Puget Sound Piano Trio: Jacobsen Series Concert

April 7, 2017

Music by Beethoven, Shostakovich, Tower;
2 p.m. Sunday, April 23

TACOMA, Wash. – Chamber music that is at times otherworldly, at times tragic, and at times deliciously liberating will be performed by the Puget Sound Piano Trio in their first Jacobsen Concert of the year.

The program of works by Ludwig van Beethoven, Dimitri Shostakovich, and Joan Tower will be performed by a trio that has evolved over more than 30 years, as virtuoso players of one decade have retired from University of Puget Sound’s School of Music and new celebrated artists have stepped into their shoes. The group includes pianist Tanya Stambuk, violinist Maria Sampen, and cellist Alistair MacRae.

The Puget Sound Piano Trio concert will be held Sunday, April 23, at 2 p.m. in Schneebeck Concert Hall. Ticket information and a map of campus are below. Ahead of the performance, music lovers can get a taste of what is to come by listening to the trio on KING FM radio’s NW Focus LIVE show on Friday, April 21, at 8 p.m. 

The Sunday afternoon program on campus will be anchored by two of the central pillars of piano trio literature, representing the 19th and 20th centuries, respectively: the Beethoven "Ghost" Trio in D Major, Opus 70, No. 1 and Shostakovich's iconic Piano Trio No. 2 in e minor, Opus 67. The third piece on the program, Joan Tower's Big Sky, stands at the doorstep to the 21st century.

The "Ghost" Trio takes its nickname from the ominous and otherworldly quality of the slow movement. While the name was not bestowed by Beethoven himself, there is evidence that the German master was thinking of the dramatic and supernatural themes in the plays of Shakespeare as he wrote the music. The piece is emblematic of Beethoven's middle period, drawing upon the structure and vigor of the classical era, as well as the intensity and inspiration of Beethoven’s developing romanticism.

Shostakovich's Piano Trio No. 2 also is a product of its time. Written during World War II, it premiered in 1944 in the newly liberated city of Leningrad, which had endured horror and desperation during the prolonged siege by the Germans. Shostakovich wrote the piece in memory of his friend, Ivan Sollertinsky, who died in the course of a wartime evacuation. However, the emotional intensity of the music can be seen in a larger context: as a response to both the pain of human loss and the difficulty of life under the Soviet state.

Grammy-winning contemporary American composer Joan Tower had this to say about her composition, Big Sky (2000): "Big Sky is a piece based on a memory of riding my horse, Aymara, around in the deep valley of La Paz, Bolivia. The valley was surrounded by the huge and high mountains of the Andes range; and as I rode I looked into a vast and enormous sky. It was very peaceful and extraordinarily beautiful. We never went over one of these mountains, but if we had, it might have felt like what I wrote in this piece." 

The Puget Sound Piano Trio, which delighted Pacific Northwest audiences throughout the late 1980s and early 1990s, was revived just over six years ago, after a 15-year hiatus. The original members included Duane Hulbert, piano; the late Edward Seferian, violin; and Cordelia Wikarski-Miedel, cello. Maria Sampen, director of strings, was part of the revived trio in autumn 2010. The new Cordelia Wikarski-Miedel Artist in Residence Alistair MacRae joined the trio in 2015 and Professor of Piano Tanya Stambuk joined in 2016.

Tanya Stambuk, piano, has appeared internationally as a guest soloist with orchestras including Orchestre National du Capitole de Toulouse, in France; Virginia Symphony Orchestra; Civic Orchestra of Chicago; Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra, in Norway; and the Seattle Symphony. She has performed on radio in New York City, Moscow, and Croatia, and she appeared in the television program In Praise of Women Pianists. Stambuk has been featured in recital at Merkin Concert Hall, in New York City; Academy of Music, in Philadelphia; The Phillips Collection, in Washington, D.C.; and the Chicago Cultural Center. She recorded the piano works of Norman Dello Joio, and won the international piano competition at the Auditório Nacional Carlos Alberto, in Portugal. She is a graduate of The Juilliard School and received her doctorate from Rutgers University.

Maria Sampen, associate professor and director of strings at Puget Sound, has performed as a concert violin soloist with orchestras across the United States, and as a chamber musician in Europe, Asia, and North America. She is in demand as a performer of both standard and experimental works, and frequently collaborates with leading composers. In addition to the Puget Sound Piano Trio, Sampen is a member of The IRIS Orchestra and Brave New Works. Along with her husband, Tim Christie, she spends her summers teaching and performing on the faculties of Brevard Music Festival, in North Carolina, and Walla Walla Chamber Music Festival, in Washington. Sampen holds bachelor and doctoral degrees in violin performance from University of Michigan, and a Master of Music degree from Rice University.

Alistair MacRae, cello, has appeared as a soloist, chamber musician, and orchestral principal throughout North America, and in Europe, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. He is principal cello for the Princeton Symphony Orchestra, and a faculty member at Brevard Music Center. MacRae has performed on radio across the United States, and recorded chamber music by Georg Philipp Telemann, Zolán Kodály, and Laurie Altman, and ensemble CDs of Mozart and Scott Joplin. He has appeared in several series presented by Carnegie Hall. MacRae has performed at major New York chamber music venues and premiered new works at Princeton, Yale, Columbia, and Harvard universities. A graduate of Manhattan School of Music, he has performed his own compositions throughout North America.

The Jacobsen Series, named in honor of Leonard Jacobsen, former chair of the piano department at Puget Sound, has been running since 1984. The Jacobsen Series Scholarship Fund awards annual music scholarships to outstanding student performers and scholars. The fund is sustained entirely by season subscribers and ticket sales.

FOR TICKETS: Tickets are available online at tickets.pugetsound.edu, or at Wheelock Information Center, 253.879.3100. Admission is $15 for the general public; $10 for seniors (55+), students, military, and Puget Sound faculty, staff and students. And remaining tickets will be available at the door.

For directions and a map of the University of Puget Sound campus: pugetsound.edu/directions
For accessibility information please contact accessibility@pugetsound.edu or 253.879.3931, or visit pugetsound.edu/accessibility.

Press photos of the Puget Sound Piano Trio are available upon request.
Photos on the page: Sun and sky (Artist unknown, public domain); Puget Sound Piano Trio, by Sophia El-Wakil '16

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