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PRISM Quartet Concludes Curtis Residency with Recital of Six World Premieres on May 9

Program includes works written for the saxophone quartet by Curtis composition students and faculty members David Ludwig and Jennifer Higdon

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(April 23, 2012) The PRISM Quartet comes to the Curtis Institute of Music for a history-making residency which concludes with a free performance on Wednesday, May 9 at 8 p.m.

The first saxophone ensemble to conduct a residency at Curtis, the PRISM Quartet will give the world premiere of five pieces written for the ensemble by extraordinary student artists from the school's composition department. The program also features compositions by two Curtis faculty members: Pulitzer Prize-winner Jennifer Higdon (Short Stories) and Artistic Chair of Performance Studies David Ludwig (Josquin Microludes, world premiere).

The concert takes place at the Curtis Institute of Music's Field Concert Hall, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia. Admission is free and tickets are not required.

Throughout the residency, five young composers worked closely with PRISM and members of Curtis's composition faculty to pen their first works for saxophone quartet. Katerina Kramarchuk named The Dniester Flow after the river she remembers from her childhood in Moldova. Gabriella Smith's Spring/Neap is also inspired by water, specifically the tidal cycle after which the work is named.

Thomas Oltarzewski composed Toccata as a short overture inspired by the style of many twentieth-century toccatas for wind ensemble, and Tim Woos's Four Miniatures are "constantly rising and falling, augmenting and diminishing." The piece ranges from simple, glass-like sounds to large glissandos to an increasingly angry polka that ends the piece. Daniel Temkin's Blossoming explores contrasting timbral possibilities of the saxophone. The work includes non-pitched air sounds, chorale textures comprised of soft, sustained tones, melodic fragments that overlap in counterpoint, and a climactic registral shift, where the baritone forcefully plays its lowest note.

Also receiving its world premiere on the program is Josquin Microludes, written by Curtis faculty member David Ludwig for the PRISM Quartet. The work is a set of miniatures, each of which frames Josquin des Prés's chanson Mille Regretz with a variation or transmutation of it. Jennifer Higdon's Short Stories is a collection of six movements, flexible in both the order and number in which they can be performed. Dr. Higdon said she wrote Short Stories so that a group could tailor the piece according to their needs, "with as much diversity in the characters of the movements as possible…each one tells a different story."

The PRISM Quartet residency and performance are made possible through the support of George Markow-Totevy and the Markow-Totevy Foundation and are part of Curtis's 2011-12 Appassionato season, which features bold programming, enriched curriculum offerings, and special events that herald Curtis's enduring influence on music in Philadelphia and the world.

Curtis frequently hosts residencies by world-renowned artists, who work with students in master classes and chamber music coachings. Other artists-in-residence during the 2011-12 season include the Johannes Quartet, cellist Gary Hoffman, and composer George Crumb. Beginning in October 2012, the Grammy Award-winning new music ensemble eighth blackbird will begin a three-year residency at Curtis funded by a grant from The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation. eighth blackbird will be active members of the Curtis community, visiting for four weeks each year and working closely with David Ludwig. The residency will build on Curtis's "learn by doing" philosophy and its focus on inventing careers for the 21st century.

Intriguing programs of great beauty and breadth have distinguished the PRISM Quartet as one of America's foremost chamber ensembles. Two-time winners of the Chamber Music America/ASCAP Award for Adventurous Programming, PRISM has performed in Carnegie Hall on the Making Music Series, in Alice Tully Hall with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, and throughout Latin America under the auspices of the US Information Agency. PRISM has been presented to critical acclaim as soloists with the Detroit Symphony and Cleveland Orchestra and conducted residencies at the nation's leading conservatories, including the Curtis Institute and the Oberlin Conservatory. Champions of new music, PRISM has commissioned over 150 works, many by internationally celebrated composers, including Pulitzer Prize-winners William Bolcom, Jennifer Higdon, Zhou Long, and Bernard Rands; Guggenheim Fellows Martin Bresnick, Chen Yi , Lee Hyla, and Steven Mackey; MacArthur "Genius" Award-recipient Bright Sheng; and jazz masters Greg Osby and Tim Ries. The Quartet can be heard on the soundtrack of the film Two Plus One, by Emmy nominee Eugene Martin, scored by PRISM member Matthew Levy, and has been featured in the theme music to the PBS news magazine NOW.

The Curtis Institute of Music educates and trains exceptionally gifted young musicians for careers as performing artists on the highest professional level. One of the world's leading conservatories, Curtis is highly selective and provides full-tuition scholarships to all of its 161 students. In this intimate environment, students receive personalized attention from a celebrated faculty. A busy schedule of performances is at the heart of Curtis's distinctive "learn by doing" approach. This philosophy has produced an impressive number of notable artists since the school's founding in 1924, from such legends as Leonard Bernstein and Samuel Barber to current stars Jonathan Biss, Juan Diego Flórez, Alan Gilbert, Hilary Hahn, Jennifer Higdon, and Lang Lang.


Curtis Composers with the PRISM Quartet
Wednesday, May 9 at 8 p.m.

Field Concert Hall, Curtis Institute of Music, 1726 Locust Street, Philadelphia

LUDWIG Josquin Microludes (world premiere)
HIGDON Short Stories
KRAMARCHUK  The Dniester Flow (world premiere)
SMITH Spring/Neap (world premiere)
OLTARZEWSKI    Toccata (world premiere)
WOOS Four Miniatures (world premiere)
TEMKIN  Blossoming (world premiere)

Free; no tickets required.

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