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March 10, 2010 > Music in times of turmoil

Music in times of turmoil

By Janet Grant

Horror and beauty, hate and love, war and peace - all are dynamically opposing forces, yet none can exist without the other. On Saturday, March 13, Music at the Mission will explore this paradox when it presents its second concert of the season, "Music in the Time of Turmoil: From Conflict to Redemption."

On Saturday, Fremont's premier chamber music series hosts an amazing cadre of musicians performing the music of war. As disquieting a theme as war may be, with "Music in the Time of Turmoil," Music at the Mission examines the incredible humanity that exists at times of great moral and physical conflict. "Armed conflict brings out the worst in humanity... and it has also inspired some of the greatest art this world has known."

Saturday evening's performance features top Bay Area musicians Jeff Anderle, clarinet; Karen Shinozaki Sor, violin; Gianna Abondolo, cello; and Music at the Mission Artistic Director Aileen Chanco, piano. These talented artists will be performing moving works by 20th century composers Leos Jan‡_ek, Christos Hatzis, Paul Schoenfield, and Olivier Messiaen.

Leos Jan‡_ek was a Czech composer, conductor and teacher who wrote the "Sonata for Violin and Piano" in 1914, but it wasn't his first attempt at writing such a composition. The sonata was created in the period of the composer's marked interest in chamber music in 1908, 1910, and also at the beginning of World War I. Jan‡_ek himself remembers, " the 1914 Sonata for violin and piano I could just about hear the sound of the steel clashing in my troubled head..."

Christos Hatzis's "Dance of the Dictators" is a movement for piano trio from the multimedia music theatre work "Constantinople." It is a tango that was inspired by the composer's own memories of his youth in Greece when members of the ruling junta preached cultural nationalism and then danced tangos during their leisure time. It represents the "dancing" strategies used by Saddam Hussein and the Coalition leaders during the weeks leading up to the 2003 invasion of Iraq to sway public opinion.

Paul Schoenfeld's "Sparks of Glory," scored for violin, clarinet, cello, piano and narrator, was written in 1995. It was a specially commissioned piece by the Tilles family, who had specifically requested a work with narrator commemorating the 50th anniversary of the end of World War II. Schoenfeld used as his narration, accounts written by the Polish-Israeli journalist Moshe Prager, who had smuggled himself out of Poland during the war.

Olivier Messiaen's ambitious and ground-breaking "Quartet for the End of Time" was written in 1941 as a passionate response to the brutality of the times. It was first heard on a severely cold January night in 1941, at the Stalag VIIIA prisoner-of-war camp in Gšrlitz, Germany. Messiaen performed it for a crowd of prisoners, German officers, and prison guards, with his three friends and fellow prisoners: a cellist, clarinetist, and violinist. Though Messiaen wrote most of the quartet after being captured as a French soldier during the German invasion of 1940, it would never have existed without the collaboration of the prisoners - and guards, of Stalag VIIIA.

Saturday evening's concert at the old Mission San Jose, promises to be filled with all the raw emotion and inspiration that comes with great art created in or influenced by times of immense adversity. With Saturday's performance, Music at the Mission continues its intimate and thought-provoking chamber series by presenting a program of music by modern masters inspired by social conflicts, their challenges to humanity and the underlying hope for peace.

An informative, half-hour concert talk by musician Bill Everett will precede the concert at 7:15 p.m. with the concert beginning at 8:00 p.m. A complimentary dessert and champagne reception will immediately follow the concert.

For more information, visit

Music at the Mission presents "Music in the Time of Turmoil: From Conflict to Redemption."
Saturday, March 13
8:00 p.m.
Pre-concert talk by Bill Everett
7:15 p.m.
Old Mission San Jose
43300 Mission Blvd., Fremont
(510) 402-1724 (for credit card purchases)

General Admission, $25, Students/Seniors, $20

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