The opening Sunday Concert of the 2019/20 season brings together Cuban musical phenomenon and 14–time Grammy award-winner Paquito D’Rivera with the versatile Harlem Quartet for a genre-defying collaboration. Rag-time syncopations give William Bolcom’s Three Rags from 1970 swing and verve, while the Scherzo from Claude Debussy’s String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10 shows how jazz-like rhythms are found in some of the most iconic classical works from the 20th century. D’Rivera is the soloist in Carl Maria von Weber’s Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, and the ensemble closes their performance with four works by D’Rivera, including selections from his Suite Aires Tropicales, which explores the musical roots of Cuba, fusing folk, jazz, and classical elements together in an irresistible blend.
WILLIAM BOLCOM (b. 1938)
Three Rags for String Quartet
CLAUDE DEBUSSY (1862-1918)
String Quartet in G minor, Op. 10
II. Assez vif et bien rythmé
CARL MARIA VON WEBER (1786-1826)
Clarinet Quintet in B-flat Major, Op. 34
PAQUITO D’RIVERA (b. 1948)
Suite Aires Tropicales
I. Alborada y son
A Farewell Mambo
Invitación al Danzón
La Fleur de Cayenne
Paquito D’Rivera defies categorization. The winner of 14 GRAMMY Awards, he is celebrated both for his artistry in Latin jazz and his achievements as a classical composer.
Born in Havana, Cuba, he performed at age 10 with the National Theater Orchestra, studied at the Havana Conservatory of Music and, at 17, became a featured soloist with the Cuban National Symphony. As a founding member of the Orquesta Cubana de Musica Moderna, he directed that group for two years, while at the same time playing both the clarinet and saxophone with the Cuban National Symphony Orchestra. He eventually went on to premiere several works by notable Cuban composers with the same orchestra. Additionally, he was a founding member and co-director of the innovative musical ensemble Irakere. With its explosive mixture of jazz, rock, classical, and traditional Cuban music never before heard, Irakere toured extensively throughout America and Europe, won several GRAMMY nominations (1979, 1980) and a GRAMMY (1979).
His numerous recordings include more than 30 solo albums. In 1988, he was a founding member of the United Nation Orchestra, a 15-piece ensemble organized by Dizzy Gillespie to showcase the fusion of Latin and Caribbean influences with jazz. D’Rivera continues to appear as guest conductor. A GRAMMY was awarded the United Nation Orchestra in 1991, the same year D’Rivera received a Lifetime Achievement Award from Carnegie Hall for his contributions to Latin music. Additionally, D’Rivera’s highly acclaimed ensembles—the Chamber Jazz Ensemble, the Paquito D’Rivera Big Band, and the Paquito D’Rivera Quintet are in great demand worldwide.
While D’Rivera’s discography reflects a dedication and enthusiasm for Jazz, Bebop, and Latin music, his contributions to classical music are impressive. They include solo performances with the London Philharmonic, the London Symphony Orchestra, the Warsaw Philharmonic Orchestra, the National Symphony Orchestra, the Baltimore Symphony, the Florida Philharmonic Orchestra, and the Brooklyn Philharmonic. He has also performed with the Puerto Rico Symphony Orchestra, the Costa Rica National Symphony, the Simon Bolivar Symphony Orchestra, the Bronx Arts Ensemble, and the St. Luke’s Chamber Orchestra, among others. In his passion to bring Latin repertoire to greater prominence, D’Rivera has successfully created, championed, and promoted all types of classical compositions, including his three chamber compositions recorded live in concert with distinguished cellist Yo-Yo Ma in September 2003. The chamber work "Merengue," from that live concert at Zankel Hall, was released by Sony Records and garnered Paquito his seventh GRAMMY as Best Instrumental Composition 2004.
In addition to his extraordinary performing career as an instrumentalist, D’Rivera has rapidly gained a reputation as an accomplished composer. The prestigious music house, Boosey and Hawkes, is the exclusive publisher of his compositions. Recent recognition of his compositional skills came with the award of a 2007 John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship in Music Composition, and the 2007-08 appointment as Composer-in-Residence at the Caramoor Center for Music and the Arts with the Orchestra of St. Luke’s. As part of the Caramoor Latin American music initiative, Sonidos Latinos, D’Rivera’s new concerto for double bass and clarinet/saxophone, "Conversations with Cachao," pays tribute to Cuba’s legendary bass player, Israel "Cachao" Lopez. D’Rivera’s works often reveal his widespread and eclectic musical interests, which range from Afro-Cuban rhythms and melodies, including influences encountered in his many travels, and back to his classical origins. Inspiration for another recent composition, "The Cape Cod Files," comes from such disparate sources as Benny Goodman’s intro to the Eubie Blake popular song "Memories of You," Argentinean Milonga, improvisations on the music of Cuban composer Ernesto Lecuona, and North American boogie-woogie. His numerous commissions include compositions for Jazz at Lincoln Center, the Library of Congress, the National Symphony Orchestra, and Rotterdam Philharmonic, the Turtle Island String Quartet, Ying String Quartet, the International Double Reed Society, Syracuse University, Montreal’s Gerald Danovich Saxophone Quartet, and the Grant Park Music Festival.
Another commission came about through ensemble Opus 21’s interest in building bridges between audiences of different backgrounds. Dedicated to the works and art music of the 21st century, Opus 21 commissioned "The Chaser" and premiered it in May, 2006. In 2005, Imani Winds, a woodwind quintet committed to the exploration of diverse world music traditions and the broadening of the traditional wind quintet literature, commissioned "Kites." This work personifies freedom and the vision that liberty and independence have a foundation through culture and music. Just as a kite may fly freely, its path continues to be bound to the earth–its foundation, by the string.
New York-based Harlem Quartet, currently serving a three-year residency at London’s Royal College of Music, has been praised for its “panache” by The New York Times and hailed in the Cincinnati Enquirer for “bringing a new attitude to classical music, one that is fresh, bracing and intelligent.” It has also won plaudits from such veteran musicians as GRAMMY-winning woodwind virtuoso Ted Nash of the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, who declared in a May 2018 Playbill article, “Harlem Quartet is one of the greatest string quartets I have ever heard. They can play anything.” Since its public debut at Carnegie Hall in 2006, the ensemble has thrilled audiences and students in 47 states as well as in the UK, France, Belgium, Brazil, Panama, Canada, Venezuela, Japan, and South Africa.
Harlem Quartet has three distinctive characteristics: diverse programming that combines music from the standard string quartet canon with jazz, Latin, and contemporary works; a collaborative approach to performance that is continually broadening the ensemble’s repertoire and audience reach through artistic partnerships with other musicians from the classical and jazz worlds; and an ongoing commitment to residency activity and other forms of educational outreach.
The Quartet’s mission is to advance diversity in classical music, engaging young and new audiences through the discovery and presentation of varied repertoire that includes works by minority composers. Passion for this work has made the quartet a leading ensemble in both educational and community engagement activities. In this capacity, the quartet has written several successful grants, including a Cultural Connections Artist-In-Residence grant from James Madison University and a 2016 Guarneri String Quartet grant from Chamber Music America; the latter allowed the quartet to participate in an extended performance and educational residency in Mobile, Alabama that included a close partnership with the Mobile Symphony Orchestra. In the 2017/18 season Harlem Quartet undertook a week of residency activities with the Santa Fe Youth Symphony. And since 2015 it has led an annual workshop at Music Mountain in Falls Village, Connecticut, culminating in a concert at that venue; the Quartet returned to Music Mountain for the fourth time in July 2018.
In addition to performing a varied menu of string quartet literature across the country and around the world, Harlem Quartet has collaborated with such distinguished artists as classical pianists Michael Brown, Awadagin Pratt, Misha Dichter, and Fei-Fei; jazz pianists Chick Corea and Aldo López-Gavilán; violist Ida Kavafian; cellist Carter Brey; clarinetists Paquito D’Rivera, Eddie Daniels, Anthony McGill, and David Shifrin; saxophonist Tim Garland; jazz legends Ted Nash, Gary Burton, Stanley Clarke, and John Patitucci; the Shanghai Quartet; and Imani Winds. Highlights of Harlem Quartet’s 2018/2019 season include debut appearances at Koerner Hall in Toronto (in partnership with D’Rivera) and at the Detroit Jazz Festival (with the Eddie Daniels Quartet), as well as a return to the Chamber Music Society of Detroit, where the quartet closes that organization’s 75th anniversary season with a gala performance at Orchestra Hall in collaboration with pianist Leon Fleisher and the Dover, Catalyst, and Attaca string quartets. Also scheduled are appearances at Ithaca College, SUNY Fredonia, Shriver Hall, the Schubert Club (St. Paul, MN), Youngstown State University, Chamber Music Columbus, Dumbarton Concerts, and the Phoenix Chamber Music Society.
Alongside its regular activities as a chamber ensemble, Harlem Quartet performs a variety of works written for solo string quartet and orchestra. In 2012, with the Chicago Sinfonietta under Music Director Mei-Ann Chen, the quartet gave the world premiere of Leonard Bernstein’s West Side Story as arranged for string quartet and orchestra by Randall Craig Fleischer. It reprised its performance of that score with the Anchorage Symphony Orchestra under Fleischer’s direction, and again with the Santa Fe Concert Association. Chicago Sinfonietta and the Quartet recorded the West Side Story arrangement, along with works for string quartet and orchestra by Michael Abels and Benjamin Lees, for the Cedille Records release Delights and Dances.
Harlem Quartet has been featured on WNBC, CNN, NBC’s Today Show, WQXR-FM, and the News Hour with Jim Lehrer, and it performed in 2009 for President Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama at the White House. The quartet made its European debut in October 2009 performing at the residence of the US ambassador to the UK, and returned to Europe as guest artists and faculty members of the Musica Mundi International Festival in Belgium. In early 2011 the ensemble was featured at the Panama Jazz Festival in Panama City.
The Quartet’s recording career began in 2007 when White Pine Music issued Take the “A” Train, a release featuring the string quartet version of that jazz standard by Billy Strayhorn; the CD was highlighted that year in the November issue of Strings Magazine. A second CD, featuring three string quartets by Walter Piston, was released in 2010 by Naxos. The Quartet’s third recording, released in 2011, is a collaboration with pianist Awadagin Pratt and showcases works by American composer Judith Lang Zaimont. More recently the quartet collaborated with jazz pianist Chick Corea in a Grammy-winning Hot House album that included Corea’s “Mozart Goes Dancing,” which won a separate Grammy as Best Instrumental Composition. The ensemble's latest jazz album, recorded with the Eddie Daniels Quartet and released in 2018 on Resonance Records, is Heart of Brazil: A Tribute to Egberto Gismonti.
Harlem Quartet was founded in 2006 by The Sphinx Organization, a national nonprofit dedicated to building diversity in classical music and providing access to music education in underserved communities. In 2013 the Quartet completed its third and final year in the Professional String Quartet Training Program at New England Conservatory, under the tutelage of Paul Katz, Donald Weilerstein, Kim Kashkashian, Miriam Fried, and Martha Katz.