MICHELLE DJOKIC, ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Vanessa Perez, piano
kristin lee, violin
steven Laraia, viola
MICHELLE DJOKIC, CELLO
The Concordia Chamber Players perform to acclaim throughout our region. The group has given a concert to open The Princeton Festival since our very first year. For its 16th program at the Festival, Artistic Director Michelle Djokic has selected three sublime works by Grieg, Turina, and Dvořák.
Edvard Grieg’s Andante con Moto (1878) shares the misty melancholy and varied moods of such overtly Norwegian works as his Peer Gynt. Its mournful opening quickly transitions to urgent questioning. An impassioned outburst midway through the piece soon yields to a lighter tone, and the work closes with a quietly reflective passage that seems to suspend the passage of time. The only completed movement of a planned piano trio, this grave and lovely Andante had to wait 100 years to be published.
Spanish composer Joaquín Turina’s stirring Piano Quartet in a minor (1933) distills the Andalusian atmosphere down to its essence. This musical portrait of his native land begins with themes suggestive of Seville and the cante jondo, the serious “deep song” of southern Spain. There are flashes of flamenco passion, such as the solo violin flourish at the start of the third movement. A hint of band music and urgent guitar strumming fills out the picture.
Bohemian and Moravian rhythms, dances, and melodic materials give Antonín Dvořák’s powerful Piano Quartet in E its distinctively Czech character. The stormy first movement shifts between declamatory and contemplative moods, while the slow second movement uses no fewer than five beautiful melodies to create contrasts between lyrical and sorrowful passages. Even the airy, waltz-like third movement has its moments of Gypsy melancholy. The quartet closes with a dazzling, vivacious finale.
Vanessa Perez has developed a significant international profile, playing at some of the most prestigious venues across the U.S., Latin America and Europe. The pianist has performed with conductors such as Gustavo Dudamel, Gustav Meier, James Judd, David Gimenez Carreras, Carlos Izcaray, Diego Matheuz, John Axelrod, and Carlos Miguel Prieto. Praised for her bold, passionate performing style allied with her keenly sensitive musicianship, Perez has been championed by iconic keyboard performers, from the great Claudio Arrau to Lazar Berman and Tamàs Vàsàry. One of her latest projects, “New Worlds,” finds the pianist performing with the American actor Bill Murray (Groundhog Day), cellist Jan Vogler, and violinist Mira Wang. The project explores core American values in literature and music (as represented by the likes of Mark Twain, Walt Whitman, George Gershwin and Leonard Bernstein), as well as inspirations in bridging the New World and Europe.
A recipient of the 2015 Avery Fisher Career Grant, as well as a top prizewinner of the 2012 Walter W. Naumburg Competition and the Astral Artists’ 2010 National Auditions, Kristin Lee enjoys a vibrant career as a soloist, recitalist, chamber musician, and educator. She has appeared as soloist with leading orchestras including The Philadelphia Orchestra, St. Louis Symphony, St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, New Jersey Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, Ural Philharmonic of Russia, and Korean Broadcasting Symphony. She has performed on the world’s finest concert stages, including Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Kennedy Center, Philadelphia’s Kimmel Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Ravinia Festival, (Le) Poisson Rouge in New York, and the Louvre Museum in Paris. As a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Lee performs at Lincoln Center in New York and on tour throughout each season.
Described by the Boston Musical Intelligencer as a musician who “brings personality to his viola’s distinctive deep, warm voice,” Steven O. Laraia served as Principal Violist of the Sarasota Orchestra for the 2015-2019 seasons and joined the Boston Symphony in the fall of 2019. He won the 2012 New England Conservatory Concerto Competition, and took First Prize in the 2014 Hellam Competition and Second Prize in the 2012 MUSICCAS International Young Artists Competition. He received the 2014 Borromeo Guest Artist Award and was a third place laureate in the 11th Annual Sphinx Competition. He has played with groups such as Sejong Soloists, A Far Cry, the Sphinx Virtuosi and the Boston Philharmonic, and in concerts in the US, Germany, the United Kingdom, Spain, the Czech Republic, and Cuba. Laraia is currently on the faculty at Florida Southern College.
Michelle Djokic is Founder and Artistic Director of the Concordia Chamber Players. Since its inception in 1995 Concordia has become known for thoughtful and adventurous programming, with its performances broadcast regularly on WWFM in Princeton, NJ. Her recording with Quartet San Francisco entitled “QSF Plays Brubeck” earned a 2010 Grammy Nomination in Best Classical Crossover. Active as a chamber musician, Ms. Djokic has been invited to collaborate with Emanuel Ax, Menahem Pressler, Lynn Harrell, Toby Appel and Cho-Liang Lin, among others, as well as the Boston Chamber Players. In 2007 she became a member of the New Century Chamber Orchestra. Upon moving to Northern California from the East Coast in 2005 Michelle served as Assistant Principal Cellist of the San Francisco Symphony for two seasons. Her greatest passion is chamber music collaborations with her colleagues around the world and sharing in the development of young musicians.
Enjoy this excerpt of Erich Korngold’s Suite Opus 23 for Left Hand Piano, 2 violins and cello (Rondo-Finale), played by Concordia. You’ll discover why this ensemble has been a staple of The Princeton Festival since its inception, returning every year to delight our audiences!