(WILLIAMSTOWN, Mass.) – The Williams Chamber Players will play works by Thea Musgrave, Clara Schumann, Johannes Brahms, and a world premiere by Williams faculty member and pianist Zachary Wadsworth in Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall at Williams College on Friday, February 3, at 8pm. This free event is open to the public.
The concert opens with “Five Love Songs” by contemporary composer Thea Musgrave, performed by soprano Erin Nafziger and guitarist Robert Phelps. Next, the ensemble presents Sonata in F Major, op. 99 for Cello and Piano by Johannes Brahms featuring Nathaniel Parke, cello, and Elizabeth Wright, piano.
After a brief intermission, the Williams Chamber Players will offer the world premiere of “In Angustiis (In Troubled Times),” a short, politically charged and topical work by Williams faculty member and pianist Zachary Wadsworth. The dark and focused single-movement work will be performed by violinist Joana Genova and the composer.
Violinist Joana Genova, cellist Nathaniel Parke, and pianist Elizabeth Wright will conclude the concert by performing Clara Schumann’s Piano Trio in G Minor, op. 17, a work that demonstrates the balanced brilliance and evokes the wistful romance of one of the very few 19th-century women whose compositions were performed to great acclaim.
Zachary Wadsworth’s “vivid, vital, and prismatic” music has established him as a leading composer of his generation. Praised for its “evocative mixture of old and new,” his music has been heard in venues around the world, from the Kennedy Center in Washington to Takinogawa Hall in Tokyo. After winning an international competition chaired by James MacMillan, Wadsworth’s Out of the South Cometh the Whirlwind was performed by the choir of Westminster Abbey in the presence of Queen Elizabeth II, Prince Charles, and the Archbishop of Canterbury. For the 2012-13 season, Wadsworth was a Fellow of the Douglas Moore Fellowship for American Opera, which placed him in residence at the Metropolitan Opera and the Santa Fe Opera. In 2014, he had his Carnegie Hall debut.
Wadsworth’s music is widely broadcast and distributed, with recent publications by Novello, G. Schirmer, and E.C. Schirmer, and airings on NPR’s Performance Today, With Heart and Voice, Pipedreams, BBC Radio 3’s The Choir, CBC’s The Story from Here, and PRI’s Christmas Daybreak. Commercial recordings of his music are available on Gothic Records, Albany Records, and Innova Recordings.
Called an “exquisitely beautiful cycle” in the Journal of Singing, Wadsworth’s Pictures of the Floating World was premiered at the Lincoln Center after winning first prize in the 2007 ASCAP Lotte Lehmann Foundation Art Song Competition. Additional honours include a Charles Ives Scholarship from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, and three Morton Gould Young Composer Awards from ASCAP. Wadsworth has also received first-prize recognition in competitions sponsored by the American Composers Forum, the King James Bible Trust, the Long Leaf Opera, the Pacific Chorale, the Boston Choral Ensemble, and the Esoterics.
Since its composition in 2004, Wadsworth’s opera, Venus and Adonis, has already been staged five times and hailed as an “astonishingly confident” and “mesmerizing” work. His vocal music has been widely programmed by leading performing groups around the world, including the Washington National Opera Chorus, the Yale Schola Cantorum, Boston Metro Opera, Long Leaf Opera, the Tokyo Cantat, and the Richmond Symphony Chorus. Wadsworth’s “subtly beautiful” orchestral works have been performed by the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, the Atlanta Philharmonic Orchestra, the Yale Philharmonia, and the Wind Ensemble and Festival Chamber Orchestra at Cornell University.
Originally from Richmond, Va., Wadsworth (b. 1983) earned graduate degrees from Cornell University (DMA) and Yale University (MM), and is an honors graduate of the Eastman School of Music (BM). His principal composition teachers have included Steven Stucky, Martin Bresnick, Ingram Marshall, Ezra Laderman, and David Liptak. He has taught at the Interlochen Center for the Arts and the University of Calgary, and he is currently an Assistant Professor of Music at Williams College. He also maintains an active performing life as a tenor and pianist.
New England soprano Erin Nafziger was recently seen with Hubbard Hall Opera Theater as Nella in Gianni Schicchi, in which she “sang her floating high notes in the ensembles warmly and individually,…always singing, never pushing her voice beyond beauty” (Kibler, Berkshire Review) and “soar[ed] above the others with her effortless high pianissimo soprano during the lullaby, ‘goodnight baby boy'” (Buchanan, Berkshire Fine Arts).
Nafziger also has appeared as Belinda in Dido and Aeneas, where it was noted that she “acquitted herself admirably…” and “her voice was consistent, well-balanced, and beautiful…” (Miller, The Berkshire Review for the Arts) .
Nafziger is a frequent soloist with the Williams Chamber Players and The New Opera company of Williamstown, Massachusetts, and has performed at such historic venues as the Colonial Theater of the Berkshires and the Benedict Music Tent in Aspen, Colorado. She was featured in an abbreviated version of The Marriage of Figaro as Countess Almaviva in the Adams Memorial Theater in 2013.
Other roles include Micaëla in La tragédie de Carmen, Mimì in La Bohème, Pamina in Die Zauberflöte, Soeur Constance in Dialogues of the Carmelites, Adele in Die Fledermaus, and Jenny in Company. New England area performances include appearances as the soprano soloist in Stravinsky’s Les Noces, Handel’s Messiah and Orff’s Carmina Burana in Vermont, and J.S. Bach’s Magnificat in New York.
Nafziger was a recent finalist in the Rochester Oratorio Society’s Classical Idol Vocal Competition, received First Prize in the American Academy of Conducting at Aspen Vocal Concerto Competition, Third Place in the Bel Canto Foundation Competition, and has been a recipient of the Francesco and Hilda Riggio Award in the New England Regional Metropolitan Opera National Council Auditions. Prepared roles include Mélisande in Pelleas et Mélisande, Sophie in Der Rosenkavalier, Cunegonde in Candide, Gilda in Rigoletto, among others. She has also performed as a soloist in John Adams’ Grand Pianola Music, Fauré’s Requiem, Vaughan Williams’ Hodie, and Schumann’s Frauenliebe und Leben. She received a Bachelor’s Degree in Music Education from DePaul University, and a Master’s Degree from Northwestern University in Vocal Performance.
Nafziger teaches voice to undergraduate students at Williams College and at the Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts, and she directs the Williams Opera Workshop alongside colleague, Keith Kibler.
The Williams Chamber Players was founded in 1999 and is coordinated by Doris Stevenson. The Williams Chamber Players is a resident faculty chamber music ensemble at Williams. The ensemble offers performers and audiences the opportunity to explore chamber music over a range of periods and styles.
Brooks-Rogers Recital Hall is located at 54 Chapin Hall Drive in Bernhard Music Center on the Williams College campus.