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Strata Ensemble moves “From Classics to Slang” in 20th-century music program at UUCA

| March 22, 2017, 06:37 PM

On Friday, March 24, at 8 pm, Strata, the acclaimed trio of clarinet, violin/viola, and piano, presents chamber music featuring German Romanticism, Parisian charm, Eastern exoticism, and American swagger. Strata brings together the extraordinary talents of Nathan Williams on clarinet, James Stern on violin/viola, and Audrey Andrist on piano, whose combined credits encompass numerous international prizes and performances across four continents. Their March 24 performance is a second engagement in the Fourth Friday concert series at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis (UUCA), 333 Dubois Road. Tickets are $15 at the door. For more information visit or call 410-266-8044 Monday – Thursday.

The program of 20th-century compositions includes both longtime favorites and new repertoire for the ensemble. Trio, written in 1932 by Aram Khachaturian, is one of the first pieces the group performed together, almost 30 years ago, and it is on their debut CD. The remainder of the program features compositions new for them as a group, beginning with Double Concerto, op. 33, by Max Bruch. Written for clarinet, viola, and orchestra, it combines lush Romanticism with impressive virtuosity, and challenges Andrist to play the entire orchestra part on the piano! The Trio by French modernist Jean Françaix offers both wit and pathos in its five movements.

The program also includes Slang, written in 1994 by the exciting American composer Libby Larsen. Larsen writes about the piece: “The title refers to the use of both jazz and boogie slang and 20th-century ‘new music’ slang throughout the composition…. I am fascinated by the idea that just as we have developed slang in our speaking language, we have also developed a lexicon of musical slang. This composition explores the idea, asking the performers to freely change performance styles as the musical language dictates.”

Speaking for the ensemble, Audrey Andrist notes: “Even the most ardent chamber music enthusiasts are likely not very familiar with the repertoire for clarinet, violin/viola, and piano that we perform…. We always include entertaining commentary and helpful insights in our concerts, often demonstrating small sections of the music to enhance the listening experience for the audience….”

Strata (which refers to layers) brings “deft ensemble playing” and a “talent…that’s worth getting worked up about” (Washington Post) to a repertoire that combines the great trio and duo repertoire of the past with an ever-growing body of new works written especially for them over the nearly 30 years they have been playing together. Equally capable of winning over an audience with unique renderings of popular music and of making even the most complex works accessible, exciting and meaningful, Strata has received enthusiastic repeat engagements at the Piccolo Spoleto Festival, New York’s historic Maverick Concerts, and San Francisco Composers Inc. They have been resident artists at the Banff Centre for the Arts and appeared in New York City under the auspices of the International Society for Contemporary Music.

All holders of the Doctor of Musical Arts degree from the Juilliard School, the members of Strata are dedicated to every level of music education, from the mentoring of graduate students and young professionals, to the initial sparking of musical passion in very young children, to the guiding of audiences in what to listen for. The ensemble’s first CD is available on the AUR label as well as on iTunes and Amazon. They are featured on compact discs of the music of Robert Maggio for CRI and Adam Silverman for Albany Records, and have been recorded live in concert for CBC Radio in Canada.

The March 24 program is part of a monthly concert series, now in its fourth year at the Unitarian Universalist Church of Annapolis (UUCA). Individual tickets are $15, or purchase a Friday Five Pack for $60 at the door for discounts on five uses. The next concert, April 28, will feature Dancing Heart in their new program “Bach-n-Roll,” Music from Bach to Boogie.  See for future programming.

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