ORIGINSWorks for String Quartet
Hajime Koumatsu, Igor Stravinsky, Dan Visconti, Kevin Volans
Dmitri Pogorelov and François Henkins, violin
Ai Ishida, viola
Jean Hatmaker, cello
World Premiere Recording of Visconti: Ramshackle Songs
"Bravo to the Kontras Quartet for showing such initiative. For their debut recording, the superb Chicago-based ensemble have eschewed anything resembling the predictable and instead chosen new, recent, or 20th-century music... [The Volans work's subtitle] Hunting: Gathering, suggest the mysterious and jubilant atmospheres Volans evokes in three mesmerizing movements... As in everything on their inaugural disc, the Kontras players are alert to the minutest facets in the Visconti songs. How they apply such care and personality to core reperoire will be fascinating to hear..."
Donald Rosenberg, Gramophone [November 2015]
“[Dan Visconti’s Ramshackle Songs] carries the listener on to where he knows not. Along the way, the sarcasm, wit, and sentiment that resounded on Tin Pan Alley in the 1920s is quite evident, and the effect of the work on these ears was to make me long for a bygone era. In other words, I was moved by both the piece and the performance, and I believe you will be too... The Kontras Quartet has a distinctive and enjoyable musical personality, and this well-recorded CD presents them in a wonderful light. This disc is a delight all around, and is accordingly warmly recommended.”
David DeBoor Canfield, Fanfare [November/December 2015]
"...here’s a program of 20th- and 21st-century string quartets consciously designed both to celebrate cultural differences (the featured composers come from the four different countries represented by the quartet’s membership) and to encourage transcendence of them... The playing is great and the program thoroughly enjoyable in all its diversity.”
Rick Anderson, CD HotList [September 2015]
“(+++) ... very fine playing... The world première recording of String Quartet No. 2, “Hunting: Gathering” by Kevin Volans is very well played, as indeed are all the pieces here.”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [August 2015]
PROGRAM NOTESThe heart of the Kontras Quartet mission has always been to celebrate that which we have in common, regardless of those traits which make us appear different on the surface. Our name may seem to go against this mission, given that Kontras means “contrasts” in Afrikaans, but we have found that diversity can enhance our lives and broaden our perspective in a way that is uplifting, and exciting. When we earnestly share the things about ourselves that define our personal histories (such as music from our various cultures), and respond with curiosity, a remarkable thing happens: we find ourselves learning to understand each other better. And when we understand each other, then we have more in common, and more to cherish.
The four of us grew up on four different continents, yet bonded over our passion for good music and a desire to share that passion with anyone who would listen. We set out as a group to present fine, diverse music from our home countries that could be appreciated in any culture, and chose repertoire with the intention that our first album would feature one piece each from Russia, South Africa, Japan and the United States. As the project slowly came into focus, we knew this would be an album about origins: the sacred thing in each of us that, when shared, demonstrates our desire to relate in a spirit of friendship.
The Chicago-based KONTRAS QUARTET – consisting of violinists Dmitri Pogorelov and François Henkins, violist Ai Ishida and cellist Jean Hatmaker – has established an international reputation for their captivating and disciplined artistry. Performances of note include concerts at Chicago’s Symphony Center and the Juilliard School; television appearances on NBC, PBS and the Late Show with David Letterman; and headliner shows on the main stage of MerleFest, one of the largest bluegrass festivals in the world. The Kontras Quartet’s performances have also been featured in multiple broadcasts on classical radio stations nationwide.
Formed in 2009 while the group’s members were string section leaders in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s Civic Orchestra, the Kontras Quartet studied closely with the Vermeer, Juilliard and Emerson String Quartets. Kontras enjoyed immediate recognition, winning their first competition only a half-year after the Quartet’s founding: the group outperformed seasoned string quartets to become the Quartet-in-Residence with the Western Piedmont Symphony in North Carolina. During their four-year tenure there, Kontras performed extensively, presenting more than two dozen unique formal and educational programs, reaching more than 50,000 people in that state alone.
As pioneers of interdisciplinary collaboration, Kontras has cultivated a genre-defying relationship with classical-bluegrass trio the Kruger Brothers, and premiered their first commissioned work for the septet, Jens Kruger’s Lucid Dreamer, at the IMBA Wide Open Bluegrass Festival in the fall of 2014, a project supported by a Chamber Music America Classical Commissioning Grant. The
2014 -15 season is the inaugural year for Kontras as the ensemble-in-residence at Western Michigan University.
[ www.kontrasquartet.com ]
PROGRAMKEVIN VOLANS (b.1949)
STRING QUARTET NO.2 “HUNTING: GATHERING” (1987)
I. First Expedition
II. Second Expedition
III. Third Expedition
HAJIME KOUMATSU (arr.)(b.1938)
JAPANESE FOLK SONG SUITE NO.2 (2010)
II. Nambu Ushioi Uta
IV. Aizu Bandaisan
IGOR STRAVINSKY (1882 -1971)
THREE PIECES FOR STRING QUARTET (1914)
I. No. 1
II. No. 2
III. No. 3
DAN VISCONTI (b.1982)
RAMSHACKLE SONGS FOR STRING QUARTET (2009)
World Premiere Recording
Ole Dixie Twang
Spirit in Sway
Alley to the Stars