The Choral Artists and the renowned Alexander String Quartet, two of the Bay Area’s beloved and wide-ranging chamber ensembles, come together for the first time in a landmark program of new compositions for chamber choir and string quartet. Together, they explore the rich sonic and emotional palette of this unusual musical configuration in rarely performed classics and new works by important contemporary composers.

Major new commissioned works by North American Composers Paul Seiko Chihara, Michael Gandolfi, and Veronika Krausas are paired with the romantic outpourings of Brahms Quartets Opus 92 — in a lush new transcription for choir and string quartet — and Beethoven’s tender Elegischer Gesang. A “Meet the Composers panel” 45 minutes before each concert offers the audience insight into the creative processes behind the three major new works.

Canadian composer Veronika Krausas pays tribute to San Francisco in language of the birds, a swirling and “slightly demented” musical riff on Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s poetic portrait of San Francisco, with sounds ranging from atmospheric evocations of nature to whimsical depictions of birds. Paul Chihara draws on the sumptuous poetry of Paul Verlaine in his plush setting of the poet’s famous night song, Clair de lune, and Michael Gandolfi draws on two image-rich poems of Amy Lowell in Winter Light. Brahms’ intensely personal Quartets move from the intimate to cosmic questions of life and art, while Beethoven’s rarely-performed elegy depicts a spiritual homecoming. The program is rounded out with a cappella works by Composer-In-Residence Richard Feliciano (Dawn, a world premiere) and favorites by Composer-Not-in-Residence Stephen Leek and past Composer-Not-in-Residence Christopher Marshall; plus transcriptions for string quartet only of Brahms Intermezzo in A major, Op. 118, No. 2 and Ballade in D major, Op. 10, No. 2.

About the Composers:
– Paul Chihara, b 1938; Composition Professor in the Music for Film department at UCLA. His music crosses boundaries: 12-tone/tonal, Asian/American, Academic/Hollywood, instrumental/choral/ballet. “I was one person working in the movies and another person writing for the concert stage. Now I seem to be the same person.”

– Michael Gandolfi, b 1956; Chair Composition Department at the New England Conservatory. The Atlanta School of Composition says of his work: “tuneful, tonal and inspired by world and popular music.” For more info, explore Garden of Cosmic Speculation, QED: Engaging Richard Feynman, with the Atlanta Symphony Orchestra and Chorus.

– Veronika Krausas, b 1963; Assistant Professor in the Composition Department at Thornton School, University of Southern California. The Globe & Mail (Toronto) writes that “her works, whose organic, lyrical sense of storytelling are supported by a rigid formal elegance, give her audiences a sense that nature’s frozen objects are springing to life.”

– Richard Felciano, b 1930; SFCA Composer-In-Residence, is Professor Emeritus in Composition at the UC Berkeley Department of Music. SFCA has performed serveral of his works.

– Stephen Leek, b 1959; SFCA Composer-Not-in-Residence, is a well-known Australian composer. His stunning new work for SFCA’s December 2010 concerts earned a mid-concert standing ovation!

– SFCA’s 2010 Composer-Not-in-Residence, New Zealander Christopher Marshall wowed audiences last season with his moving tale of a would-be migrant adrift at sea. It’s back by popular demand.

Performances

San Francisco

Sat, May 7, 2011; 8 PM

St. Mark’s Lutheran Church
1111 O’Farrell St, San Francisco

East Bay

Sat, May 14, 2011; 8 PM

St. Paul’s Episcopal ChuSt. Paul’s Episcopal Church, Oaklandrch
114 Montecito Ave, Oakland

Peninsula

Sun, May 15, 2011; 4 PM

St. Mark’s Episcopal Church
600 Colorado Ave, Palo Alto