Ensemble LPR

June 27, 2017 | 7:30 pm | Central Park Naumburg Bandshell | New York, NY | All Ages | FREE!  
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Ensemble LPR

David Handler, Artistic Director,

Lara St John, violin :

Jessie Montgomery
, (1981-), Starburst (2012)

Ralph Vaughan Williams, (1872-1958), The Lark Ascending (1920) arr, Arman
Lara St John, violin

Matthew Hindson, (1968-), Maralinga (US Premiere)
Lara St John, violin


Benjamin Britten, (1913-76), Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op.10 (1936)
I. Introduction and Theme
II. Variation 1: Adagio
III. Variation 2: March
IV. Variation 3: Romance
V. Variation 4: Aria Italiana
VI. Variation 5: Bour é e classique
VII. Variation 6: Wiener Waltz
VIII. Variation 7: Moto perpetuo
IX. Variation 8: Funeral March
X. Variation 9: Chant
XI. Variation 10: Fugue and Finale

Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971), Concerto in E-flat, “Dumbarton Oaks” (1937-38)


**The performance of Ensemble LPR has been made possible by a generous anonymous grant**

WQXR HOST: Paul Cavalconte



Named after and headquartered at the acclaimed New York City venue Le Poisson Rouge, Ensemble LPR is an assemblage of New York’s finest musicians. The group personifies the venue’s commitment to aesthetic diversity and artistic excellence.

Ensemble LPR performs an eclectic spectrum of music—from works by the finest living composers, to compelling interpretations of the standard repertoire—and collaborates with distinguished artists from classical and non-classical backgrounds: Timo Andres, Simone Dinnerstein, San Fermin, Daniel Hope, Taka Kigawa, Jennifer Koh, Mica Levi, David Longstreth (of Dirty Projectors), John Lurie, Ursula Oppens, Max Richter, André de Ridder, Christopher Rountree and Fred Sherry, to name a few.

In January 2015, Ensemble LPR made its Deutsche Grammophon debut with Follow, Poet, featuring the music of Mohammed Fairouz and the words of Seamus Heaney and John F. Kennedy. Ensemble LPR’s acclaimed Central Park performance followed in June, part of the 110th Anniversary of the Naumburg Orchestral Concerts.

In 2008 Le Poisson Rouge changed the classical music landscape, creating a new environment in which to experience art music. In doing so, Le Poisson Rouge expanded classical music listenership. The New York Times has heralded Le Poisson Rouge as “[a] forward-thinking venue that seeks to showcase disparate musical styles under one roof” and “[the] coolest place to hear contemporary music.” The Los Angeles Times raves, “[The] place isn’t merely cool…the venue is a downright musical marvel.” Le Poisson Rouge Co-Founder David Handler brings this same ethos to Ensemble LPR, of which he is Founding Executive & Artistic Director.

Lara St. John

Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John has been described as “something of a phenomenon” by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by The New York Times.

She has performed as soloist with the orchestras of Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, and with the Boston Pops, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Camerata Ireland, Amsterdam Symphony, Brazilian Symphony, Sao Paulo Symphony, China Philharmonic, Hong Kong Symphony, Tokyo Symphony, and the orchestras of Brisbane, Adelaide and Auckland among many others.

The Los Angeles Times wrote Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.”

Her world premeire recording of Matthew Hindson’s Violin Concerto prompted Gramophone to write: “It’s the sort of work that should get audiences running, not walking, back to concert halls on new-music nights.”

She performs on the 1779 “Salabue” Guadagnini thanks to an anonymous donor and Heinl & Co. of Toronto.


The first half of the evening’s music is quintessentially programatic, taking us from the cosmos to the air to the earthly perils of human weakness and destruction, a subject all too relevant today.  The second half features two 20th century masters tipping their hat to the style and form of earlier times, with some of the most exquisitely crafted and – in the case of the Britten – too little known work in the repertoire.  [David Handler]
We’re delighted to be working with the supremely talented Lara St John who will play two pieces originally composed for violin and piano (the latter in the program, specifically for her), tonight with string orchestra.  [David Handler]

, a brief one-movement work for string orchestra, is a play on imagery of rapidly changing musical colors. Exploding gestures are juxtaposed with gentle fleeting melodies in an attempt to create a multidimensional soundscape. – Jessie Montgomerey

Ralph Vaughan Williams’ The Lark Ascending is one of the most popular works in the classical repertoire. The piece was inspired by the 122 line poem of the same name, written by Williams’ countryman George Meredith about the song of the skylark. Originally composed for violin and piano in 1914, the piece was not premiered until 1920, the same year it was re-scored for violin and orchestra in what would become the more frequently performed version of the piece. The notoriety of the piece has far surpassed that of the poem, and the all-string version you will hear this evening was orchestrated by Nurhan Arman, Music Director of the Sinfonia Toronto. The lark’s distinctive song is represented by the solo violin, opening and closing the piece with two extended lyrical cadenzas based on the same melody over a continuous and hushed string harmony. A shorter cadenza brings on the contrasting middle section in which two British folk melodies are introduced. In the end, serenity prevails with the solo violin lifting the listener upward until its song fades into silence.

Maralinga is a place in the South Australian desert, and was the site for secret British nuclear testing in the 1950s and 1960s. Not a happy place in Australian history for either the Aboriginal inhabitants of the area, nor the Australian service personnel who were unwittingly used as guinea pigs for the effects of radiation. The site and its history remains a stain upon Australia’s historical record. This piece makes reference to the long Aboriginal history at Maralinga as well as more recent events and attitudes. Maralinga was written for Lara St. John, who premiered the piece on 20 March, 2009. It was commissioned by the Wolf Trap Foundation for the Performing Arts. – Matthew Hindson

Variations on a Theme of Frank Bridge, Op. 10, is the work that brought Benjamin Britten to international attention. The piece is dedicated “to F.B. A tribute with affection and admiration”. In 1932 Britten began writing a set of variations on a theme by Frank Bridge, with whom he studied from 1927. It wasn’t until 1937 that Boyd Neel, having been invited to conduct at the Salzburg Festival, commissioned Britten to write a piece for string orchestra. Neel had previously conducted Britten’s film score for Love From a Stranger. For a theme, Britten took the second of Bridge’s Three Idylls for string quartet, Op. 6, No. 2. Each variation is a representation of a specific quality in Bridge’s personality as understood by Britten: the Adagio represents Bridge’s “integrity”; the March, his “energy”; the Romance, his charm; the Aria Italiana, his humour; the Bourrée, his tradition; the Wiener Walzer, his enthusiasm; the Moto perpetuo, his vitality; the Funeral March, his sympathy; the Chant, his reverence; the Fugue, his skill (containing references to other works by Bridge); and their mutual affection appears in the Finale. These connections were made explicit on the score Britten presented to Bridge, but they do not appear in the printed score. Britten also imitates the styles of a number of composers such as Gioachino Rossini, Maurice Ravel and Igor Stravinsky. Paul Kildea writes of the piece: “Though the theme is played in the opening section, it is done so rather whimsically, and it is only at the end of the piece that it is spelled out with weight and clarity. When it arrives it makes sense of everything that has gone before it, demanding that we start again from the beginning, hearing the work once more, this time with our ears alert.”

Igor Stravinsky’s Concerto in E-flat, subtitled Dumbarton Oaks 8-v-1938 (1937–38) is a chamber concerto named for the Dumbarton Oaks estate of Robert Woods Bliss and Mildred Barnes Bliss in Washington, DC, who commissioned it for their 30th wedding anniversary. Composed in Stravinsky’s neo-classical period, the piece is one of Stravinsky’s two chamber concertos and is scored for a chamber orchestra of flute, B♭ clarinet, bassoon, two horns, three violins, three violas, two cellos, and two double basses. The three movements – Tempo giusto, Allegretto, and Con moto – are performed without pause. The commission was brokered by Nadia Boulanger who conducted the May 8, 1938 private premiere in the music room at Dumbarton Oaks, while the composer was hospitalized with tuberculosis. The piece was the last Stravinsky completed in Europe. The composer writes: “My Concerto in E-flat… was begun almost immediately upon my return to Europe after Jeux de cartes, in the spring of 1937. I had moved from Paris to Annemasse in the Haute Savoie to be near my daughter Mika [Ludmila] who, mortally ill with tuberculosis, was confined to a sanatorium there. Annemasse is near Geneva, and [conductor] Ernest Ansermet was therefore a neighbor and also a helpful friend at this, perhaps the most difficult time of my life. [Ludmila died in 1938.] I played Bach regularly during the composition of the Concerto, and was greatly attracted to the “Brandenburg” Concertos. Whether or not the first theme of my [first] movement is a conscious borrowing from the third Brandenburg, however, I do not know.”

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