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Left Coast: Big Season from a Small Ensemble

August 5, 2014

Back row: Michael Goldberg (guitar), Jerome Simas (clarinet), Andrea Plesnarski (oboe), Thomas Nugent (oboe), Stacey Pelinka (flute), Michel Taddei (double bass), Kurt Rohde (viola), Phyllis Kamrin (viola/violin), and Eric Zivian (piano); seated on floor: Anna Presler (violin), Tanya Tomkins (cello) Photo by Jeanette YuIt would be an unusually daring season for a small organization, but not for the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble, which has been consistently adventurous and "out there" for 22 years. Artistic Director Anna Pressler explains what makes the organization tick:

Left Coast’s musicians are interested in the connections between new and old music, how diverse styles relate to each other, and how music connects to the other arts, so we explore the continuum of chamber music, across time and categories, in our programs.

Taking a cue from both the S.F. Silent Film Festival and the San Francisco Symphony, Left Coast is opening the season with "Films & Interludes," a program of silent films accompanied by live scores.

Beginning on Sept. 29 at the S.F. Conservatory of Music, and continuing on Oct. 2 at the 142 Throckmorton Theater in Mill Valley, the concerts will present Marcia Scott’s Bolinas, accompanied by a John Cage composition, and A Trip Down Market Street, scored by Gabriel Bolaños Chamorro, along with David Sanford’s Klatka Still with the video footage that inspired it.

Additionally, the opening concerts will present Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor, L.135; Henri Dutilleux's D’ombre et de silence (In Shadow and Silence), Philippe Bodin's Métal, and Nadia Boulanger’s Modéré from Three Pieces for Cello and Piano.

The versatile group of 12 musicians performing in various combinations continue the season Dec. 7 (Mill Valley) and Dec. 8 (Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion, San Francisco) with "Sung and Strummed," curated by guitarist Michael Goldberg and exploring the "timbral possibilities" of strummed instruments — mandolin, harp, and guitar — with guest artists Ann Moss, Meredith Clark, and Travis Andrews.

Composers featured include Stravinsky, Hans Werner Henze, Domenick Argento, John Anthony Lennon, Frank Martin, Amadeus Regucera, and Sam Nichols.

"Circa 1945," on Feb. 2, 2015 (at the Conservatory) and Feb. 5 (Mill Valley), presents a program inspired by the 1940s — David Coll’s new remix of the Ellington/Strayhorn classic "Take the A-Train," along with Martinu’s neo-classical oboe quartet, Stravinsky's Elegy for Violin, and Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time.

Bottle caps into music: detail of El Anatsui's <em>Hovor II</em>, a work of woven aluminum bottle caps and copper wire inspiring six new compositions Photo by Liz Hager"Death with Interruptions," March 19 and 21 (in the ODC Theater), presents a new work based on Nobel Prize winner José Saramago’s novel Death with Interruptions, music composed by Left Coast founder Kurt Rohde and a libretto by UC Berkeley historian Thomas Laqueur. The new work is complemented by a performance of the slow movement of Franz Schubert’s Death and the Maiden.

The cast of the opera includes Nikki Einfeld, Daniel Cilli, and Christopher Bengochea, and the Volti chorus. Matilda Hofman will conduct, the director is Majel Connery. Death with Interruptions only will have a free performance in UC Berkeley's Hertz Hall, at 12:15 p.m. on March 16.

The season concludes on May 31 and June 1, with "Left Coast Goes to the Museum," new works by six emerging composers: Jean Ahn, Nick Benavides, Jonathan Holland, Emily Koh, Mei-Fang Lin, and Ryan Suleiman, each inspired by two contrasting artworks displayed in Gallery 16 of the de Young Museum.

One black and one gold, the sculptures create art out of leftovers. Cornelia Parker’s Anti-Mass is formed from the charred remains of a church destroyed by arson. On the opposite wall is El Anatsui’s Hovor II, an enormous opulent wall hanging created from discarded bottle tops. The new works will also be performed at the museum, date and time to be announced later.

The May 31-June 1 concerts also include Schumann's Impromptus sur une romance de Clara Wieck for Piano, Opus 5; Thea Musgrave's Impromptu No. 2 for Flute, Oboe and Clarinet; and Jon Deak's Lady Chatterly’s Dream for Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Piano.

In addition to producing its own concerts, LCCE has commissioned and premiered more than 70 new pieces, and sponsors an annual composition contest that draws over 150 applicants each year. The performance of 2014 LCCE competition winner Felix Leuschner’s Krieg ohne Schlacht for Tenor and Cello is scheduled for the May 31-June 1 concerts.

Season tickets are available from the Left Coast website, single tickets at the door or from Brown Paper Tickets.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at [email protected].