New York Philomusica



Works of Villa-Lobos, Debussy, and Shostakovich

Thursday, January 20, 2005 at 8PM - Merkin Concert Hall

The New York Philomusica Chamber Ensemble will perform the third concert of its 33rd season under the artistic direction of A. Robert Johnson on Thursday, January 20, 2005, at 8:00 p.m., in Merkin Concert Hall, Abraham Goodman House (129 West 67th Street), in New York City.

Expanding upon its review of the C.O.R.E. repertory, in January New York Philomusica presents The Exotic Voice of the 20th Century, unusual works for voice and chamber ensemble by celebrated composers of the 20th century. The evening will include Heitor Villa-Lobos’ Piano Trio No. 3 (1913), Claude Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis (1897-98), and Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by A. Blok, Op. 127 (1967). Featured artists in this program are Judith Bettina, soprano; Jerome Lowenthal, piano; Jesse Mills, violin; and Gregory Hesselink, ’cello. There will be a Meet-the-Artists interview preceding the concert at 7:30 p.m., conducted by Mr. Johnson. A reception for the audience and artists follows the performance.

True to its mission of surveying the most important works of classical chamber music, both past and present, this month the New York Philomusica examines some of the most compelling music of the 20th century in three works heard relatively infrequently but considered some of the best music of their celebrated composers. The ensemble also showcases the human voice in the form of soprano Judith Bettina, adding the extra element of text to create an even closer connection between the music and the audience. The exotic works presented in January helped to define their respective temporal and geographic periods, and they are full of passion, drama, and controversy that will be sure to intrigue the listener.

Brazil’s most celebrated composer, Heitor Villa-Lobos is still considered relatively “exotic” to American audiences. One of his most rarely performed works, and arguably one of his best, the Piano Trio No. 3 opens this evening’s concert. With allusions to French composers such as Debussy, this triumphant trio takes the form of a continuous rhapsody and utilizes Villa-Lobos’ wealth of knowledge of Brazilian folk idioms.

Soprano Judith Bettina, first heard with the ensemble in the New York Philomusica Records recording ofJacob Druckman’s Bo, is reintroduced to New York Philomusica audiences this month in Claude Debussy’s Chansons de Bilitis. The ensemble rarely includes the human voice amongst its instruments, making this concert a special treat. Originally written in 1895 as a hoax by Pierre Lou˙s, the texts of these three songs were already subject to controversy before Debussy set them to music. The author of the texts convinced scholars and public alike that these verses were actually the work of an ancient Greek poet named Bilitis, who wrote of her life and loves in pagan Greece. Regardless of the origin of the text, these songs are meant to convey Europe’s romantic ideal of how life in ancient Greece would have sounded. The songs themselves are yearning and nostalgic, which Bettina’s musicianship will surely evoke.

Dmitri Shostakovich’s Seven Romances on Poems by A. Blok, Op. 127, for soprano and piano trio, use Alexander Blok’s passionate poetry based on works of Shakespeare to reflect the struggle the composer experienced under the repressive Soviet regime. Although the government suppressed all art that criticized or challenged it, classic texts were far enough removed as to avoid the censors, and thus these Blok poems were used as a means of celebrating freedom of expression even in a time of suffering. That joy in creating subversive works that would not likely be suppressed, along with the drama and emotion of the texts themselves, will spark the ardent rebel and lover in every listener.

Three very different, and somewhat obscure, works from established and celebrated composers of the twentieth century make for an extremely varied program of passionate and exotic music. With the unusual addition of a soprano in two of the pieces, listeners will hear the exotic voice of the 20th century, including some of the best available examples of French Impressionism, rebellious Russian poetry, and spicy Brazilian rhythm.

About Judith Bettina

Soprano Judith Bettina, hailed for her proficiency in a wide range of musical styles, has appeared as guest soloist with such orchestras as the Houston Symphony, San Francisco Symphony, Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra, and the Munich Philharmonic. She has appeared with chamber groups throughout the United States and Europe, including appearances with the Bach Chamber Soloists, The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Continuum, Bard Music Festival, New York Philomusica, Parnassus, Speculum Musicae, The Geneva Music Festival, Ensemble 21, Boston Musica Viva, San Francisco Contemporary Chamber players, the Monadnock Music Festival, and the Library of Congress.

Highly acclaimed for her performances of contemporary music, Ms. Bettina has had works written for her by Mel Powell, Tobias Picker, Christopher Berg, Chester Biscardi, David Rakowski, Richard Karpen, and David Olan. She has premiered works by Charles Wuorinen, Milton Babbitt, Lori Dobbins, Richard Danielpour, George Tsontakis, and Vivian Fine. Ms. Bettina's recent performances have included Tobias Picker's Symphony No. 2: Aussöhnung and the premiere of Tres sonetos de amor, Schoenberg's Pierrot Lunaire, and Edison Denisov's La vie en rouge.

Upcoming New York City concerts: New York Philomusica will present five concerts at Merkin Hall this season. The remaining concerts will be held on the following Thursdays: March 10 and May 12, 2005. Program details and subscription information can be found at New York Philomusica holds an additional annual concert series in Rockland County at the Nauraushaun Presbyterian Church, 51 Sickletown Road, Pearl River, NY. January 20th’s program will be performed in Rockland County on the preceding Saturday, January 15, at 8 p.m. For more information, call Orangetown Friends of Philomusica at (845) 359-5660.

NEW YORK PHILOMUSICA was founded in 1971 by A. Robert Johnson to provide a new and comprehensive model of presenting chamber music to the public, which has since been adopted by many chamber ensembles. The group helped pioneer the modern residency through its 1973 seven-week residency at Dartmouth College, followed by its New York City Metropolitan Subscription Concerts in all five boroughs (1975-1979) and New York State Capitol Region Residency (1979-1981). Always a breeding ground for the finest musicians, the ensemble has fostered the talent of such artists as Tim Eddy, Kim Kashkashian, David Jolley, David Krakauer, Robert Levin, Todd Phillips, and Bill Purvis early in their careers. The ensemble has performed concerts and master classes on three continents and been broadcast on radio and television. The centerpiece of all the ensemble’s activities is its annual concert series in New York City’s Merkin Concert Hall. Praised by critics worldwide, the ensemble’s range of programming includes its 1993 World Premiere of Stravinsky’s A Soldier’s Tale, with a new text by Kurt Vonnegut, the 1992 and 2002 premieres of works commissioned from John Harbison, the 1999 American premiere of Beethoven’s Concerto No. 4, for piano and string quintet, and numerous collaborations with renowned jazz pianist, the late Sir Roland Hanna. New York Philomusica has provided sustained exposure to the music of three composers—Iain Hamilton, Jacob Druckman, and John Harbison—through its Featured Composer program.

The first American ensemble to record Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, New York Philomusica is the first group ever to record the entire Mozart Divertimento catalogue. The Divertimento recordings were originally released by VoxBox Productions in 1975 and were followed by a release of Mozart Wind Serenades. Both titles were reissued in October 2002—with updated, comprehensive liner notes by New York Philomusica’s Artist Laureate, Mozart scholar Robert Levin—on the ensemble’s own label, New York Philomusica Records, established in 1992. Following a new release in April 2004, George and Joseph in Paris, featuring Robert Levin on piano, New York Philomusica Records now has 16 titles, available online at or through the New York Philomusica at

TICKET PRICES for January 20th are $35 ($30 seniors, $17.50 students). Further special promotions available through participating schools. Group discounts are also available. For information or tickets, call New York Philomusica at (212) 580-9933, or visit

For press tickets, photographs, or further information, please contact:
Kim Stanford, 917-697-7588, or Tali Chitaiad, 212-580-9933

Home    Concerts     NY Philomusica Records     About New York Philomusica
Contact Us    Support Us     Quodlibet

Copyright 2002 New York Philomusica. Design: Ehrsam Productions ©2002