Hilary Purrington’s “Harp of Nerves” to receive world-premiere performance

Hilary Purrington. Photo by JIJI

In 2017, a few months after graduating from the School of Music, composer Hilary Purrington ’17MMA received the American Composers Orchestra’s Underwood Emerging Composer Commission. After her Likely Pictures in a Haphazard Sky was read during the orchestra’s 2017 Underwood New Music Readings, the organization’s artistic director, Derek Bermel, said, “Hilary Purrington’s music spoke in a highly personal voice … Her work unfolded assuredly, revealing an orchestral palette at once austere and lyrical.”

On November 13, the ACO will give the world-premiere performance of Purrington’s guitar concerto, Harp of Nerves. The yield of the Underwood Commission, Purrington’s concerto was written for JIJI (Jiyeon Kim) ’17MM, winner of Victor and Sono Elmaleh First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild’s 2016 Victor Elmaleh Competition. Purrington and JIJI were roommates during their time at Yale. Their careers are in sync in an upward trajectory.

“I had JIJI in mind, of course,” Purrington said, and proposed a guitar concerto upon receiving the commission. During the composition process, Purrington said, “imagining (JIJI) playing the piece (was) helpful. She loves new music and she plays a lot of new music.” Also helpful was “knowing (JIJI’s) character and what she’s going to put into the piece.” That includes the “drama of seeing her playing.”

Throughout her relationship with the ACO, Purrington attended “as many ACO concerts as I could … to really get their sound in my head. I also wanted to have a sense of (Zankel Hall) and them playing in the hall.” That includes the subway rumble audiences can feel if not hear. “I have these very slow crescendo and decrescendo bass-drum rolls that come from that, directly,” she said, laughing, “since it’s going to be there anyway.”

To write for guitar, Purrington wanted to know the instrument as well as she could, so she studied the instrument herself. “I played quite a bit,” she said. “It was massively helpful and completely changed my approach. When she gave JIJI the music this past summer, Purrington said Jiji had no questions, which she took as the “highest compliment.”

JIJI. Photo by Lauren Chun

“She really understands the instrument well,” JIJI said. “She really used very idiomatic writing for the guitar. You can tell” she studied the instrument. “I’ve known Hilary’s music since we lived together. I was like, ‘You know what to do. You do your magic.’” JIJI, who recently heard a performance of Likely Pictures in the Haphazard Sky, described Purrington as an “amazing orchestrator” and said, “She knows how to work with textures and colors. She’s just really smart. You can hear it in her music.”

JIJI’s guitar will by amplified for the performance. “It liberates me, so I’m not forcing it on the instrument,” trying to compete with the orchestra, she said.

As Purrington pointed out, JIJI is a champion of new music. “Art should reflect the life of the time we live in,” she said. We live in this century and we should be part of this century.” There’s also a matter of available repertoire. JIJI said classical guitarists have, to a degree, been playing the same music over and over again, whereas, for example, the percussion repertoire has “exploded.” “Classical guitar needs this,” she said. “We need to really reinvent ourselves and try to expand our repertoire.” Purrington is helping with that.

The American Composers Orchestra will present a program called New England Echoes on Wednesday, November 13, at Zankel Hall at Carnegie Hall. The program includes the world premiere of Hilary Purrington’s guitar concerto, Harp of Nerves, with soloist Jiji, a selection of Charles Ives’ songs, arranged by Purrington, YSM faculty composer Hannah Lash ’12AD, and Jonathan Bailey Holland and featuring mezzo-soprano Jaime Barton, and the New York premiere of Matthew Aucoin’s Evidence.

CONCERT DETAILS

HILARY PURRINGTON

JIJI

Published November 11, 2019
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Merz Trio is a winner of the Concert Artists Guild competition

The Merz Trio. Photo by Nile Scott

The Merz Trio, which includes pianist and Yale School of Music alumnus Lee Dionne ’11BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’19DMA, violinist Brigid Coleridge, and cellist Julia Yang, was named a winner of the 2019 Concert Artists Guild Victor Elmaleh Competition. The other winners were cellist Jamal Aliyev, violist Jordan Bak, and recorder player Tabea Debus.

“Each of the winners receives management contracts with CAG, including performance opportunities with more than 40 leading orchestras, concert series, and festivals, as well as a New York showcase performance and professional career development and coaching,” according to the organization’s news release. Application materials for this year’s competition required “a general statement of your artistic intent. This should also include how you plan to use your art to make an impact outside the concert hall.”

The Merz Trio, which won first prize at the 2019 Fischoff National Chamber Music Competition, “is passionate about connecting with diverse audiences through innovative concerts, multidisciplinary projects, and interactive performances,” the group’s website indicates. The trio’s work has been supported in part by Entrepreneurial Musicianship grants from the New England Conservatory, where it is in residence. The Merz Trio was formed in 2017 and won the Lerman Gold Prize and Audience Choice Award at the 2018 Chesapeake Chamber Music Competition in Easton, Maryland.

Lee Dionne. Photo courtesy of the artist

A founding member of the Merz Trio, Dionne has performed as a chamber musician and as a soloist in venues around the world and has recorded for MSR Classics and Naxos Records. He is a core member of Cantata Profana along with several fellow Yale alumni including violinist Jacob Ashworth ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, cellist Hannah Collins ’06BS ’08MM ’09AD, clarinetist Gleb Kanasevich ’13MM, stage director Ethan Heard ’07BA ’13MFA, guitarist Arash Noori ’12MM ’13AD, percussionist Doug Perry ’14AD, soprano Annie Rosen ’08BA ’12MM, composer-pianist Daniel Schlosberg ’10BA ’13MM ’14MMA ’18DMA, and bass-baritone John Taylor Ward ’12MM ’13MMA ’17DMA.

In addition to degrees earned at the Yale School of Music, Dionne has a soloist diploma from the Hochschule für Musik, Theater und Medien Hannover, and an undergraduate degree in literature from Yale College.

The final round of the 2019 CAG competition took place on October 6, 2019, at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City. Numerous YSM alumni have been among the winners of the CAG competition over the past decade. These include percussionist Mitya (Dmitrii) Nilov ’18MM; pianist Dominic Cheli ’16MM; guitarist Jiji (Jiyeon Kim) ’17MM; double bassist Samuel Suggs ’14MM ’20DMA; violinists Katie Hyun ’09AD and David Southorn ’09MM ’10AD, and cellist Mihai Marica ’04CERT ’08AD of the Amphion Quartet; violinist Sami Merdinian ’06MM ’07AD of Sybarite5; and violinist Sarah McElravy ’12AD, violist Eric Wong ’12AD, and cellist Felix Umansky ’12AD of the Linden String Quartet. The Argus Quartet, which served from 2015 to 2017 as YSM’s fellowship quartet-in-residence, was a CAG competition winner in 2017. The competition has been held since the early 1950s.

The Yale Daily News recently published a piece about the Merz Trio. Read it here.

MERZ TRIO

LEE DIONNE

Published October 17, 2019
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Jiyeon “Jiji” Kim, Samuel Suggs take top honors at Concert Artists Guild competition

Jiyeon "Jiji" Kim and Samuel Suggs

Jiyeon “Jiji” Kim and Samuel Suggs

Guitarist Jiyeon “Jiji” Kim ’17MM has won the Victor and Sono Elmaleh First Prize at the Concert Artists Guild’s 2016 Victor Elmaleh Competition and double bassist Samuel Suggs ’14MM ’20DMA has been named the organization’s New Music/New Places Fellow. Each will receive a management contract from the Concert Artists Guild and will be presented in recital in New York City. Kim also earned a $5,000 cash award.

The final round of the competition took place on October 27 at Merkin Concert Hall at the Kaufman Music Center in New York City and was judged by an eight-person jury.

Steven Shaiman, the Concert Artists Guild’s senior vice president and director of artist management, said Kim’s “musical skill and talent combined with [her] overall stage presence and persona as an artist who has real potential for a career” factored into her success at the competition.

“Sam also stood out as a unique artist worthy of having the opportunity to develop what he’s doing,” Shaiman said. The Concert Artists Guild’s New Music/New Places program, Shaiman said, was devised a little more than 10 years ago to help develop artists’ unique visions and to bring those visions into “non-traditional venues” such as bars, clubs, cabarets, and art galleries.

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Published November 2, 2016
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