CENTER FOR MUSICAL EXCELLENCE
THE ART OF TRANSCRIPTIONCME Presents, Vol.4
Charles Aznavour, Leonard Bernstein, Bill Evans, George Gershwin, Enrique Granados, Michele Mangani, Paul McCartney, Astor Piazzolla, Maurice Ravel, Camille Saint-Saëns
CENTER FOR MUSICAL EXCELLENCE
GRAEME STEELE JOHNSON, clarinet
BRIAN HONG, RANNVEIG MARTA SARC and SULIMAN TEKALLI, violins
ROSEMARY NELIS, viola
NAN-CHENG CHEN, SAMUEL DECAPRIO and ARI EVAN, cellos
MIN KWON, piano
"Min Kwon, pianist and founder / director of the non-profit Center for Musical Excellence (CME) has gathered seven like-minded colleagues together for an intriguing program. It is dedicated to the principle that a work of true musical art can be re-arranged and re-scored in the interest of bringing out further riches of beauty and artistic insight. In this program Min does just that, together with her talented CME collaborators... Several of these artists are also credited with the engaging arrangements we hear on this album, all based on the idea that anything that has been originally scored can be re-arranged to bring out fascinating musical ideas that were inherent in it all along, just waiting for someone to deck them out in a fresh coat of paint and a new point of view... And so it goes, all the way through a very rich and richly rewarding program... In an inspired arrangement by Tekalli [of McCartney’s 'Hey, Jude'] does the virtually impossible in making an over-familiar hit song come up fresh as paint. That freshness goes for the album as a whole. You won’t want to miss this one!"
Phil Muse, Atlanta Audio Club [April 2022]
"Chamber music tends to be thought of as tamer than it really is. Many listeners think only of musical complements including two-instrument sonatas, trios, quartets, and quintets, usually with strings the dominant sound, performing well-made and generally well-behaved works of the more-or-less standard repertoire. Leave it to the Center for Musical Excellence to cast matters in a different light. CME, a training ground for talented, up-and-coming musicians from all around the world, in fact goes all around the world – and all around musical genres... the playing here is quite fine, and some of the arrangements stand out: the drama of Schubert’s Erlkönig is impressive, and the bluesy handling of Gershwin’s The Man I Love is effective... all of [the works are] nicely played."
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [September 2021]
"The [artists] are miraculous, revealing a supremely talented new generation for which one dares to hope for the highest achievements. There’s a lot of fun to be had here, too.”
PROGRAM NOTESThe Center for Musical Excellence is about Moving Musicians Forward. It provides high-caliber training and individually-tailored assistance to gifted young musicians – regardless of their age, background and nationality – who wish to pursue their life in music in the United States. In doing so, CME ultimately aims to inspire, guide and mentor aspiring young artists toward a meaningful and successful career in music; one that enriches both the artist and the community through the gift of music. Since its founding in 2010, the organization has amassed more than 150 alumni, each of which has taken part in one or more of our programs, including Vienna ConcertoFest in Austria and the CME Residency at Art Avila in Curacao. Our musicians hail from all over the world: Australia, China, Costa Rica, Cuba, Denmark, Hong Kong, Italy, Japan, Korea, Poland, Russia, South Africa, Taiwan and the United States. We have been honored to perform at the residence of United States Ambassador Rufus Gifford in Copenhagen, Denmark, and a bit closer to home for former Governor of New Jersey, Christie Whitman. The CME International Performing Arts Grant, which has been awarded to 12 artists to date, provides financial support in realizing a “dream project” and professional opportunities to deserving young musicians. The roster of CME Artists and Young Artists represent some of today’s most promising musicians. We are passionate about our music and sharing it with you.
It is with great pride that I present The Art of Transcription, our fourth album on MSR Classics. The album is a musical celebration – an expression of gratitude for the musical gifts we have been blessed to explore, develop and share. If you are holding this CD in your hands, you have joined our circle of sharing. Thank you for your support of musical excellence and welcome to our CME family. [Min Kwon, April 2021]
Imagine a quieter world, before recorded and broadcast sound, when the only way to hear music outside the concert hall was to play it yourself. Transcription provided a natural answer to this demand, delivering popular symphonic and operatic music to the home long before record players and radios could. In a similar vein, Mozart penned basset horn trio arrangements of his beloved opera arias for advertising purposes, as small wind ensembles of this kind were popular entertainment fixtures of pubs and other public spaces. And while hardly intended for mass consumption, Franz Liszt’s dazzling solo piano transcriptions of Beethoven’s symphonies represent another such contraction of amply-scored music to smaller forces.
There existed in recent memory a fringe view that transcription constitutes an “unholy” violation of a composer’s intentions, or that certain hallowed works are so perfect that they defy re-composition. In fact, the art of transcription is as old as that enshrined music itself. The earliest surviving manuscripts from the medieval period were notated for unspecified – and thus flexible – instrumentation, and Baroque composers broadened the commercial appeal of their music by encouraging instrument substitutions. Centuries later, these pragmatic sensibilities still resonated with Arnold Schoenberg, Vienna’s modernist-in-chief, who pared down orchestral music of Mahlerian proportions to slim chamber ensembles for low-budget concerts in his Society for Private Musical Performances (Verein für musikalische Privataufführungen).
Perhaps most interestingly, transcription sparks a dialogue between extant music and artists of our time, and thus challenges the decidedly modern construct of a piece of music as a fixed entity. Transcription interrogates this rigid concept of “the work,” making possible cross-century collaborations and making space for fresh perspectives on otherwise familiar music. Far from attacking the sanctity of an original composition, the re-imagining of existing pieces breathes new life into music of the past and permits a rediscovery of works we thought we knew, whether through a reverential or even playful gesture (On one occasion, Brahms jokingly sent his piano transcription for the left hand alone of Bach’s Chaconne to Clara Schumann, who had cut a finger on her right hand.).
In this spirit of rediscovery, this disc casts a wide net over beloved works of the classical canon and jazz, tango and popular repertories alike, uniting them via transcription under the relatively lean instrumental palette of clarinet, piano and strings. In addition to the tremendous variety of repertoire featured, the album also probes several different modes and motivations of transcription. Many tracks realize in miniature music for larger ensembles, while others, such as the arrangements of Schubert, Mozart and Gershwin, expand more sparing scores to greater numbers. Some pieces call on archetypal ensemble configurations, whereas others—like Suliman Tekalli’s three-cello-plus-piano setting of “Hey Jude”—are more idiosyncratic; others still connote specific pieces from the repertoire, as in my arrangement of a Mozart piano sonata movement, my idea of a companion piece to the Clarinet Quintet, K. 581 in the same key. In some cases, the transcription process nicely delegates the technical labor of the original score: the relentless repeated notes that fleck Schubert’s “Erlkönig” are notoriously difficult on the piano, but find a more idiomatic gallop in the bow strokes of the added string instruments here. Granados’ brilliant piano piece, El pelele, on the other hand, proves doubly virtuosic in Tekalli’s acrobatic adaptation for violin and piano.
Above all, this album represents a sincere artistic statement on the value of the transcription, with 10 world premiere recordings, many of which feature performances by the authors of the transcriptions themselves. By celebrating timeless music through the boundless possibilities of transcription, we hope to elicit new ways of hearing the music and instruments we have all come to love. [Graeme Steele Johnson, April 2021]
Cellist Nan-Cheng Chen has appeared as a soloist with the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, National Taiwan Symphony Orchestra, Taipei Symphony Orchestra and the Queens Symphony Orchestra. Born in Taiwan, Chen has taught at CUNY Queens College and Feitian College, and has given master classes at Penn State University, University of Wisconsin, University of Calgary and other schools in Panama, Colombia and Taiwan. Chen holds Bachelor of Music and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School. He is currently the Executive Director of New Asia Chamber Music Society and is on the artist roster of the Center for Musical Excellence.
Cellist Samuel DeCaprio is a dedicated chamber music artist, and has performed in concert and at numerous festivals, including Aspen, IMS Prussia Cove, Kneisel Hall, Lake George and Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute. He has won numerous prizes, including the 2018 Aldo Parisot Prize from the Yale School of Music and honors from the Arlington, Eastern Connecticut Symphony, National Federation of Music Clubs, and William C. Byrd competitions. He holds the prestigious Performer’s Certificate from the Eastman School of Music. Born and raised in Connecticut, DeCaprio holds degrees from the University of Connecticut in Storrs, Eastman School, Mannes College and Yale University. He is currently a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow at The Juilliard School.
A versatile chamber musician, cellist Ari Evan has performed with such renowned artists as Itzhak Perlman, Colin Carr and Shmuel Ashkenasi, His festival appearances include the Krzyzowa Music Festival, Ravinia, Prussia Cove, the Perlman Music Program and the Olympic Music Festival. Passionate about community engagement and teaching, Evan is the founder of the Forest Hills Chamber Music Series, which strives to promote Jewish music and bring classical music to that community. He has been a Fellow with Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, and is Artist-in-Residence at the Queen Elisabeth Chapelle in Belgium under the tutelage of Gary Hoffman.
Violinist Brian Hong has performed as soloist with such orchestras as the Springfield Symphony and the Juilliard Orchestra. Born in Korea, Hong’s festival credits include Marlboro, Yellow Barn, the Taos School of Music, Kneisel Hall and the Perlman Music Program. He has also performed with NEXUS Chamber Music Chicago, of which he is co-Artistic Director. Hong holds an Artist Diploma from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Laurie Smukler and Catherine Cho. He has been a Fellow with Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect, where he held a teaching position at the Celia Cruz Bronx High School of Music.
Clarinetist Graeme Steele Johnson maintains a multifaceted career as a musician, writer and arranger. He has appeared recently as a TEDx speaker, and in chamber music settings at Carnegie Hall, The Kennedy Center, Chamber Music Northwest, Phoenix Chamber Music Festival and Chicago’s Dame Myra Hess series. As a soloist, he has performed with the Springfield Symphony, Vienna International Orchestra, and the Caroga Lake Vermont Mozart Festival Orchestras. A winner of the Hellam Young Artists’ Competition and the Yamaha Young Performing Artists Competition, Johnson holds graduate degrees from the Yale School of Music, where he studied with David Shifrin and was twice awarded the school’s Alumni Association Prize. He is now a doctoral fellow at The Graduate Center at CUNY under the mentorship of Charles Neidich.
Violist Rosemary Nelis has performed alongside numerous leading artists, including Natasha Brofsky, Daniel Phillips, Laurie Smukler and Peter Wiley, and with New York’s Metropolis Ensemble. Nelis has also appeared at festivals across the United States, including Yellow Barn, Lake George Music Festival, Kneisel Hall and Bard Music Festival. She holds a Master of Music degree from The Juilliard School where she studied with Misha Amory and Roger Tapping under a Kovner Fellowship. She also holds a Bachelor of Music degree and a Bachelor of Arts degree in Chinese Language and Literature from Bard College.
Violinist Rannveig Marta Sarc has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe and Asia. Of Icelandic and Slovenian roots, Sarc has appeared as soloist with the Iceland Symphony, Slovene Philharmonic and Iceland Youth Symphony orchestras, among others. As a chamber musician, she has performed at numerous festivals, including Ravinia, Taos and Prussia Cove, and at prestigious venues such as Carnegie Hall and Alice Tully Hall. Sarc has received numerous awards, including the Rotary Scholarship and the American Scandinavian Society Cultural Grant. She holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, where she studied under a Kovner Fellowship. Her teachers include Catherine Cho, Laurie Smukler and Donald Weilerstein.
Violinist Suliman Tekalli has performed as a soloist and chamber musician in concert venues throughout North and South America, Europe and Asia, including Carnegie Hall, the Kennedy Center, Wigmore Hall and Seoul Arts Center. Tekalli’s performances have been broadcast on WQXR, NPR affiliates, CBC Radio 3 and on KBS TV in Korea. He has collaborated in chamber concerts with artists such as Donald Weilerstein, David Shifrin, Paul Watkins and Wu Han, and frequently performs with his sister, pianist Jamila Tekalli. Tekalli’s transcriptions and arrangements of classical and contemporary repertoire have been performed by ensembles such as the Sejong Soloists and Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect.
Pianist Min Kwon maintains a versatile career as teacher, performer, arts advocate and artistic director. Having trained in piano, violin and cello, Kwon made her debut at age 12 in concerts with the Korean Symphony and Seoul Philharmonic that appeared on Korean television. At age 14, Kwon entered the Curtis Institute of Music and shortly after debuted as a soloist with The Philadelphia Orchestra. Since then, she has performed more than 25 concertos around the world under James Conlon, Alan Gilbert, Stanislaw Skrowaczewski, Xian Zhang, and Gerhardt Zimmerman. Her numerous solo and chamber music appearances include recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall and in venues across Europe, southeast Asia and in Australia. An avid chamber musician, Kwon has performed with Fred Hersch, Warren Jones, Cho-Liang Lin, Robert McDuffie, Jason Moran, Paul Neubauer and Arnold Steinhardt. She has also collaborated with the Attacca, Harlem, Orpheus, Shanghai and St. Lawrence string quartets, as well as with principals of major orchestras. With violinist Yoon Kwon, she has given more than 200 performances internationally and was the first Korean artist to record for the RCA Red Seal label. Kwon holds DMA and MM degrees from The Juilliard School, where she served on the Juilliard Council, being the first alumnus to be invited to join. A Steinway Artist, she is a professor of music at Rutgers University, and is dedicated to her “Moving Musicians Forward” mission there as the Founder and Director of the Center for Musical Excellence.
STEINWAY PIANO | Piano technician: Richard Ziss
Recorded 31 August and 2-3 September 2020 at Lamington Presbyterian Church, Bedminster, New Jersey. Artistic director and executive producer: Min Kwon. Recording and mastering engineer: Sam Ward.
PROGRAMFranz Schubert (1797-1828) | Arranged by Robert Aldridge
ERLKÖNIG, D. 328
Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791) | Arranged by Graeme Steele Johnson
PIANO SONATA NO. 11 IN A MAJOR, K. 331 - Tema con variazioni
Antonín Dvorák (1841-1904) | Arranged by Maud Powell
SONGS MY MOTHER TAUGHT ME from Gypsy Songs, Op. 55
Dmitri Shostakovich (1906-1975) | Adapted for two cellos
FIVE PIECES FOR TWO VIOLINS AND PIANO - Prelude
Enrique Granados (1867-1916) | Arranged by Suliman Tekalli
GOYESCAS, OP. 11
La maja y el ruiseñor
Camille Saint-Saëns (1835-1921) | Arranged by Geo J. Trinkaus
MON COEUR S’OUVRE À TA VOIX from Samson et Delilah
Maurice Ravel (1875-1937) | Arranged by Suliman Tekalli
PAVANE POUR UNE INFANTE DÉFUNTE
Carlos Gardel (1890-1935) | Arranged by John Williams
POR UNA CABEZA
Astor Piazzolla (1921-1992) | Arranged by José Bragato
Michele Mangani (b. 1966) | Based on a theme by George Gershwin
BLUES from An American in Paris
George Gershwin (1898-1937) | Arranged by Graeme Steele Johnson
THE MAN I LOVE
Leonard Bernstein (1918-1990) | Arranged by Min Kwon and Suliman Tekalli
THREE SONGS from West Side Story
I Feel Pretty
Theo Chandler (b. 1992) | Based on a tune by Samuel Augustus Ward
UNDIMMED BY TEARS: Variation on America the Beautiful
Bill Evans (1929-1980) | Arranged by Suliman Tekalli
WALTZ FOR DEBBY
Charles Aznavour (1924-2018) | Arranged by Charles Coleman
Paul McCartney (b. 1942) | Arranged by Suliman Tekalli