Primary tabs

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble Takes to Water

January 22, 2013

Hanging out with Left-Coasters Photo by Lydia ChenThe always-adventurous, never-compromising Left Coast Chamber Ensemble is exceeding its own high standards of programming for the next pair of concerts, Jan. 31 in Mill Valley and Feb. 4 in the S.F. Conservatory.

"Cool Water Clear Water" is the theme, and other than a couple of indispensible Debussy pieces — "Reflets dans l’eau" (Reflections on Water) from Images, and "L’isle joyeuse" (Island of Joy) — it'll be a wild ride with five contemporary composers: Toru Takemitsu, Ramteen Sazegari, Eun Young Lee, Jen Wang, and George Crumb.

To respond to Crumb's Voice of the Whale, Left Coast commissioned emerging composers Lee and Wang to write companion pieces, exploring the ocean, nature, and time. Samzari has written a response piece to Takemitsu's Toward the Sea.

Takemitsu's Toward the Sea, written as a contribution to Greenpeace, protests the hunting of endangered whales. The composer viewed the sea as a "spiritual domain" and cited Herman Melville's Moby Dick: "Let the most absent-minded of men be plunged in his deepest reveries ... and he will infallibly lead you to water ... Yes, as everyone knows, meditation and water are wedded together."

Stacey Pelinka Photo by Jordan MurphyLCCE's flutist Stacey Pelinka, featured in the concerts, comments on the program:

The Takemitsu was the first piece I ever played with Left Coast (in 1998). The Crumb was the first piece I played as an official member of the group. I've always been attracted to water and these two pieces have been favorites for a long time, but my performances with Left Coast were my first chance to play the pieces. I recommended Jen Wang for the commission because of a piece of hers I played and really enjoyed at UC Berkeley called The Garden of Forking Paths.

Left Coast founder Kurt Rohde says of the upcoming concerts:

Left Coast has had a deep commitment to young, emerging composers. For me, and a lot of us I am sure, it is one of the most important and exciting things we have been doing for the past 20 years. Asking someone who is a gifted composer to write a new work that will get significant rehearsal and a few performances is a real opportunity for everyone involved. One of the points we like to focus on with these new work is to ask the composer to base the work on an existing piece from the standard repertoire.

Both the Takamitsu and Crumb are basic rep these days, works that hold the revelatory quality that all great music achieves. By asking Ramteen Sazegari, Eun Young Lee, and Jen Wang to create these new works based on the Takamitsu and Crumb respectively, Left Coast is taking a thrilling risk: We are going to get music by someone most people have never heard of, and that most of our players are not familiar with.

I think these types of programming projects exemplify the value and contribution to creating art by new artists that is deeply lacking in many areas of our culture. These new works bring a vitality to the new-music scene in the Bay Area, and beyond, as many composers who were unknown at the time when we first commissioned them have gone onto great things.

To sample Left Coast's recent performances: Yu-Hui Chang's Under a Dim, Orange Light, Lei Liang's Serashi Fragments, Stephen Hartke's The Horse with the Lavender Eye.

Left Coast's next series, March 21 and 25, is called "To Schumann With Love," concerts celebrating the romance of music in a special tribute to Schumann, featuring Andrea Plesnarski and Tom Nugent, Left Coast's married pair of oboists. Schumann’s Violin Sonata will be presented along with works by his wife Clara, and their great friend Brahms, as well as a tribute to Schumann by Finnish composer Olli Kortekangas and a new work by Eric Zivian, composed for and dedicated to Plesnarski and Nugent.

Janos Gereben appreciates news tips, corrections, and words of encouragement at