Nearly four years have passed since the Blakemore Trio (violinist Carolyn Huebl, cellist Felix Wang and pianist Amy Dorfman, all three of whom are on the faculty of Vanderbilt’s Blair School of Music) first decided to ask New York composer Susan Botti to write a work specifically for them. Through inspiration, anticipation and perspiration, the piece is finally ready.
“The selection process was exciting but exhausting,” Wang says. “It’s one thing to play new musical works, but it’s different when commissioning premieres. We love embracing contemporary music, and we want to be more active in getting new pieces written for us.”
The Blakemore Trio and Botti, a well-regarded contemporary composer and soprano, gave the world premiere performance of Gates of Silence on Feb. 19 in Ingram Hall at the Blair School. The New York City premiere followed March 13 in Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Center.
“Botti’s music is very imaginative,” Wang says. “The thing that draws me—there’s often a sense of drama. Even in the dissonances and timbres, there’s a sense of singing in her work. The kinds of sounds she gets are very emotional and surprising.”
Gates of Silence is a set of three compositions: “Lament: The Fallen City” for violin and piano; “The Journey without Her” for piano trio; and “Dido Refuses to Speak” for piano trio and soprano with text by Linda Gregerson, National Book Award finalist and Caroline Walker Bynum Distinguished University Professor at the University of Michigan. Inspired by Virgil’s Aeneid, each composition is connected by themes of loss, renewal, hope and continuation.
“While conceptualizing this piece, I read a description of the fall of Troy, and then I would pick up the newspaper and read about the destruction of Baghdad or the devastation of a small town in Oklahoma after a storm,” explains Botti. “The ability of people to pick themselves up, find hope and move forward after such devastation really inspired me.”
The trio commissioned Gates of Silence as part of the ongoing commissioning project “The Blair Commissions: Music for the 21st Century,” funded by the James Stephen Turner Family Charitable Foundation for the Blair School.
© 2014 Vanderbilt University
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