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University Chamber Music series presents the Kandinsky Trio in concert


BLACKSBURG, Va., Jan. 22, 2009 – Virginia Tech's Department of Music University Chamber Music series presents the Kandinsky Trio featuring violinist Benedict Goodfriend, cellist Alan Weinstein, and pianist Elizabeth Bachelder performing music by Joseph Haydn, Franz Schubert and John D'earth.

Performances will be on Saturday, Jan. 31 at 8 p.m. and Sunday, Feb. 1 at 3 p.m. in the Squires Recital Salon located in the Squires Student Center adjacent to downtown Blacksburg on College Avenue.

Haydn breathed new life into the piano trio genre and his style certainly could be felt in Schubert’s treatment of the form. Haydn’s masterful A-flat Major Trio and Schubert’s transcendent E-flat Major are two works showing each composer’s talents. John D’earth’s “Silent Faustus,” a piece championed by the Kandinsky Trio, will round out the program.

“Silent Faustus” is John D'earth's made-for-Kandinsky Trio adaptation of a two-hour score he created for the 1926 silent film masterpiece Faust directed by Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau. That composition, completed in 2003 and performed live to screenings of the film, features trumpet, multiple reeds, orchestral and jazz percussion, chapman stick, and acoustic bass. The Kandinsky Trio adaptation is a condensed version of the original score, which relies less on the linear and literal unfolding of the famous tale than on a musical evocation of the four main phases of Faust's story.

Commenting about the trio, D’earth says, “The Kandinskies welcome risk and seem to thrive outside the usual classical comfort zones while informing their work with the highest traditional performance values. This combination of traditionalism and bold innovation has made them into the force they have become as a chamber group and as commissioners and champions of new works. It is also, perhaps, responsible in part, for their remarkable longevity and success as a working trio. “Silent Faustus” pushes their limits in new ways, especially in the area of improvisation. They are all being asked to improvise their parts at various points in the piece both as soloists and accompanists.”

D’earth goes on to say, “Murnau's treatment of the Faust legend, which has seen many incarnations, is extremely humorous in ways both intended and unintended. Melodrama, by definition, lampoons itself even as it insists on the seriousness of its themes, which are, inevitably, over-heated renditions of timeless human verities like love, death, temptation, betrayal, and redemption. The Kandinskies are masters of inviting uproarious humor and irreverence to co-exist with the deep seriousness of their musical mission.”

D'earth -- a composer, trumpet player, jazz musician and arranger -- began playing music professionally at age fourteen in and around his hometown of Holliston, Mass. As a teenager he studied with a gifted saxophone player named Boots Mussulli, who started a youth jazz band, The Milford Area Youth Orchestra, which played at the Newport Jazz Festival and opened for Duke Ellington at the Globe Jazz Festival in Boston. D’earth has appeared on over 40 CDs, records, and film scores and has performed throughout the United States, Canada, Europe, South America, and mainland China.

He has performed with or written music for such artists as Buddy Rich, Bruce Hornsby, Miles Davis/Quincy Jones, Mel Torme, and Lionel Hampton. He also wrote the string arrangements for the Kronos String Quartet's appearance on Halloween and The Stone titles from the recent Dave Matthews Band CD, Before These Crowded Streets. His teaching experience includes the University of Virginia, James Madison University, Virginia Commonwealth University, St. Anne's Belfield School, and the Tandem School. He now teaches in the jazz program at the University of Virginia, producing and directing concerts with the UVa Jazz Ensemble. D’earth performs regularly with his band on Thursday nights at Miller’s in Charlottesville.

Now in its twenty-first season, the Kandinsky Trio is celebrating one of the longest and most successful artist residencies in the United States with over a thousand concerts of high caliber chamber music in the U.

S., Europe, and Canada, including New York (Miller Theater and Merkin Hall), Washington (The Kennedy Center), Atlanta (Spivey Hall), Oklahoma City, Tampa (Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center), Portland, Charleston, San Francisco, Banff, Bratislava, Budapest, Vienna, and Zagreb. The Kandinsky Trio has also been heard at such venues as the Interlochen Festival, the Concert Society at Maryland, the Tennessee Performing Arts Center in Nashville, Cincinnati’s Aronoff Center, and the Center for the Arts at Penn State.

Its recordings are aired regularly on Boston’s WGBH, Chicago’s WFMT, and the Maine, Georgia, Nevada, Wisconsin, and Minnesota Public Radio Networks. Live performances have been broadcast on the MacNeil/Lehrer News Hour, numerous times on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and WNYC’s Around New York. Their CD, In Foreign Lands (Brioso), released in 2003, was selected by WNED (Buffalo and Toronto) as one of the best CDs of the year, and London’s Music and Vision dubbed it “one of the year’s best chamber music recordings.” The Charleston Post and Courier named the group “a trio of stunning talent” after their appearance on the 2008 Spotlight Series at Piccolo Spoleto.

Described as “spirited and persuasive” by the American Record Guide, and “virtuosity, with spine-tingling precision” by the Cincinnati Enquirer, the trio draws in new audiences with both its passionate performances of masterworks and innovative ideas in re-defining chamber music. In 2002, the trio was in residence at the European/American Masterclasses at the Hindemith Center in Blonay, Switzerland, and continues one of this country’s most enduring chamber music residencies at historic Roanoke College.

The Kandinsky Trio regularly collaborates with such diverse artists as bassist James VanDemark, violinist/violist Ida Kavafian, cellist Steven Doane, soprano Dawn Upshaw, composer Gunther Schuller, storyteller Connie Regan-Blake, and jazz legend Larry Coryell. Their innovative projects have included Mike Reid’s Tales of Appalachia for Trio and storyteller, commissioned for the trio by nine presenting organizations and performed on over 100 concert series, and John D’earth’s Natural Bridge, for trio, jazz bass, and guitar with jazz great Kurt Rosenwinkel.

Their newest project, with storyteller/whistler Andy Offutt Irwin, features unique arrangements of jazz standards and folk music to create a totally original musical experience.

Alan Weinstein, a founding member of the Kandinsky Trio, is also assistant professor of cello and bass for the Virginia Tech Department of Music.

Tickets are $15 for general admission, $10 for seniors, and $5 for students and are available in advance through the University Unions and Student Activities Box Office in the Squires Student Center, at (540) 231-5615, online, and at the door one hour prior to performance time.