By now, most if not all of our patrons/fans are well aware of the truly unique West Coast musical event that was to take place Saturday afternoon, June 18, 2022 here in Walnut Creek, CA at 3 PM, bringing to a smashing close the 35th Concert Season of the Sierra Chamber Society. We are so sorry that we had to cancel this event. We hope to find a time later this summer to revisit this performance.
Leading off this most unusual program was a new work, Contrapassos for Voice and String Quartet, commissioned by the Sierra Chamber Society, composed by noted contemporary American composer, Robert Sirota (www.sierrachamber.com), former director of the Peabody Institute and Manhattan School of Music. The celebrated Telegraph String Quartet will be joined by soprano Abigail Fischer, rising NYC star, acclaimed in the New York Times as “Luminous…. Cello-mellow;” described in the Boston Globe as “Sumptuous!”
Mr. Sirota's connection to the Sierra Chamber Society dates to 2017 when the SCS gave Wave upon Wave, his second string quartet, its West Coast premiere, performed by the celebrated Telegraph String Quartet (www.telegraph.com). This moving new work, commissioned for the TSQ by the Walter W. Naumburg Chamber Music Foundation as part of the award for receiving first prize in its 2017 competition, was given its World Premiere to acclaim at Carnegie Hall.
In Contrapassos for Voice and String Quartet, Mr. Sirota has set to words Contrapassos, a poem in eight verses, written by Dr. Stevan Cavalier, Director of the Sierra Chamber Society. Of the genesis of Contrapassos, Robert Sirota writes:
As a composer, I have found that my best work invariably emerges from the fabric of relationships with others. I am fond of saying that I don’t compose pieces so much for instruments or voices, as for specific people.” Cavalier and Sirota connected after the Telegraph Quartet performed his third string quartet, Wave Upon Wave (commissioned by The Walter W. Naumburg Foundation for the 2016 Chamber Music Award winners, the Telegraph Quartet) on the Sierra Chamber Series in 2018 and soon thereafter began discussion of this new collaborative work. “Add to this that I have known the great soprano Abigail Fischer literally since before she was born, and you have the perfect alignment of relationships and collaborations." Stevan Cavalier explains:
“Contrapasso is an Italian term from Dante’s time, perhaps best translated as punishment by inversion of a sin. For example, one who in life was mired in the pursuit of riches is condemned to slog through molten gold up to the neck in perpetuity. In my poem, dreams may be regarded as contrapassos of waking life.”
Sirota adds : “The piece begins with memories of the quotidian joys of childhood, quickly turning to darkness and thoughts of early death by suicide, heart attacks in middle age, and final judgment. And yet throughout, there is the vigorous embrace of abundant life, of the beauty of our world, and of our striving for faith.”
Also in the running for this concert was Arnold Schoenberg’s remarkable, seldom-performed, because so demanding for all concerned, String Quartet Op. 10, No. 2 in F # minor, a legendary work of late German expressionist post-romanticism, generally, if mistakenly, regarded as his last tonal composition. The program concludes with L. V. Beethoven’s epic Quartet for Strings No. 14 Op. 32.