghel called la Chute d’Icare (the fall of Icarus). According to mythology, Icarus donned wings made of feather and wax, only to fly over the ocean, and mistakenly, fly too close to the sun, whose hot rays melted the wax and caused him to fall to his demise.
The musicians joining Carol McGonnell are: flutist Francesca Ferrara, oboist Kathy Halvorson, percussionist Sean Statser, pianist Steven Beck, violinist Mari Lee, cellist Michael Katz, bassist Tristan Kasten-Krause, and conductor Michel Galante. All of these artists give their very best efforts to this extreme, surprising, and often violent work. What makes this work unique is that it has an immediate surface appeal, but because of its many layers of musical activity, it can be enjoyed even more and more with each repeated listening.
Argento's 2023-24 season programming is made possible by the Alice M. Ditson Fund of Columbia University, the BMI Foundation, the Aaron Copland Fund for Music, and the generosity of individual supporters. Additional support is provided by public funds from the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of Governor Kathy Hochul and the New York State Legislature.
"AN ESSENTIAL SOURCE OF ADVENTUROUS NEW MUSIC"
- ALEX ROSS
Under the direction of Michel Galante, Argento has become an essential source of adventurous new music.
– Alex Ross, The New Yorker
The Argento New Music Project’s fierce emotional commitment onstage and relentless determination to master all technical aspects of its repertoire has inspired world renowned composers such as Tristan Murail, Beat Furrer, and Georg Friedrich Haas to regard them as the best interpreter of their music in the United States. Argento first gained prominence at New York’s “Sounds French Festival” in 2003 and were shortly thereafter invited to work closely with Elliott Carter and Pierre Boulez for the opening concert of the French American Cultural Exchange. From its inception, the group has dedicated itself to a thorough command of the microtonal challenges of contemporary Spectral composers, an effort that culminated in their first CD Winter Fragments, winner of the prestigious Record Geijutsu 2010 Record Academy Award for best recording.
Argento has presented world premiere performances of works by leading composers such as Tristan Murail, Helmut Lachenmann, Bernhard Lang, Sebastian Currier, Fred Lerdahl, and Philippe Hurel, as well as exciting emerging composers including Sabrina Schroeder, Murat Yakin, Erin Gee, Yoni Niv, Victor Ádan, Hila Tamir, Sang Song, Daniel Iglesias, and many others. Argento brought one of the most influential recent masterpieces of contemporary music, in vain, by Georg Friedrich Haas, to New York, at a time when the composer was unknown and unperformed in America. US premieres include works by Salvatore Sciarrino, Luca Francesconi, Michael Jarrell, Olga Neuwirth, Enno Poppe, Gérard Pesson, Mathias Spahlinger, Gérard Grisey, and Eva Reiter. Equally important, Argento introduced American composers to foreign audiences in its many performances at international festivals throughout Europe, Asia, and the Middle East.
Argento has produced over thirty studio recordings, many of which have been professionally released on well-known labels such as Bridge, Aeon, and Harmonia Mundi. As a guest ensemble, it has worked closely to develop new works with graduate students from universities including Harvard, Princeton, Yale, and Columbia.
Argento is committed to expanding the reach of contemporary music to new audiences. From 2009-2015, Argento and the Austrian Cultural Forum co-produced the Moving Sounds Festival, merging contemporary concert music with other artistic worlds including dance, architecture, sound art, electronica, and turntablism. In recent concerts, the group has endeavored to expand its reach beyond contemporary music audiences by including works by 14th, 19th, and early 20th century composers in a musically driven, innovative, and non-conformist manner.
Recent highlights include a performance with legendary soprano Frederica von Stade at Weill Hall in Sonoma, California, and world premiere performances of the following works: Ann Cleare’s eyam ii, commissioned by the Arts Council of Ireland and premiered at the Library of Congress; Jérôme Combier’s Conditions de lumiere, commissioned by the Koussevitzky Foundation and premiered in both New York and Paris; and Beat Furrer’s spazio immergente, commissioned by the Stiftung Mozarteum Salzburg and premiered in its entirety at the composer’s first American portrait concert at Carnegie Hall.
Argento's reputation builds on its cohesion as a chamber ensemble, demanding technical preparation, and a probing interpretive commitment to the music. Independent of commercial endeavors, the Ensemble relies on the hard work of its musicians, volunteers, board members, and your generous support.