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Members of Ensemble ACJW will perform Steampunk, a new piece written for them by David Bruce. (Carnegie Hall Archive)

Chamber Music In The Greene Space: Ensemble ACJW

by Brian Wise
Apr 4, 2011 (WQXR-FM)

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Ensemble ACJW had a genesis quite unlike any that of any other chamber group. A collective of about 20 hand-selected graduates of major conservatories, the members receive mentorship and professional development while working as music teachers in New York City Public Schools. The two-year fellowship is a partnership of the Juilliard School, Carnegie Hall and the Weill Music Institute in association with the public school system. The ensemble varies in size and instrumentation, depending on the repertoire.

Since its launch in 2007, Ensemble ACJW has played in small clubs and schools as well as New York's prominent venues. "The ability to really jump between [classical and contemporary] is something that's unique to our ensemble," violinist Joanna Frankel, a former member, is quoted as saying on the group's website. Frankel will perform Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello as part of the chamber music series this week at WQXR's Greene Space.

A quick review of the Ensemble's most recent performances points to a balance that has kept listeners on their toes. At a recent gig at Le Poisson Rouge, a small downtown club in New York, members of the ensemble delivered works by Mozart, Jonathan Dawe, Gyorgy Kurtag and Charles Ives (The Unanswered Question and the Piano Trio). Another recent program mixed Rameau, Ligeti and Richard Strauss.

During a trip to Abu Dhabi in March, the Ensemble teamed up with Emirati opera singer Sara Al Qaiwani at the debut of the Zaha Hadid Pavilion for a program of Schubert's Shepherd on the Rock, Mozart's "Kegelstatt" Trio, Ravel's Sonata for Violin and Cello and Schumann's Piano Quartet in E-flat Major. The Emirates News Agency WAM called the night "a dazzling blend of Western and traditional Emirati culture."

Also on the Greene Space bill is composer David Bruce's Steampunk, a brand-new work commissioned by Carnegie Hall for the group. Bruce recently told reporter Jeff Lunden how the piece was inspired by the quirky science-fiction genre. "Steampunk is a kind of an alternative reality of Victorian sci-fi, if you like," Bruce said. "So people often are kind of dressed in Victorian garb, but have these futuristic things, but there's no electricity there. It's all kind of steam-powered. The music I love is classical and folk music. Both don't usually involve electricity. It's usually just the sound of, you know, people scraping bows or puffing on their instruments."

Set List

Ravel: Sonata for Violin and Cello
(Joanna Marie Frankel, violin; Nicholas Canellakis, cello)

Bruce: Steampunk
(Ensemble ACJW)

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