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NEC's most popular chamber music series, curated by cellist Laurence Lesser, President Emeritus and Walter W. Naumburg Chair in Music, features faculty, alumni, students and friends. Performers whose names are followed by an asterisk are NEC alumni. Tonight's concert features the world premiere of a work by faculty composer and Guggenheim Award winner Kati Agócs (in photo). Saint Elizabeth Bells will be performed by Paul Katz, cello and Nicholas Tolle, cimbalom.
In a further nod to the Benjamin Britten centennial, a performance of his Prelude and Fugue for 18 string instruments (1943), an homage to J.S. Bach written to celebrate the 10th anniversary of the Boyd Neel Orchestra.
Also, the Beethoven: String Trio in C minor Op.9 No. 3 with Donald Weilerstein, violin; Marcus Thompson, viola; Paul Katz, cello.
Finally, the Poulenc Sextet for Piano and Wind Quintet, Op. 100 will be performed by Renée Krimsier, flute; Michael Wayne, clarinet; Keisuke Wakao, oboe; Richard Ranti, bassoon; Jason Snider, French horn; and Randall Hodgkinson, piano.
Program Note for Saint Elizabeth Bells:
My piece Saint Elizabeth Bells takes its inspiration from bell sounds of the Saint Elizabeth Cathedral in central Budapest. The cathedral is named after Saint Elizabeth of Hungary, a Catholic saint who served the sick. The piece was written in memory of my father, Sándor András Agócs (1932-2011). He spent his final days over Easter in Saint Elizabeth Hospital, which stands next to the cathedral. His room faced the cathedral, and through the open windows he would have heard in semi-consciousness the tolling bells drifting and resonating. Every phrase of the eight-minute piece comes out of the natural intervals of the bell sounds as I mis-remember (and imagine) them, with the purest version—and the part that I composed first—heard in the last minute and a half. The piece is non-linear in progression, but there is an outward expansion in register, and a natural harmonic development. The piece is not mournful, but has a light, evanescent, delicate quality. Inhabiting a meditative space populated with memories just out of reach, it is a dialogue of colours in which time is suspended.
Saint Elizabeth Bells was commissioned by the cellist André Emelianoff, with whom I had worked in 2007 when the Da Capo Chamber Players premiered my quintet Immutable Dreams. André encouraged me to explore my Hungarian roots by writing a piece that includes the cimbalom. Those roots originate with my father, who came from a family of watermelon farmers—the first of his family to be educated—and who fled the county as a political refugee after the 1956 uprising, only to re-settle in Budapest in the 1990s.
To write the piece, I needed to learn to write for the cimbalom, and found it to be a nuanced, timbrally rich partner to my melodious cello lines. Due to a shoulder injury, André was unable to premiere the piece by the time I finally delivered it to him in 2012. I showed the score to my colleague and friend Paul Katz, who brought it to Laurence Lesser's attention. That is how tonight’s world premiere, a fitting opportunity to share a very personal work with both NEC and Greater Boston communities, came to be.
- Kati Agócs