Photos from Parallels

A standing-room-only concert of all new works! Thank you to everyone who came out to support new music, and to Jill Jantzen, 4-Way, and Salon 21 for collaborating with us on this event. (The program will be repeated in Warsaw on March 17!)

CSB Co-Artistic Director & composer Laura Harrison, pictured after the concert with Jill Jantzen and 4-Way Quartet
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Parallels in Movers & Makers

Movers & Makers Cincinnati featured Parallels as a top event for this coming week. Read more here.

Cincinnati Soundbox and Salon 21 | 650 Walnut St., Cincinnati, OH 45202; 513-621-2787 (ARTS)

Wednesday, Feb. 6, 7 p.m.: “Parallels”

Soundbox is dedicated to new music, Salon 21 to piano performances in intimate, nontraditional settings. So how about a piano performance of new music from Poland and the U.S. in an intimate, nontraditional setting? Sounds like the cue for a collaboration, doesn’t it? The result, “Parallels,” includes works for string quintet by Żaneta Rydzewska, Aleksandra Chmielewska, Julia Seeholzer, Laura Harrison and Rachel C. Walker. Jill Jantzen, Salon 21 artistic director, joins the Cincinnati-based 4-Way Quartet (one supposes they head to the chili parlor after rehearsals) at the Aronoff Center’s Weston Art Gallery.
Pictured: Jill Jantzen and 4-Way warming up for tonight’s concert

Interview with Composer Żaneta Rydzewska (Parallels)

Żaneta Rydzewska is a Polish composer now living in Köln and Warsaw. Her ornate, dramatic works have been performed across Europe, taking into account listener perception through the melding of sound, light, and scent. We are excited to present the world premiere of her Piano Quintet as part of Parallels.

Parallels takes place tonight at 7 PM at the Aranoff Center’s Weston Art Gallery in collaboration with Salon 21, pianist Jill Jantzen, and the 4-Way String Quartet.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about your activities as a composer?

ŻR: I am interested in instrumental new music as well as electronic music; in the last two years, I have used lot of electronics in my pieces. I really love writing chamber music and orchestral music and am also working on music for theatre.

Last week, I was working with Ensemble Musikfabrik on my piece sit back and relax for piano, double bass, percussion, live electronics and light. Now, I am looking forward to this concert in Cincinnati with the amazing musicians playing my Piano Quintet.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert.

ŻR: Piano Quintet is very important for me. I wrote the piece with my mind full of memories of my composition professor, who died a few months ago. My work on the musical material during the formation of the quintet was previously determined and strictly mathematical. In the piece, I also employ a harmonic technique which I call “central tones”. For example, I often use f sharp as a central tone, and then add other pitches which are close to it: for example, f quarter tones, f natural.

CSB: What are you hoping audiences will experience during the piece?

ŻR: In Piano Quintet, I tried to present my vision of emptiness. In last part of the piece, I think it should be audible. I tried to show both a helplessness and a process of accepting reality.

CSB: You are splitting your time between Poland and Germany at the moment. How would you compare the scenes for contemporary music in those two places?

ŻR: I think that it is a hard task to compare these both scenes. It is always changing. But in Poland, I can observe a clear division between contemporary music centers: the traditional and the experimental.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

ŻR: At the moment I am writing a piece for my graduate studies in Cologne for Ensemble Musikfabrik and a piece for large orchestra for my graduate studies in Warsaw.

Interview with Composer Aleksandra Chmielewska (Parallels)

Aleksandra Chmielewska is a Polish composer based in Warsaw whose intricate, melodic works have been performed worldwide. We are delighted to feature her as one of the composers on ParallelsPianist Jill Jantzen and the 4-Way String Quartet will premiere her latest piece, Postcards from Warsaw, tomorrow night at the Weston Art Gallery.


CSB: Could you tell us a little about your activities as a composer?

AC: I graduated from the Fryderyk Chopin Music University in Warsaw, where I studied composition. Currently I am a Ph.D. candidate at the Karol Szymanowski Academy of Music in Katowice, working on my debut opera about Frida Kahlo’s life. In 2018 I was a composer-in-residence at Feliks Nowowiejski’s Music Salon in Poznań and now I am a chairwoman of The Young Circle of the Polish Composers’ Union. My compositions – choral, orchestral and chamber – have been performed in numerous countries in Europe as well as in the United States and released on CDs by such music publishings as DUX, CD Accord and Ars Sonora. I have collaborated with Lviv Philharmonic Orchestra, Slovenian Philharmonic Orchestra, Fryderyk Chopin Music University Symphony Orchestra, Unplugged Orchestra, Leopoldinum Orchestra, National Forum of Music Choir, Polish Chamber Choir, Vogler Quartett, E-MEX Ensemble, and many other ensembles. My compositions have been recognized at composition competitions of both Polish and international range, such as: Transatlantyk Instant Composition Contest, Musica Sacra Nova Composers Competition, Patri Patriae Composers Composition and many others.

CSB: Describe the work being premiered on this concert.

AC: Postcards from Warsaw is a composition for piano quintet, which, in general, refers to the phenomenon of human memory. Each of the three movements contains clichés – such as a tango-like part in the II movement or Dies Irae motif in the III movement. Working on this composition, I was absorbed by the idea of how our mind distorts what we have experienced. Playing with both well-known and not so well-known motifs, I tried to translate to the language of music the dissonance between what has truly happened and how we retell these things in our letters or old-fashioned postcards.

What does the imaginary author of my postcards write about? This question I leave open to the listener’s imagination…

CSB: What are you hoping audiences will experience during the piece?

AC: I always hope to deeply touch audiences’ emotions with my music. For me, music is the language of all languages, that lets us communicate on a far deeper level than we do in everyday life. Emotions that I convey in Postcards from Warsaw are connected with the piece’s relation to the past, so I expect to evoke rather blue-colored moods: sentiments, longing, grief or simply a sad reflection on how some things will never happen again.

CSB: How would you describe the musical scene in Warsaw, and in Poland in general?

AC: It is full of contrasts. On the one hand, we have a great, yet quite conservative, school of choral writing with excellent composers of all generations who often combine writing for choir with singing or conducting as well. On the other hand, we have interesting avant-garde composers keen on electronic and electro-acoustic music. They collaborate with visual artists to create really amazing large-scale multimedia projects. What upsets me is that the representatives of these two groups usually don’t treat composers with contrasting musical ideas entirely seriously.

We are unfortunately a very divided society, and not only in terms of music.

CSB: What upcoming projects are on your radar?

AC: First of all, we are going to repeat Cincinnati Soundbox and Salon 21’s Parallels program in Warsaw. I think it’s fantastic, not only because of the idea of building the transatlantic bridge for composers, but also because there are not so many female-composers’ concerts in our country. As a chairwoman of The Young Circle of the Polish Composers’ Union I’m slowly starting to think about young composers’ concerts during the upcoming Warsaw Autumn Festival. It’s a wonderful chance for many young artists to present their works at this renowned festival of contemporary music, but it requires a lot of preparation. However, the project that currently absorbs me the most is my upcoming opera about Frida Kahlo, which is my Ph.D. dissertation piece. I myself was surprised by how deep one must dig into the painter’s life and art not just to tell a story, but to draw out something unusual. It is a big challenge, but also a great adventure.

Interview with Cellist Nat Chaitkin (Parallels)

Cellist Nat Chaitkin is one of the founding members of the 4-Way Quartet, who will be joining us next week for Parallels. Nat is currently a member of the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra and the ProMusica Chamber Orchestra. He is active as a performer and teacher in Cincinnati, including through the Quartet’s 4-Way String Project.

Read more about Nat and 4-Way below.


CSB: What is your musical background?

NC: I grew up in the NY new music world – my dad was a composer, and took me to all sorts of concerts as a kid. I started studying the cello at 11, spent some time at Juilliard Pre-College, and went on to the University of Michigan, studying cello and American History. I then moved to Washington, DC and spent 8 years as a member of “The President’s Own” US Marine Band. I moved to Cincinnati 10 years ago, joining the Cincinnati Chamber Orchestra, subbing with the CSO, and teaching at CCM Prep. I also developed a solo program to bring classical music to new audiences called Bach and Boombox.

CSB: How did 4-Way begin? What are your current projects as an ensemble?

NC: We formed in 2015, with the goal of creating an community-based ensemble. We share our love of chamber music both through performing and teaching underserved youth. We are in our third year of residency at Woodford Paideia Elementary School, where we assist with the orchestra program during the day. Woodford is also the home of our central activity, The 4-Way String Project, which offers free lessons and chamber music opportunities to 16 selected 4th, 5th and 6th graders.

CSB: As a cellist, how would you describe the works on this concert?

NC: Hard! Seriously, they are very diverse in what they ask of the players. A couple are very “notey”, requiring lots of technically demanding practicing, while others ask for an expanded range of sounds, calling for extended “non-traditional” techniques. All of them are challenging in their own way, and I’m really looking forward to hearing them all come together.

CSB: What are you hoping audiences will experience during this concert?

NC: Five striking and very different perspectives on one of my favorite ensembles – some of the greatest works in chamber music are written for piano quintet, and the audience will hear its full range of possibility!

CSB: What are your impressions of the music scene in Cincinnati. How have they changed over the years?

NC: Cincinnati has a wonderful music scene, thanks to two pieces of its history – the CSO, and King Records. Many cities “have” a symphony, but there is real civic pride in ours which I have not found in many other places. Several years ago, I was one of six people to receive the Cincinnati Artist Ambassador Fellowship, which allowed me to develop my solo program, and present it in community settings all across the city. I saw how much music is part of the fabric of life here, in part thanks to King [Records] and its legacy of bringing different musicians together. Having a group like 4-Way wouldn’t be possible in lots of places, but here, we find lots of support, and that’s because of the city’s strong support of its musicians.

Interview with Pianist Jill Jantzen (Parallels)


Soundbox is partnering with Salon 21 and the 4-Way String Quartet next week to present Parallels, a concert featuring five world premieres for piano quintet by American and Polish composers Laura Harrison, Rachel C. Walker, Julia Seeholzer, Aleksandra Chmielewska, and Żaneta Rydzewska.

Pianist Jill Jantzen is a dynamic member of the Cincinnati music scene. She holds degrees in piano performance from Oklahoma City University and the University of Cincinnati College-Conservatory of Music, and is now Lecturer of Piano at Thomas Moore College. Jill is the Artistic Director of Salon 21 and also the pianist for this event.

You can catch Parallels on February 6 at the Weston Art Gallery. (More information here).


CSB: Tell us a little about your musical background.

JJ: I started formal piano lessons when I was 5, though family stories claim that I was fascinated with the instrument at an even earlier age. I began violin lessons around age 9, which carried me through college. These days, I consider piano to be my work, and violin is my hobby. And while I play mostly classical music, I will never say “no” to a good pop song jam session.

CSB: Could you introduce our readers to Salon 21?

JJ: Salon 21 is a series of intimate piano concerts in unexpected places around Cincinnati. We host emerging pianists who play a range of music from classical to jazz and traditional to contemporary. Each concert is a place where our audience can casually enjoy a short piano concert up close and personal.

CSB: Where did your interest in working with living composers begin?

JJ: I wish I had a fancier answer… I befriended some composers during my undergrad, and I quickly became one of the “go-to” instrumentalists who would play for composition recitals. No matter what the scope of the project, it is always an honor to be a part of the process of bringing a newly composed piece to life.

CSB: As a pianist, how would you describe the works on this concert?

JJ: Each of the pieces is quite different in character. There are singable melodies, mathematical rhythms, and I frequently play inside of the piano. The moods cover all aspects of the human experience: pensive, hazy, energetic, passionate… All of the composers have done an excellent job at utilizing the many facets of the instrument.

CSB: What other upcoming projects are on your radar?

JJ: I am giving a solo concert on April 17th at Trinity Episcopal Church in Covington, where I’ll perform pieces by Debussy and Beethoven. Then on May 23rd, I’ll be playing with violinist Rebecca Culnan at the Mercantile Library to close out Salon 21’s fifth season.

February 6: Parallels!

On February 6 at the Weston Art Gallery in Cincinnati, we’re teaming up with Salon 21 to present five world premieres for piano quintet written by composers from the United States and Poland: Żaneta Rydzewska, Aleksandra Chmielewska, Julia Seeholzer, Laura Harrison, and Rachel C. Walker.

This program will be presented separately in both Cincinnati and Warsaw, Poland over the course of the 2018/2019 season. The US premiere will feature 4-Way Quartet, Cincinnati’s String Quartet and Salon 21 Artistic Director, pianist Jill Jantzen. This project is supported by the generosity of community contributions to the ArtsWave Campaign.