WolfGANG Session #19

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2023-03-31 21:00 2023-03-31 22:30 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: WolfGANG Session #19


NAC Livestream

WolfGANG Sessions at Club SAW is a night of music that is sure to entertain. Grab your adventurous friends and take them out for a wild night of Chamber Music with your favourite musicians from the NAC Orchestra.

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Fri, March 31, 2023
NAC Livestream

Last updated: March 24, 2023


ESA-PEKKA SALONEN Homunculus for string quartet 

ANDREW STANILAND Flute vs Flute for two flutes 

KIMMO HAKOLA A même les échos I for solo violin 

VALENTIN SILVESTROV Postlude for solo violin 

FREYA WALEY-COHEN Snap Dragon for string quartet 


Esa-Pekka Salonen

Homunculus for string quartet

Esa-Pekka Salonen’s (b. 1958) restless innovation drives him constantly to reposition classical music in the 21st century. He is known as both a composer and conductor and is currently the Music Director of the San Francisco Symphony. He is Conductor Laureate for London’s Philharmonia Orchestra, where he was Principal Conductor & Artistic Advisor from 2008 until 2021; the Los Angeles Philharmonic, where he was Music Director from 1992 until 2009; and the Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra. He is currently in the midst of Multiverse Esa-Pekka Salonen, a two-season residency as both composer and conductor, at Elbphilharmonie Hamburg. Salonen co-founded—and from 2003 until 2018 served as the Artistic Director for—the annual Baltic Sea Festival. The recipient of many major awards, Esa-Pekka Salonen was most recently, in 2020, appointed an honorary Knight Commander of the Order of the British Empire (KBE). 

Homunculus is a short work for string quartet that Salonen had written during the autumn of 2007 for the Johannes Quartet. The ensemble performed the world premiere in 2008. In the composer’s words:

“I wanted to compose a piece that would be very compact in form and duration, but still contain many different characters and textures. In other words, a little piece that behaves like a big piece. 
“In Homunculus, the four main characters (in order of appearance) are: “Scherzo”, irregularly pulsating, jagged music; “Slow movement”, a continuous metamorphosis of an easily identifiable slow phrase; “Main movement”, an intricate mid-tempo web of four voices densely woven together; and “Chorale”, a static, somewhat melancholy progression of chords. These characters, which in a traditional string quartet form would each form their own movement, are here interrupted by each other, and interspersed throughout the single movement of Homunculus. They keep developing and changing throughout the piece however, so when a character reappears it is rarely, if ever, an exact repetition of a previous appearance. 
“At the end the “Scherzo” music brings the piece to a violent climax on a C major chord in an impossibly high register followed by a long glissando down. All the other characters appear one more time. Homunculus ends with a prolonged chorale which in my ears sounds somewhat sad and deeply nostalgic. 
“The title of the piece refers to the arcane spermists’ theory, who held the belief that the sperm was in fact a “little man” (homunculus) that was placed inside a woman for growth into a child. This seemed, to them, to neatly explain many of the mysteries of conception. 
“I decided to call my piece Homunculus despite the obvious weaknesses of the 17th century theory, as my goal was to write a small-scale piece that would nevertheless contain all the elements of a “fully grown” string quartet.” 

Andrew Staniland

Flute vs Flute for two flutes

Described as a “new music visionary” (National Arts Centre), composer Andrew Staniland (b. 1977) has established himself as one of Canada’s most important and innovative musical voices. His music is performed and broadcast internationally and has been described by Alex Ross in The New Yorker as “alternately beautiful and terrifying”. Important accolades include three JUNO nominations, an East Coast Music Association award, the 2016 Terra Nova Young Innovators Award, the National Grand Prize winner of EVOLUTION (presented in 2009 by CBC Radio 2 / Espace Musique and The Banff Centre), and was the recipient of the Karen Keiser Prize in Canadian Music in 2004. As a leading composer of his generation, Andrew has been recognized by election to the Inaugural Cohort of the College of New Scholars, Artists, and Scientists Royal Society of Canada. He also performs as a guitarist and with new media (computers and electronics), and is currently on faculty at Memorial University in St. John’s, Newfoundland, where he founded MEARL (Memorial ElectroAcoustic Research Lab).

Staniland wrote Flute vs Flute in 2012. He describes it as a “capricious flute duet, or perhaps even a flute contest” and that it’s written to be “virtuosic, light, capricious, competitive, and fun, and meant to stand in contrast with the reams upon reams of contemporary art music that is perhaps too often devoid of these traits.” The flutes duel playfully with a range of traditional and extended playing techniques, the latter including key slaps and clicks, jet whistles, breathy sounds, and lip pops with key noises. It opens with a “theatrically competitive” section, after which there’s a “haunting and expressive” central episode, then closes with an “increasingly frantic” drive to the finish. 

Kimmo Hakola

A même les échos I for solo violin

Finnish composer Kimmo Hakola (b. 1958) studied at the Sibelius Academy under Einojuhani Rautavaara and Eero Hämeenniemi. He entered the limelight at the end of the 1980s after winning the international Rostrum Prize in 1987 with his String Quartet, and again in 1991 for his Capriole for bass clarinet and cello. His music, so far, encompasses six operas, a wide range of orchestral works including several concertos for various solo instruments (clarinet, oboe, flute, electric kantele, guitar, violin), two oratorios, vocal and choral music, and chamber works (four string quartets, a clarinet quintet, a wind quintet, among others). Hakola’s music has been performed at several major music events and festivals, such as the Stockholm International Composer’s Festival in 2008, and portrait concerts of his works have been held in Los Angeles (Monday Evening Concerts) and in New York (Miller Theatre, Broadway).

Hakola has said his music is “pluralistic”, encompassing the “totality” of the tradition he grew up in, which “contains everything from Renaissance music to more recent music.” As Finnish music publisher Fennica Gehrman describes further, Hakola’s music “is known for its exciting dramaturgy and imagination since he views the world with an endlessly curious attitude. There are sudden and unexpected shifts in his musical landscapes as well as occasional surprises that act as additional dimensions for raising the music as an experience to a new and unpredictable level.” Notably, “Connections to musicians whose art has deeply spoken to Hakola have resulted in several works which are examples of his communicative style.”

Violinist John Storgårds is one of those musicians for whom Hakola has created works, such as this A même les echos I, which Storgårds originally premiered in April 1988. The piece unfolds with ferocity and blistering intensity, as the violinist performs virtuosic musical feats of Paganini-esque daring, playing traditional and extended techniques (including noises beyond the instrument, such as foot stamping) to create, says the composer, a “very wild and complex” musical experience.


Postlude for solo violin

Ukraine-born Valentin Silvestrov (b. 1937) is among today’s distinguished composers. During the 1960s, he was one of the leading representatives of the “Kiev avant-garde”, whose music had been ferociously criticized by the conservative Soviet establishment. His works were then rarely played in his native city but a small and dedicated group of proponents insured they were performed, when possible, in Russia or in the West. Circumstances eventually shifted and the composer and his music became an established presence in his home country as well as at numerous international festivals. In 2017, Silvestrov celebrated his 80th birthday with many concerts across the world featuring his works spanning a broad range of genres, including nine symphonies (to date), and many concertos, chamber works, and choral pieces. In March 2022, he fled to Germany, where he currently lives, due to the (still on-going) Russian war on Ukraine. 

Silvestrov has come to call his compositional style “meta-music”, declaring that, “I do not write new music. My music is a response to and an echo of what already exists.” This perspective applies to his thinking about the coda—the closing section of a musical work—as an echo or allusion to what has already been said before. Thus, more than just being the end, Silvestrov considers the coda to be “one of the most important parts of a composition, or at least just as important as the other sections,” as music critic and Silvestrov specialist Tatjana Frumkis has explained. She further notes, “His cantatas and symphonies all have lengthy codas, and so do his songs, in which postludes sometimes seem to take on a life of their own. These lingering ‘postludes’ subsequently evolved to form a new genre.” 

This Postlude for solo violin (1981) is the second of a triptych of postludes for various instruments that Silvestrov composed in 1981 and 1982. Muted throughout, the violin plays a lyrical Baroque-style improvisation, cycling twice through a theme that proceeds in fragments, like an eroded echo of the original melody. The theme becomes its own postlude after which the violin bursts into a virtuosic toccata, featuring quicksilver runs and arpeggios and its own insistent melodic motif. Later, the lyrical music returns, but this time, its progress is intermittently interrupted by the dazzling elements of the toccata.


Snap Dragon for string quartet

Described as “at once intimate and visionary,” British-American composer Freya Waley-Cohen’s music is characterized by contrasts between earthy rhythmic play and fragility, luminous spaces, and a sense of the otherworldly. Many of her recent works play with myths, magic, and the occult as lenses through which to look at the contemporary world. Waley-Cohen’s music has been commissioned by institutions and ensembles including the Los Angeles Philharmonic, BBC Proms, Wigmore Hall, Philharmonia Orchestra, London Chamber Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, The King’s Singers, The Hermes Experiment, and the Royal Academy of Music, as well as the Aldeburgh, Presteigne, Santa Fe, and Cheltenham festivals, and has been released on the Signum, Nimbus, Nonclassical, Delphian, and NMC recording labels. 

Commissioned by the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, Waley-Cohen (b. 1989) composed Snap Dragon for string quartet in 2017 and the Flux Quartet performed the world premiere in August of that year at the New Mexico Museum of Art. As she explains, the name of the work comes from the “vibrantly coloured and somewhat toxic flower named for looking a little like a dragon’s face.” Musically, the piece “plays with the idea of lively conversations between close friends as a starting point for musical structure; often playful, sometimes switching between topics unexpectedly in the excitement of shared ideas, sometimes heating up in debate, and easily diffused by a friendly joke. This string quartet brings out the interplay between the individual performers as soloists and as an ensemble in this piece, allowing moments where the individuals can pull apart from each other before coming back together.”

Program notes compiled and written by Hannah Chan-Hartley, PhD 


  • jessica-linnebach
    violin Jessica Linnebach
  • violin & viola Carissa Klopoushak
  • rachel-mercer
    cello Rachel Mercer
  • stephanie-morin-2
    flute Stephanie Morin
  • flute Lara Deutsch
  • Special guest - violin John Storgårds