My recent CD with enhake, entitled Prepárense: The Piazzolla Project, received a glowing review from the renowned classical music magazine, Gramophone. I, along with other members, had an opportunity to do a short interview about our recent endeavors as a new music ensemble few weeks ago, and it was also featured in Gramophone's November issue. Here is a short excerpt from the incredibly positive article:
This past weekend, I visited Santa Fe, NM for the first time for a concert with enhake as well as our performance/presentation at the College Music Society's National Conference. The town was truly beautiful, and the wonderful weather only made the trip even more pleasant. There were many elements of challenges, however, as it was our first time flying with our 5-month old daughter. Fortunately, she was an incredible baby all throughout, and we were able to survive some pretty hectic schedule.
As a part of our presentation on Thursday, I performed enhake a program entitled "Mixed Quartet inspired by the American Southwest." It featured three compositions: Gulfstream by Peter Lieuwen, Red Vesper by David Biedenbender, and Rodeo Queen of Heaven by Libby Larsen.
Another great perk about this trip was getting to hang out with my wonderful colleagues and friends. enhake boasts an increasingly growing family, and it was very special to see our babies all gathered together! We enjoyed some great sight-seeing, fine dining experience, and many shops all over the downtown. Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi was particularly impressive with its interesting history, many notable relics, etc.
Our evening recital at the Southwest Arts was quite satisfying, and we were thrilled to have Peter Lieuwen and David Biedenbender attend our concert.
I am thrilled to announce the release of enhake's newest CD entitled Prepaárense: The Piazzolla Project on MSR Classic. The recording already has received many positive reviews and turned out quite well, especially considering our highly compressed rehearsal and recording schedule last year.
We got the following review from Infodad,com with a very well received (++++) rating:
(++++) PROJECTS IN PROGRESS
Ástor Piazzolla: Transcriptions and arrangements by M. Brent Williams. enhakē (Wonkak Kim, clarinet; M. Brent Williams, violin; Katherine Decker, cello; Eun-Hee Park, piano). MSR Classics. $12.95.
The MSR Classics project undertaken by a fine chamber ensemble with a deliberately obscure name, enhakē – small first letter, whole word from the Seminole for “sound,” and, really, why? – is to present works by Argentine concert-tango master Ástor Piazzolla in the unusual instrumental combination of clarinet, violin, cello and piano. Violinist M. Brent Williams is responsible for arranging Piazzolla for this recording, and he does so with considerable skill. All nine works here come across with a pleasant mixture of exotic sound, concert-hall solemnity and a kind of “street smarts.” There are some very well-known pieces on the CD, including Primavera Porteña and Libertango, and they have a freshness here, thanks to the unexpected instrumentation, that shows them in a new light and further affirms the appropriateness of their place in “high” music despite the decidedly “low” origin of the tango itself. The Concerto para Quinteto comes across particularly well in this performance – these are musicians who are clearly comfortable with each other as well as with their individual instruments, and there is a relaxed, jazz-ensemble feeling to their performances despite the fact that these are not pieces played extemporaneously. All the works here are worth hearing – the others are Revirado, Escualo, Oblivion, Prepárense, Kicho and Buenos Aires Hora Cero. Williams’ arrangements sometimes try a bit too hard to make sure that each performer gets front-and-center attention and that, when the group plays together, everyone is balanced equally against everyone else. This is excellent camaraderie but can result in arrangements that are a bit too cautious not to overdo the sound of any specific instrument. This is a quibble, though, and some listeners will actually like the disc more because of the neat ensemble balance and the careful way the arrangements make just about equal room for everyone. The CD is short – 47 minutes – but long enough to give listeners a strong sense of the quality of Piazzolla’s music and the effectiveness of hearing it on instruments other than those for which it was originally composed.
Here is some quotes from another review on this CD by Fanfare Magazine:
The CD can be directly ordered at this site by visiting here.
I just came back from a very much anticipated tour of Colorado and Utah with the enhake family! Since starting as a graduate chamber ensemble eight years ago, we have grown into an entourage of wonderful family and friends (three enhake babies as of now and two more coming very soon!). For this trip, All our spouses and babies were traveling with us except for Katie's. We first met up in Durango, Co, where our violinist Brent is the Professor of Violin at Fort Lewis College. We got to spend wonderful winter break here last time around, everything was a bit more familiar. Our concert and master class all went very well, and we really enjoyed some remarkable restaurants and shops in downtown Durango.
After our Durango residency, we drove up through the beautiful Colorado River to north. We made a stop at Arches National Park (although we did not have enough time to see the famous Arch, especially with couple of infants and my pregnant wife!) on our way to Grand Junction, CO. Everything was out of this world to me, and I was much refreshed despite long drives and tight schedule.
We were greeted with beautiful weather when we arrived in Grand Junction. Enhake actually was invited here many years ago when the university was called Mesa State College, and returning here with our new cellist Katie and families was quite special. The incredibly scenic view of the Monument throughout this small town was still very impressive. We met our old friends and some fantastic new faculty members at school and had lots of fun playing the recital, etc.
We drove through Salt Lake City to finally arrive in our final destination, Logan, UT. The weather was not good, and the driving was rather perilous. We arrived in Logan very late and was much relieved to settle in. Our host and friend Nick Morrison and Lesley showed around the impressive campus surrounded my the mountains, and we presented our workshop called "Entrepreneurship in Arts and Music" to Utah State University's students. Our recital was presented by Chamber Music Society of Logan, a prestigious series boasting some of the great chamber music ensembles of our time. A great privilege for us, indeed! It was one of my favorite performing venues that I've played recently, and I was glad to see a fantastic Fazioli at the hall.
Another successful tour with enhake, and now it is time to go back to teaching.
I was very fortunate to have great teachers who were also phenomenal players. Every one of their performances that I attended or concerts I was lucky enough to play with them were sheer source of inspiration. I came to believe that showing the examples of fine musicianship and what it takes to constantly improve oneself to the students is an immensely important component of teaching. I also came to learn that it is no easy task to maintain a status of performing musician while teaching a full studio (you can read about my 15/16 studio at TTU here). In any case, I am thrilled to announce my 2015-16 season schedule filled with exciting performances, collaborations, and projects.
Just having performed my TTU Faculty Recital last night, I am now preparing for the upcoming three-day residency in College Station, TX. I and Grace will be featured as guest artists at Texas A&M University's Department of Performance Studies. We will present a full 90-minute recital featuring some of our favorite duo repertoires as well as some of recent additions such as Peter Lieuwen's Bright River. It will be a treat to bring this work to Peter's own university. We are also scheduled to give master classes and a lecture.
In October, I will perform Frank Ticheli's Clarinet Concerto, one of my self-imposed challenges for the year, with TTU Wind ensemble. While I am anxious to work up this very difficult piece, I am excited to collaborate with some stellar student musicians in the ensemble and my colleague Joe Hermann. I also cannot wait to play with my friend and amazing pianist Esther Park during her visit to TTU. In Esther's French-themed recital, we will play Debussy's Premiere Rhapsody and Poulenc's Clarinet Sonata.
In January, I will be joined by enhake and its now ever-expanding family members in a three-state tour (Colorado, Wyoming, and Utah). We will serve as Artist-in-Residence at Fort Lewis College, where our violinist Brent is a faculty member. Our recital at the St. Mark's Recital Series will feature some of our favorite, including Olivier Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time. We are also scheduled to perform at Colorado Mesa University, and the tour will conclude with our appearance at the Chamber Music Society of Logan and the Utah State University.
In February, I will host two friends of mine, violinist Emily Westell and pianist Sasha Karpeyev, for the TTU Center Stage Series. I will join the duo in performance of Brahms Clarinet Sonata No. 1, Milhaud's Suite for Clarinet, Violin, and Piano, and Bartok's Contrasts. I am scheduled to appear as the guest clarinetist for the 2016 University of Northern Iowa Woodwind Day later in March. Few trips to NYC and Florida are also being planned in the spring. Finally, I hope to survive through another TTU Clarinet Day in April.
While the summer plans are not completely set at this point, I have some great events scheduled during July and August. I will be doing a good deal of teaching and playing in various cities in Korea, including a performance of Messiaen's Quartet for the End of Time with Mirus Trio (my friend Jayoung's ensemble) at Seoul Arts Center's IBK Chamber Hall.
Throughout the year, I am also looking forward to playing as a clarinetist of the Cumberland Quintet with my admirable TTU colleagues as well as the principal clarinet for the Bryan Symphony Orchestra and the Albany Symphony in GA. Which clarinetist can possibly complain when the season schedule include such works as Kodaly's Dances of Galanta, Brahms' Third Symphony, Elgar's Enigma Variations and Sibelius Symphony No. 2!!?
For my complete list of performances during 2015-16 season, please visit my calendar page.
I first met Peter in 2009 while working on his piece, Gulfstream, as a member of enhake, during our emerging years as graduate students at Florida State University. We were invited to perform Peter’s work at the opening recital of FSU’s biennial New Music Festival, and this very difficult piece prompted us to put an untold amount of time and effort on learning it intimately. In the end, we became personally attached to the work and gave a very satisfying performance. Peter, who were present at the recital, became a good friend of ours. Since then, enhake has given about 15 additional performances of Gulfstream at various places, including Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and Texas A&M University (College Station, where everything from rental car to hotel room seemed to be extra large), where Peter is a faculty member and composer-in-residence. We also recorded the work for our 2011 Naxos album, which was later entitled “Gulfstream”! The CD received number of rave reviews and was selected as recording of the month by major journals such as BBC Music Magazine and MusicWeb International. Now thinking back, it is truly amazing how a serendipitous first meeting can lead to such exciting venture! I always advise my students to cherish every opportunity they get to meet with new colleagues as you never know where it will lead them.
Few years after I started working at TTU and joined its faculty ensemble, Cumberland Quintet, Peter asked me if we would be interested in looking at his recent woodwind quintet entitled Windjammer. Fortunately, my quintet colleagues are always after exploring new works and agreed to commit to learn and record the piece. The unrelenting pacing of Windjammer demanded utmost stamina from all members of the quintet and posed a myriad of challenges, but the piece really grew on us in the end. Our quintet recorded the piece on August 2013 with the help of Peter and his recording engineer Brad Sayles who works for the Houston Symphony Orchestra, and the CD was recently released on MSR Record.
During Peter and Brad’s visit to Cookeville, I had a chance to take them to nearby Burgess Fall. It is a quite impressive site without being too overwhelming. Peter’s music is often “inspired by nature and legend,” and I particularly enjoyed his reference to water. I asked him if he would be willing to write a clarinet-piano duo for me and my wife, and Peter graciously agreed to move the project forward.
Peter already wrote several works for the clarinet, including a concerto for clarinet and orchestra, “River of Crystal Light,” written for the renowned British clarinetist David Campbell. Below is the YouTube link to Campbell’s recording of "River of Crystal Light":
I was thrilled to receive the final draft of our piece Bright River from Peter last September. This was the most exciting commission for our husband-wife duo to date, and we have been preparing hard since the start of this summer for our upcoming premiere and performances. After several years of ongoing collaboration, I became so familiar with Peter’s musical language and sound world. It helped me greatly in conceptualizing the musical ideas, and I knew exactly how I wanted to bring the score into the performance. As a result, past few weeks of my work has been mainly dealing with various issues on technical execution and acoustic realization.
Peter's use of extreme range of the clarinet in some of the most delicate and melodic passages poses many challenges. By taking greater liberty on dynamic and articulation, I sometimes had to come up with creative ways to produce the desired sound and effect. The piano part also turned out to be quite hard with non-repeating patterns which involve very difficult fingerings. All of these problems are worth overcoming as the piece is completely filled with shimmering beauty, rapturous joy, and scintillating colors. As our ensemble has made a significant progress over the past few weeks, I feel such raw enthusiasm I have not experienced from playing new music in a while. Both I and Grace are truly looking forward to introducing Bright River to our audiences in our upcoming concerts. If you are attending this year's ClarinetFest, please plan on coming to my recital on the 22nd!
Here is the composer's program note:
The inspiration for Bright River (2014) is found in the visual and auditory intricacies of rivers as they evolve from rivulets and continually fluctuate between waterfalls, violent rapids and tranquil pools as the terrain changes. In Bright River the piano presents a constant flowing motion that is placid and lyrical in some passages while spirited and syncopated in others. The clarinet presents a bold awakening introductory gesture and weaves in and out of the musical fabric as the piece moves forward. Drama and tension are enhanced with pandiatonic sections juxtaposed with those employing the diminished (half-step/whole-step) scale. The melody is often presented “in harmony” at the interval of the 7th or 9th creating a translucent musical aura.
Bright River was written for and is dedicated to Wonkak Kim and Grace Choi.
enhake resumed its work after an exhausting performing and recording schedule in Colorado back in January. This time, we flew to Brownsville, TX to perform at their Patron of Arts Series and work with the music students at UTB. Our cellist Katie is the low strings professor there, and we had a great time meeting some wonderful students and faculty members. On a plus side, the Mexican cuisine in town was truly exceptional! Our concert on Friday evening featuring Mackey's Breakdown Tango, Gabriel Lena Frank's Hilos, and Brent's arrangement of various tangos was received by great enthusiasm. We are now gearing up for our busy season next year with concerts in Utah, Colorado, and Wyoming!
Here is an interview I did with members of enhake and Libby Larsen for WFSQ 91.5FM in Tallahassee, FL in 2010. We discuss the creative process of commissioning and our collaborative endeavor on a piece Ms. Larsen wrote for our ensemble, Rodeo Queen of Heaven (2010). We later premiered the work at Carnegie's Weill Recital Hall and performed the work in many important festivals and venues. We also recorded the work for Naxos, which was later selected as "Music US Choice" by BBC Music Magazine and MusicWeb International among other. The work was also the topic for my doctoral treatise entitled "Rodeo Queen Of Heaven (2010): Libby Larsen's Fusion Of Chants And Clarinet's Unique American Voice."
I am currently working on some edits for the upcoming CD featuring enhake's Piazzolla Tango collection (the arrangements are done by our violinist Brent Williams). We recorded back in January during our residency in Durango, CO, and working on them brings back many wonderful memories from that busy week.
This is one take on my solo in "Concierto para Quinteto." Many people asked me to share a sound clip of the new Vandoren V21 reeds, and this was played on V21! A hauntingly beautiful melody written by Piazzolla, arranged by Brent, and improvised by me!
It was a remarkable experience to premiere a new concerto written for enhake by our friend Steve Landis. The project was initiated many years ago, and we were both thrilled and grateful to bring it into life despite a multitude of obstacles. The work is in three movements with two cadenzas between each section, although they are played without break. Landis highlights various strengths of enhake's ensemble as well as its individual players. The first movement begins with a stream of high-energy repeated notes, and it posed some challenges for me as a clarinet player. In the end, we found a great tempo that provides a fine balance between flow and ever-changing accents.
The first cadenza leads into the slow movement, and I and Brent (our violinist) are asked to walk off stage then to the upper balcony. The effect was quite stunning, but we had to make sure there was plenty of time for us to move around and climb up/down all those stairs. A great way to work out and get some stretching done!
The third movement begins with highly rhythmic motif played in unison and leads to an exciting ending. There are many interesting and creative ideas, and we were pleased to see them work very well. It was a great privilege to be a part of this project among some wonderful friends in the ensemble. We certainly look forward to much more to come!