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Lysander Piano Trio Announces New Album mirrors

All World Premiere Recordings by American Composers 

Jakub Ciupinski, Jennifer Higdon, Reinaldo Moya, William David Cooper, Gilad Cohen, and Sofia Belimova

“incredible ensemble, passionate playing, articulate and imaginative ideas, and wide palette of colours” – The Strad

The Lysander Piano Trio (violinist Itamar Zorman, cellist Michael Katz, and pianist Liza Stepanova) announces the December 4, 2020 release of its new album mirrors on First Hand Recordsmirrors celebrates the trio’s tenth anniversary with six world premiere recordings of 21st century American piano trios. Four of the trios, by Jakub CiupinskiReinaldo Moya, Gilad Cohen, and, Sofia Belimova, were commissioned by and written specifically for the Lysander, while the works by Jennifer Higdon and William David Cooper were premiered by members of the ensemble.

Over the past decade, the Lysander Piano Trio has shown a strong commitment to working with living composers and building new repertoire for the piano trio, yielding a great variety of musical styles from artists of multiple generations, diverse international backgrounds – Moya is Venezulean-American, Ciupinski is Polish-American, Belimova is Russian-American and Cohen is Israeli-American – and a broad range of interests. All of the compositions featured on mirrors are inspired by other art forms such as theatre, literature, and visual arts.

The trio is joined by acclaimed soprano Sarah Shafer on Higdon’s evocative song cycle, Love Sweet, a piece that expands the sparse repertoire for voice and piano trio. The trio regards Shafer – who has performed with The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Glyndebourne, San Diego Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Opera Philadelphia – as a foremost chamber music and song interpreter of her generation. She frequently performs with pianist Richard Goode, who was an early mentor to her.

Of the album, the trio states, “2020 has presented many unexpected challenges, making an in-person celebration of our ensemble’s anniversary, not to mention the usual collaborations in which we engage, nearly impossible. Under these circumstances, we are particularly grateful to be able to share the fruits of some of our most meaningful collaborations in the form of this album. We believe that the works included on this album, in their richness of styles and origins, provide an exciting and optimistic glimpse into music being written for piano trio today.”

In The Black Mirror (2013-2014), Jakub Ciupinski takes inspiration from a technique in the visual arts, where the painter looks at a vast landscape through a compact mirror with a blackened surface and slightly convex shape. Also known as a “Claude glass,” named after 17th-century landscape painter Claude Lorrain, the mirror can capture vast landscapes into a size of a small canvas while reducing the tonal range of the reflected scenery. Ciupinski reflects this musically through minimalism, and describes his work as "a small study of time, painted in dim colors.”

Jennifer Higdon’s Love Sweet (2014) for soprano and piano trio is a set of five songs on love poems by the American poet, Amy Lowell (1874–1925) from her collections Sword Blades and Poppy Seeds (1914) and A Dome of Many-Coloured Glass (1912). Jennifer Higdon writes, “The layout of the poetry reflects the trajectory of a relationship: from birth to death.” This world premiere recording celebrates a long and fruitful collaboration between the trio and Higdon. Notably, Zorman and Stepanova worked closely with her for the world premiere performance of Love Sweet at SongFest in 2014 (with a different cellist and soprano) and Higdon invited the trio in its current configuration to perform her Piano Trio at a special concert at National Sawdust honoring Joan Tower and featuring other distinguished women composers.

Venezuelan-American composer Reinaldo Moya’s Ghostwritten Variations (2015–2016) reflect Moya’s deep interest in literature. Moya takes his inspiration from four novels that feature composers as protagonists, and this trio is a reimagining of what the music of those fictional composers might sound like.

Variation 1. Thomas Mann: Doctor Faustus – Adrian Leverkühn

Variation 2. David Mitchell: Cloud Atlas – Robert Frobisher

Variation 3. Richard Powers: Orfeo – Peter Els

Variation 4. Kim Stanley Robinson: The Memory of Whiteness – Johannes Wright and The Orchestra

William David Cooper’s An den Wassern zu Babel (2010) is a set of variations inspired by Psalm 137, By the Rivers of Babylon. Cooper’s atonal harmonic language is highly expressive, evoking the sounds of early 20th-century German expressionism.

Gilad Cohen’s Around the Cauldron (2016), co-commissioned by Concert Artists Guild and premiered at Weill Recital Hall in 2017 was inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth and is influenced by popular music styles including psychedelic rock, grunge, and musical theater. It comprises seven short scenes, each of which evokes a mood that resonates with an image of three witches gathered around a cauldron in a dark forest, muttering spells and adding selected creatures to a bubbling stew.

Sofia Belimova’s Titania and Her Suite (2014) also draws upon Shakespeare, by way of A Midsummer Night’s Dream and the fact that the Lysander Piano Trio is named after a character in the play, whose famous line, “The course of true love never did run smooth,” can be applied to the work of chamber ensembles. Just 13-years-old when she wrote this piece, Belimova was one of four young composers in the ComposerCraft program at New York City’s Kaufman Music Center (KMC) who were commissioned to write works to be premiered on the Lysander’s debut recital at KMC in 2014.

About the Lysander Piano Trio: The Lysander Piano Trio has been praised by The Strad for its “incredible ensemble, passionate playing, articulate and imaginative ideas and wide palette of colors” and by The Washington Post for “an uncommon degree of heart-on-the-sleeve emotional frankness.” Celebrating its 10th anniversary in the 2020-21 season, the trio combines fresh interpretations of beloved masterworks from the canon with a passion for new music and discovering hidden gems of the repertoire, establishing its reputation as one of the most versatile chamber groups today.

The Trio has spent the past decade performing across the U.S. with appearances at The Kennedy Center’s Terrace Theater in Washington, DC; Los Angeles’ Clark Memorial Library at UCLA and the Da Camera Society; San Francisco’s Music at Kohl Mansion and Morrison Artist Series; Illinois’ Krannert Center, Rockford Coronado Concerts, and Dame Myra Hess Concerts in Chicago; Florida’s the Kravis Center in West Palm Beach (FL); Middlebury College (VT); Purdue University’s Convocations Series (IN); the Chamber Music Society of Little Rock (AR); and Juneau Jazz and Classics (AK). 

The Trio also performs frequently in its hometown of New York City. The New York Times lauded the ensemble’s Weill Recital Hall debut at Carnegie Hall, highlighting its “…rich sound and nuanced musicianship…resulting in a finely hued collaboration among the three musicians.” Other notable New York City performances include dates at Lincoln Center’s Alice Tully Hall and David Rubinstein Atrium, Schneider Concerts Chamber Music Series at the New School, Merkin Concert Hall, and the Mostly Mozart Festival’s 50th Anniversary season at David Geffen Hall.

The Lysander Piano Trio was formed at The Juilliard School in 2009 and was selected that year to represent Juilliard in a special concert in Mexico City on the occasion of President Joseph Polisi’s visit to Mexico. Cellist Michael Katz joined in 2010-11, now regarded as the group’s official first season. The Trio studied with Ronald Copes of the Juilliard String Quartet, Joseph Kalichstein of the Kalichstein-Laredo-Robinson Trio, and with the late Seymour Lipkin, and had a memorable masterclass with Alfred Brendel. Early in its career, Lysander became a standout at competitions, with top honors at the 2010 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, the 2011 Coleman Chamber Ensemble Competition (Grand Prize), and the 2011 J. C. Arriaga Chamber Music Competition (First Prize).

The Lysander Trio takes its name from the character in Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream. Previously managed by Concert Artists Guild after winning the CAG Victor Elmaleh Competition in 2012, the Trio joined the Dinin Arts Management & Consulting roster in May 2020.

About Sarah Shafer: Praised by The New York Times for her “luminous voice” and “intensely expressive interpretations,” and named “remarkable, artistically mature” and “a singer to watch” by Opera News, American soprano Sarah Shafer performs with numerous opera companies including The Metropolitan Opera, San Francisco Opera, Glyndebourne, San Diego Opera, Tulsa Opera, and Opera Philadelphia. Equally at home in standard and contemporary repertoire, she has created leading roles in world premiere productions with San Francisco Opera, and premiered works by renowned composers Richard Danielpour, John Harbison, and Poul Ruders. She has appeared with many orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, the National Orchestra of Mexico, and the Detroit Symphony Orchestra. An avid chamber musician and recitalist, she regularly collaborates with pianist Richard Goode, and is sought after at chamber music societies throughout the United States. She spent five summers as a resident artist at the Marlboro Music Festival. Recordings include the premiere of Richard Danielpour’s chamber work, Talking to Aphrodit and Poul Ruder’s opera The Thirteenth Child.

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