Matthew Strauss has been applauded throughout the United States as a charismatic and energetic percussionist and timpanist with a diverse musical background. In addition to his position as Associate Principal Timpanist/Section Percussionist with the Houston Symphony, Strauss is an Associate Professor of Percussion at Rice University and faculty member at the Texas Music Festival at the University of Houston.
Prior to his post in Houston, Strauss performed as a member of the percussion section in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra throughout the 2002-03 and 2003-04 seasons. He also has performed with the Philadelphia Orchestra, New York Philharmonic, Boston Symphony Orchestra, San Francisco Symphony, St. Louis Symphony Orchestra, Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, National Symphony Orchestra, Mostly Mozart Festival Orchestra, Atlanta Symphony Orchestra, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra, and Detroit Symphony Orchestra. Solo appearances include performances with the Houston Symphony, Texas Music Festival Orchestra, Akron Symphony, New Hampshire Music Festival, Reading Symphony Orchestra and Delaware Symphony Orchestra. An active chamber musician, he has performed with the Chicago Chamber Musicians, De Camera of Houston, Foundation for Modern Music, Bard Festival Chamber Players, Tucson Winter Chamber Music Festival, Skaneateles Music Festival, and has participated in the Chicago Symphony Orchestra’s contemporary chamber series, Music Now, under the batons of Pierre Boulez and Esa-Pekka Salonen.
Strauss received his bachelor’s degree in Percussion Performance from the Juilliard School and his master’s degree in Performance from the Temple University. He is an alumnus of both the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals and has participated in the Spoleto Music Festival. Prior to his post at Rice University, he taught percussion performance as a Visiting Lecturer at the Frost School of Music at University of Miami for ten years.
Sarah Kirkland Snider
Composer Sarah Kirkland Snider writes music of direct expression and vivid narrative that has been hailed as “rapturous” (The New York Times), “groundbreaking” (The Boston Globe), and “poignant, deeply personal” (The New Yorker). Recently named one of the “Top 35 Female Composers in Classical Music” by The Washington Post, Snider’s works have been commissioned and/or performed by the New York Philharmonic; Boston Symphony Orchestra; San Francisco Symphony; National Symphony Orchestra; Detroit Symphony Orchestra; Philharmonia Orchestra; the Birmingham Royal Ballet; Deutsche Grammophon for mezzo Emily D’Angelo; percussionist Colin Currie; vocalist Shara Nova; eighth blackbird; A Far Cry; and Roomful of Teeth, among many others. The winner of the 2014 Detroit Symphony Orchestra Lebenbom Competition, Snider’s recent projects include Forward Into Light, an orchestral commission for the New York Philharmonic inspired by the American women’s suffrage movement; Mass for the Endangered, a Trinity Wall Street-commissioned prayer for the environment for choir and ensemble; and Hildegard, an opera on 12th-c. German Benedictine visionary/composer/polymath St. Hildegard von Bingen, commissioned by Beth Morrison Projects. The 2022-2023 season saw world premieres for Renée Fleming and Will Liverman; Decoda Ensemble; and the Emerson String Quartet, in their final commission, to premiere on their farewell tour. Penelope and Unremembered, her two genre-defying LP song cycles, earned critical acclaim from The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, Gramophone Magazine, and Pitchfork, among others. In Fall 2020, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records co-released Snider’s third LP: Mass for the Endangered, performed by English vocal ensemble Gallicantus, to wide critical acclaim; the Mass has since seen over 35 live performances with choirs the world over. In Fall 2023, Nonesuch Records and New Amsterdam Records released The Blue Hour, a collaborative song cycle with composers Rachel Grimes, Angélica Negrón, Shara Nova, and Caroline Shaw for vocalist Shara Nova with A Far Cry string orchestra, on text by Carolyn Forché. A founding Co-Artistic Director of Brooklyn-based non-profit New Amsterdam Records, Snider has an M.M. and Artist’s Diploma from the Yale School of Music and a B.A. from Wesleyan University.
Jennifer Higdon makes her living solely from commissions. Her works represent a range of genres, from chamber to orchestral and wind ensemble, as well as vocal, choral and opera. Her music has been hailed by Fanfare Magazine as having “the distinction of being at once complex, sophisticated but readily accessible emotionally,” with the Times of London citing it as “…traditionally rooted, yet imbued with integrity and freshness.”
Familiar to Cabrillo Festival audiences, Higdon has been in residence during six previous seasons. Cabrillo Festival has co-commissioned and presented the West Coast premieres of On a Wire in 2010 and Duo Duel this season; as well, we presented the World Premiere of her Saxophone Concerto with Tim McAllister in 2007.
Higdon’s list of commissioners is extensive and includes orchestras such as The Philadelphia Orchestra, The Chicago Symphony, The Cleveland Orchestra, and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, as well such chamber groups as the Tokyo String Quartet and Eighth Blackbird. She has written works for the band world, ranging from Baldi Middle School to “The President’s Own” U.S. Marine Band. Her collaborations with soloists have included works for such artists as percussionists Svet Stoyanov, Matthew Strauss, and Colin Currie, baritone Thomas Hampson, pianists Yuja Wang and Gary Graffman, and violinists Jennifer Koh and Hilary Hahn. Her first opera, Cold Mountain, was commissioned by Santa Fe Opera and Opera Philadelphia. A suite from that opera was recently co-commissioned by a group of 37 orchestras. In September 2024, Opera Philadelphia will premiere her new chamber opera, Woman With Eyes Closed.
Higdon received the 2010 Pulitzer Prize in Music for her Violin Concerto (heard at the Cabrillo Festival in 2014, performed by Justin Bruns). She is a three-time Grammy-winner, for her concerti for Harp, Viola, and Percussion (also previously performed at the Cabrillo Festival).
Duo Duel is available on the Naxos label, in its premiere performances with the Houston Symphony (Svet Stoyanov and Matthew Strauss, soloists). Her works are recorded on more than 90 CDs.
Higdon enjoys more than 200 performances annually of her works. Her orchestral work, blue cathedral, is one of the most performed contemporary orchestral works in the repertoire.
Heralded as “music with a distinctive voice” by the New York Times and as “lyrical, colorful, firmly rooted in tradition, but absolutely new” by the Washington Post, Sebastian Currier’s music has been presented at major venues worldwide by acclaimed artists and orchestras. He returns to Cabrillo Festival after his 2015 residency for the U.S. premiere of his work Quanta.
With works spanning across solo, chamber and orchestral genres, Currier’s works have been performed by Anne-Sophie Mutter, the Berlin Philharmonic, the New York Philharmonic, the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and the Kronos Quartet, among many others. In 2021, conductor Louis Langrée led the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra in the world premiere of Currier’s Beethoven-inspired Track 8, which receives its West Coast premiere this season at Cabrillo Festival. Waves, Currier’s new work for soprano, chamber ensemble, video and electronics, based on Virginia Woolf’s The Waves, was premiered by the Network for New Music in Philadelphia in 2022, then brought to Sarasota by ensemblenewSRQ. Other recent premieres include Voyage Out (2019) for piano quintet, premiered by the Seattle Chamber Music Society; his violin concerto Aether (2018) for violinist Baiba Skride and the Boston Symphony Orchestra with conductor Andris Nelsons (co-commissioned by the Leipzig Gewandhaus); Ghost Trio (2018), premiered by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter, cellist Daniel Müller-Schott, and pianist Lambert Orkis at Carnegie Hall; and Eleven Moons (2018), premiered by soprano Zorana Sadiq and Boston Musica Viva.
Currier’s music has been enthusiastically embraced by violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter who has commissioned, premiered, and recorded several of Currier’s pieces, including his “rapturously beautiful” (New York Times) violin concerto Time Machines, which was commissioned by Mutter and premiered by the New York Philharmonic in 2011, followed by a recording of the performance released by Deutsche Grammophon.
Currier has received many prestigious awards including the Grawemeyer Award (for the chamber piece Static), Berlin Prize, Rome Prize, a Guggenheim Fellowship, a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and has held residencies at the Institute for Advanced Studies, as well as the MacDowell and Yaddo colonies. He received a DMA from the Juilliard School.
Heralded by The New York Times as “exquisite” for her “attractive and deeply personal creations,” and “unusual, mesmerizing and remarkably relatable” by the National Endowment for the Arts—Bora Yoon is an award-winning, Korean-American, electroacoustic composer, vocalist and sound artist who conjures multimedia soundscapes using digital devices, voice, found objects and instruments from a variety of cultures and historical centuries. Uniquely positioned on the landscape as a hybrid artist working within the field of aural architectures, sound synaesthetics, gestural and non-verbal musical performance–Yoon crafts layered aural experiences which resonate both the past, present and future of the diasporas of which she is a part.
Classically trained and steeped in a first love of choral music, Yoon is fascinated by the intersection of space and sound, maps, human Venn diagrams, handsome sounding kitchenware, sonorities and the pulleys and strings that hold everything together. In all endeavors, she seeks to foster innovation of form in the arts, and its larger resonance in society.
Featured on the front-page of the Wall Street Journal and in the National Endowment for the Arts podcast, Yoon’s music has been presented at Lincoln Center, Carnegie Hall, Singapore Arts Festival, the Nam Jun Paik Art Center (South Korea), Brooklyn Academy of Music, Banff Centre for Art, Smithsonian American Art Museum, and universities and performing arts centers worldwide. Yoon is equally comfortable performing solo on the TED stage as writing for a full orchestra. From advertising and corporate collaborations, to music for dance, theater, film, multimedia performance and site-specific work, Yoon’s work resonates with a wide and diverse range of genres, industries and collaborators, including DJ Spooky, Sō Percussion, Samsung Telecommunications America and WNYC Radiolab’s Jad Abumrad. Yoon has been awarded a Music/Sound fellowship with the New York Foundation for the Arts, a recording grant from the Sorel Organization for Women Composers, a fellowship from the New Jersey State Council on the Arts, a New Music USA project grant, and most recently an IDEA Grant from Opera America.
Forward Into Light (2020)
Sarah Kirkland Snider (b.1973)
[West Coast Premiere]
Forward Into Light is a meditation on perseverance, bravery, and alliance.
The piece was inspired by the American women suffragists–Sojourner Truth, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Frances E.W. Harper, Ida B. Wells, Zitkála-Šá, and Mabel Lee Ping-Hua, to name but a few–who devoted their lives to the belief that women were human beings and therefore entitled to equal rights and protections under the law of the United States of America.
I wrote the music thinking about what it means to believe in something so deeply that one is willing to endure harassment, isolation, assault, incarceration, force-feedings, and life endangerment to fight for it. Forward Into Light does not attempt to tell the story of the American women’s suffrage movement, but rather to distill the emotional and psychological contours of faith, doubt, and what it means to persevere.
Forward Into Light features a musical quote from March of the Women, composed in 1910 by British composer and suffragette Dame Ethel Smyth. The anthem of the women’s suffrage movement, March of the Women was sung in homes and halls, on streets and farms, and on the steps of the United States Capitol.
The title of the piece derives from a suffrage slogan made famous by the banner that suffragist Inez Milholland carried while riding a white horse to lead the National American Woman Suffrage Association parade on March 3, 1913, in Washington, D.C.:
“Forward, out of error
Leave behind the night
Forward through the darkness
Forward into light!”
–Sarah Kirkland Snider
Duo Duel (2020)
Jennifer Higdon (b. 1962)
[West Coast Premiere / Festival Co-commission]
Duo Duel is a double percussion concerto, where two soloists duel it out at the front of the stage, and at various points, they work together to duel it out with the orchestra. The soloists use only pitched percussion: a marimba and a vibraphone (which they share), and each has three timpani. The work is in one continuous movement, but moves through this pattern of tempi: Slow, Fast, Slow, Fast-Cadenza (the fastest cadenza ever written for percussionists), and then the final stretch of Fast, with dueling timpani. Duo Duel was commissioned by the Houston Symphony, the University of Miami Frost School, and the Cabrillo Festival. Its 41,973 notes are dedicated to Svet Stoyanov and Matthew Strauss.
Track 8 (2019)
Sebastian Currier (b. 1959)
[West Coast Premiere]
When the Cincinnati Symphony asked me to write a piece for them that somehow connected with Beethoven’s Eighth Symphony, I decided to take their request more literally than they might have expected. Each of the four movements in Track 8 in some way parallels or “tracks” the four movements of the Beethoven. Sometimes I use the Beethoven literally. Other times I recast the material, but always maintaining some audible connection to the original. One could almost call it a Beethoven remix.
The fact that I directly use material from Beethoven’s symphony, might well seem to some as offensive, as if there is some desecration in the practice. I grew up on Beethoven and, unsurprisingly, am in awe of the power and breadth of his music. My intention in Track 8 is not at all to do violence, but to pay homage to this wonderful enduring piece. But the wider point I wish to make is that, for me, Beethoven doesn’t seem “old” or “a relic of the past”, but something totally vital, alive, and relevant today.
In the first movement, Signposts, exact quotes of the first movement of Beethoven’s 8th appear as short fragments arranged in chronological order. In between these strongly chiseled chunks of Beethoven, I have interpolated more atmospheric music, which has almost no motivic connection to the Beethoven. Two different world coexisting. One, strong and assured. The other, somewhat adrift. Only at the end of the movement does the Beethoven become assimilated. We hear the opening motive that begins the symphony presented in a slowed down, euphonious, nostalgic transformation.
The second movement, Metronome, once again “tracks” with the second movement of the 8th Symphony. In addition to using literal quotes, it takes off from what is often remarked as the clock-like, metronomic quality of the repeated chords that are heard throughout the movement. Here, that material is recast as a somewhat off-kilter clock formed from pizzicato violins, piano, and percussion. This occasionally gives way to the actual Beethoven, which tends to dissolve quickly back into the prevailing texture. But, in this movement, Beethoven’s 8th is no the only piece quoted. The clicking of the clock made me think about time. The Beethoven was written toward the beginning of the 19th century and here I was writing my piece toward the beginning of the 21st century. The early 20th century formed a midpoint and I thought to include some quotations from then, as a bridge between the two worlds. I thought of two pieces which were not only totally incongruous with each other, but also with the Beethoven and, I felt, with me too. The two other pieces quoted in this moment are Anton Webern’s Op. 6 orchestral pieces and a song of Irving Berlin, “When I Lost You”. Weird, arbitrary choices? Yes! But that’s what interested me. It’s satisfying to bring things together that don’t seem to fit. It says that things are more interconnected than we might think! The movement ends with the Webern and Irving Berlin pieces sounding together simultaneously.
The third movement, Stretched Time, engages with the minuet from the Beethoven. It is often remarked that Beethoven’s 8th lacks a bonafide slow movement, as the second movement, with its clock-ticking figuration and marking “scherzando,” doesn’t seem particularly slow or characteristic. Richard Wagner, weighing in on the matter, suggested that the minuet was actually the slow movement, and that the second movement should be performed as a sherzo. This struck me as totally absurd. But it did influence my recasting of the minuet. Here, the opening material of the Beethoven is presented very slowed down, creating a floating, dreamy atmosphere. I imagine Beethoven’s theme suffering a parallel fate to the clock in Dali’s painting. In the last movement, Source Code, Beethoven’s whimsical, high energy last movement, takes on a more snarky, sarcastic tone. The phrase “source code” could be applied to my whole piece, as easily as to just the last movement. Although, of course most of the piece sounds nothing like Beethoven, nonetheless it is his amazing symphony that lurks behind every note.
The Wind of Two Koreas (2019)
Bora Yoon (b. 1980)
[West Coast Premiere]
The Wind of Two Koreas is a meditation and exploration on cultural identity, bifurcation, and the movements and music surrounding the resulting global musical diaspora of Korea’s history and present day–inspired by Igor Stravinsky’s Firebird Suite and Finale, exploring his cultural identity with the cultural mythology, folklore, political landscape, and common knowledge folk songs within Russian culture.
The first movement, “Sweeping Changes” was created, using the rhythmic architecture of ancient Korean shamanic percussion samdo-garak drum patterns and cells, transformed into harmonic gestures and pitches, for 4-hand piano, and then unto the orchestral palatte. Illustratively, gestures were chosen to depict horrors found in the Ten Courts of Hell, before Buddhist reincarnation, and the punishments which befit one’s crimes from a past life. Almost a bird’s eye view flying through the ten courts of hell, the aural journey begins from looking into the Mirror of Retribution, facing a myriad of torrid and awful deaths, eventually reaching the 10th ring, the Wheel of Reincarnation.
Spinning wheel, spinning wheel,
Turn, turn, turn…
An old Korean folk song “Spinning Wheel”, is juxtaposed with the patriotic anthems of the DPRK/North Korea juxtaposed with South Korea’s K-pop retaliation sound bites, as the conflict of past and progress, future, and history come into conflict with one another, of a culture and blood that is ultimately, one. The brief transition between the two movements represents the Pavilion of Forgetfulness, where one drinks the potion before entering the next life.
The second movement, “Deliverance / Return / Grace” is based primarily on Korean lyric song “Half Moon,” juxtaposed with wafts of altered melodies of “Arirang” and “Doraji”– two ancient Korean folk melodies–in order to pull back the lens to a place before division and conflict, but to a more elemental unity and unifying perspective, older than both Koreas.
Blue heaven, Milky Way–on a white ship gay
A laurel tree–one laurel tree and a rabbit on tiptoe.
No mast is there aloft, it has no oars at play–
Fine sailor! Fine sailing! Westward you go.
The Milky Way you sail across, on to Cloudland so–
Cloudland you travel through–O whither do you go?
Twinkling, twinkling tiny sparks beckon you from far–
Sail on and you will reach the lighthouse, Morning Star.
Doraji! Doraji! Doraji!
Deep, deep mountains, white doraji!
Though one or two roots only I pull,
Slowly and surely my bamboo basket grows full.
Arirang, Arirang, Arariyo,
Arirang Pass is the long road you go.