Violinist Elizabeth Chang Releases Transformations - Kirchner, Sessions, Schoenberg (Albany Records)


Violinist Elizabeth Chang announces the April 2, 2021 release of Transformations on Albany Records, featuring works by Leon Kirchner (1919–2009), Roger Sessions (1896–1985), and Arnold Schoenberg (1874–1951). The album portrays the profound teacher/student relationships from Chang’s artistic heritage, reflecting the influences and deep cross-generational connections between these composers. Chang was a student at Harvard of Leon Kirchner; Kirchner, in turn, studied with both Sessions and Schoenberg, two of the most influential composers of the twentieth century.

Chang explains, “Many eminent musicians of our time have attested to the legendary clarity with which Kirchner could lay bare the structural underpinnings of a musical work and its consequently inevitable emotional logic. Both Sessions and Schoenberg were pioneers in seeking a new compositional language in the post-tonal world while being deeply rooted in the Germanic tradition. Kirchner’s voice reflects both the thorny complexity of modernism while palpably reaching for the sensuality of the musical language of a previous era.”

Chang, who is currently Professor of Violin at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a member of the violin and viola faculties of the Pre-College Division of The Juilliard School, has forged a professional identity as performer, pedagogue, and artistic leader, founding and leading a number of festivals and chamber music series in the U.S. and overseas. In 2019, a Healey Faculty Research Grant from UMass afforded her the opportunity to record this album, which had been a cherished project plan for some time.

There are abundant connections between the composers and the compositions. Kirchner was born in Brooklyn but grew up in California. During his graduate studies the University of California Berkeley, Kirchner studied with Ernst Bloch and also with Roger Sessions. Sessions was also born in Brooklyn, studied with Bloch, and taught at UC Berkeley. Arnold Schoenberg had a profound influence on the compositional thinking of Roger Sessions, and Kirchner himself was actually a student of Arnold Schoenberg at UCLA.

Kirchner’s Duo No. 2 for Violin and Piano (2002) was written as a tribute for violinist Felix Galimir, whom Kirchner befriended at the Marlboro Music Festival. Galimir was a close personal friend of Alban Berg, one of the so-called “Trinity of the Second Viennese School” and one of Schoenberg’s two most famous pupils, along with Anton Webern. Kirchner arrived at a compositional language that reflected the influences of the Second Viennese School while incorporating his own experiences as an American composer.

Sessions’ Sonata for Violin (1953) was the last work he completed while on the faculty of the University of California Berkley Sessions composed this work using his own adaptation of Schoenberg’s 12-tone method. He called this work “difficult as hell’; it was commissioned as a tribute a violinist, Robert Arthur Gross, who studied composition with both Sessions and Schoenberg. Sessions’ Duo for Violin and Cello (1978) was the last piece of chamber music he wrote, at the age of 82. (Kirchner, coincidentally, was 82 when he composed his Duo for Violin and Piano). Dedicated to his son, a cellist, and his daughter-in-law, a violinist, Sessions’ Duo explores moods and states of a relationship – solitude, tranquility, conflict, and unity.

Like Sessions’ Duo, Schoenberg’s Phantasy for Violin with Piano Accompaniment, Op. 47 (1949) is the composer’s last work of chamber music, and, like Session’s Sonata for Violin, is dedicated to a violinist friend of the composer, Adolph Koldofsky, who premiered both this work and Schoenberg’s String Trio.

Transformations | Elizabeth Chang, violin | Albany Records | Release Date: April 2, 2021 | with Steven Beck, piano and Alberto Parrini, cello

Produced/Engineered by Adam Abeshouse | Edited by Doron Schachter and Adam Abeshouse | Mixed and Mastered by Adam Abeshouse | Recorded at Westchester Studios. Recording made possible through the generous support of the University of Massachusetts Amherst Faculty Research/Healey Endowment Grant.

About the Artists

Violinist Elizabeth Chang enjoys a multi-faceted career as performer, teacher, and arts administrator. Her performing career has taken her to more than twenty countries and her chamber music appearances have included collaborations with many of today's leading artists. She is currently Professor of Violin at the University of Massachusetts Amherst and a member of the violin and viola faculties of the Pre-College Division of the Juilliard School. In the summers she serves on the faculties of Green Mountain Chamber Music Festival and Brancaleoni International Music Festival in Italy.

Chang is Artistic Director and co-founder of the Lighthouse Chamber Players (Cape Cod) as well as co-founder and co-organizer of the Five College New Music Festival, the UMass Amherst Bach Festival and Symposium and Musique de Chambre en Val Lamartinien (Burgundy, France). She also co-founded the NYU Intensive Quartet Workshop and The School for Strings Intensive Chamber Music Workshop.

Chang has worked with a number of composers on new works for violin and including violin, most notably and extensively with Salvatore Macchia, Eric Sawyer, and Lewis Spratlan. Prior to her appointment to UMass, Chang toured and recorded extensively with the Orchestra of St. Luke's and the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and performed with a number of new music groups based in New York City. She was formerly an Artist Faculty member of New York University and of the Mason Gross School of the Arts at Rutgers University. Chang was a violin student of Louise Behrend, Joseph Fuchs, Roman Totenberg, and Max Rostal, and worked extensively with Leon Kirchner and Luise Vosgerchian. She is a graduate of Harvard College and was a recipient of the Presidential Scholar in the Arts award.

A recent New York concert by pianist Steven Beck was described as “exemplary” and “deeply satisfying” by Anthony Tommasini in The New York Times. Beck is an experienced performer of new music, having worked with Elliott Carter, Pierre Boulez, Henri Dutilleux, Charles Wuorinen, George Crumb, George Perle, and Fred Lerdahl, and performed with ensembles such as Speculum Musicae and the New York New Music Ensemble. He is a member of the Knights, the Talea Ensemble, and the Da Capo Chamber Players. He is also a member of Quattro Mani, a piano duo specializing in contemporary music. As an orchestral musician he has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the New York City Ballet Orchestra, Orpheus, the Mariinsky Orchestra and many others. Recent performances include “Carnival of the Animals” with the New York Philharmonic and Beethoven’s Triple Concerto with the Princeton Symphony. Beck gives an annual Christmas Eve performance of Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” at Bargemusic; this has become a New York institution. Beck’s discography includes Peter Lieberson's third piano concerto (for Bridge Records) and a recording of Elliott Carter’s “Double Concerto” on Albany Records. He is a Steinway Artist.

Alberto Parrini has toured North America, Europe and Asia with Mikhail Baryshnikov and the White Oak Dance Project and performed with Arco Ensemble, Concertante, Continuum, Mark Morris Dance Group, Metamorphosen Chamber Orchestra, Minnesota Orchestra, Mirror Visions, Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, Proteus Ensemble and Sinfonietta of Riverdale. His festival appearances include Evian, Tanglewood, Taos, Verbier, Ottawa, Montreal, San Miguel de Allende, Spoleto U.S.A., Music@Menlo, Windham, The Weekend of Chamber Music and the Piatigorsky seminar. He is principal cellist of the Northeastern Pennsylvania Philharmonic and a member of the American Symphony and Orchestra of St. Luke’s He also performs regularly with East Coast Chamber Orchestra, Lenape Chamber Ensemble, Lighthouse Chamber Players, Richardson Chamber Players, New Jersey Symphony and New York Philharmonic. As a founding member of the Zukofsky Quartet he gave performances of the complete string quartets of Milton Babbitt in New York and Chicago. He performed throughout the U.S. with the American Chamber Players from 2004 to 2010, was the cellist of the St. Lawrence String Quartet in 2002-03 and spent one season as assistant principal cellist with the Richmond Symphony. His principal studies were with Timothy Eddy, Joel Krosnick, David Soyer, Colin Carr and Enrico Egano; he is a graduate of the Curtis Institute and the Juilliard School. Parrini teaches cello at Princeton University and at The College of New Jersey. In the summer, he teaches at Kinhaven Music School, where he is also co-director of the Adult Chamber Music Workshop.

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