WolfGANG Sessions #23

A Wild Night of Chamber Music

2024-05-04 21:00 2024-05-04 23:00 60 Canada/Eastern 🎟 NAC: WolfGANG Sessions #23


In-person event

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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Club SAW,67 Nicholas Street,Ottawa,Canada
Sat, May 4, 2024

≈ 90 minutes · With intermission

Last updated: April 19, 2024


DOBRINKA TABAKOVA The Smile of Flamboyant Wings for string quartet (8 min) 
Jessica Linnebach, violin 
Emily Kruspe, violin 
Carissa Klopoushak, viola 
Rachel Mercer, cello 

DINUK WIJERATNE The Disappearance of Lisa Gherardini for string quartet (10 min) 
Jessica Linnebach, violin 
Emily Kruspe, violin 
Carissa Klopoushak, viola 
Rachel Mercer, cello 


DAVID BRUCE Gumboots for clarinet and string quartet (22 min) 
Sean Rice, clarinet
Jessica Linnebach, violin 
Emily Kruspe, violin 
Carissa Klopoushak, viola 
Rachel Mercer, cello 

Sean Rice, host 

© 2019 Dobrinka Tabakova/Valonious Press. All rights reserved.
Gumboots  by David Bruce  Copyright © 2008 by Red Balloon Music. All rights reserved. Sole Agent: Bill Holab Music. 



The Smile of Flamboyant Wings for string quartet

Dobrinka Tabakova (b. 1980) is a composer of “exciting, deeply moving” music (The Washington Times), with “glowing tonal harmonies and grand, sweeping gestures [which] convey a huge emotional depth” (The Strad). She has been commissioned by the Royal Philharmonic Society, BBC Radio 3, and the European Broadcasting Union. Her debut profile album String Paths, on ECM Records, was nominated for a Grammy in 2014. In 2017 she was appointed composer-in-residence with the BBC Concert Orchestra. An album of her orchestral works, recorded by the Halle Orchestra, was released in October 2023.

Born in the historic town of Plovdiv, Bulgaria, Tabakova has lived in London since 1991, graduating from the Guildhall School of Music, and obtaining a PhD from King’s College London. Her music has featured in films, dance, and has been programmed at festivals across Europe and the U.S. including the BBC Proms and Bang on a Can. Tabakova has been resident composer at the Davos Summer Festival in Switzerland and Truro Cathedral, Cornwall (U.K.), as well as with the MDR Leipzig Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Orchestra of the Swan (Stratford, U.K.). Among prizes for her work are the prize for an anthem for Queen Elizabeth II’s Golden Jubilee and First Prize and Medallion at the Sorel Choral Composition Contest in New York. In 2022, she was named the Halle Orchestra’s artist in association.

Tabakova’s string quartet The Smile of Flamboyant Wings from 2019 was commissioned by Cité de la Musique, which includes the Philharmonie de Paris, Festspielhaus Baden Baden, and the European Concert Hall Organization in the framework of ECHO Rising Stars. Written especially for the Goldmund Quartet, the work, according to a published description, “takes its name from Joan Miró’s painting of the same name, though it is not meant as a musical representation of the artwork. If there are any similarities with the painting and Miró’s work, they would take broader themes such as the relationship between the linear and horizontal and the interplay between used and free space on the canvas.” An “elaborately rhythmic opening and flowing, unpredictable melody set the scene”; a chorale-like middle section follows, and the piece closes with a transformed reprise of the opening material.


The Disappearance of Lisa Gherardini for string quartet

Sri Lankan-born Canadian Dinuk Wijeratne (b. 1978) is a Juno and multi-award-winning composer, conductor, and pianist who has been described by The New York Times as “exuberantly creative,” and by the Toronto Star as “an artist who reflects a positive vision of our cultural future.” His boundary-crossing work sees him equally at home in collaborations with symphony orchestras and string quartets, tabla players and DJs, and takes him to international venues as poles apart as the Berlin Philharmonie and the North Sea Jazz Festival.

The Disappearance of Lisa Gherardini was commissioned as a test piece for the Banff International String Quartet Competition in 2022. Wijeratne provides the following description about his piece: 

This virtuoso musical escapade for string quartet is inspired by the audacious, real-life theft of Leonardo da Vinci’s  Mona Lisa  from the Louvre Museum in 1911.  

The most famous painting in the world began its life very unassumingly. In 1503, it was created by Leonardo for the Florentine silk merchant Francesco del Giocondo, who commissioned the portrait of his wife, Lisa Gherardini. The occasion marked the birth of their second son—especially significant given the tragically high levels of maternal and infant mortality in those days.  

The extraordinary true story of the theft of the Mona Lisa  reads like the plot of some sensational Hollywood movie. An inconspicuous Italian handyman named Vincenzo Peruggia hid overnight in one of the Louvre closets and chose exactly the right moment to emerge and lift the painting off the wall. As a former museum employee, he was familiar with the rhythm of the guards. The whole thing was, as they say, an inside job.  

The music of this piece is fuelled by the knowledge that it was, in fact, a high-profile theft (and a subsequent two-year disappearance) that skyrocketed the Mona Lisa  from a relatively unknown artwork into legend.  

Unfolding in three sections, the piece is built upon two main themes representing “Lisa” and “the heist”, respectively. In the first section, as we imagine a young lady with an enigmatic smile posing for her portrait, Lisa’s theme is introduced on the cello as the violins evoke gentle brushstrokes. The second section is announced by a restless and slightly “wonky” cello  pizzicato  groove—the heist is underway. As the perpetrators reach their mark, Lisa’s theme makes a rushed and unsettled reappearance as her portrait is whisked away. The music reaches a chaotic climax immediately after the violins imitate police sirens, and then collapses. The third section jump-cuts to present-day Paris. Lisa is back in her rightful place at the museum, elevated in stature, status, and celebrity.  

We tend to forget that Lisa was a real person. As I worked on this music, I thought less about the masterly technique and artistry of the portrait than I did about Lisa herself. I imagined her as a character who moved through time—from humble obscurity, through a sudden and mysterious disappearance, to the kind of over-hyped fame that attracts 30,000 visitors daily. I can’t help but wonder whether Lisa would have wanted all this attention, not to mention from all the selfie-takers. 

In the last few seconds of the piece, the heist theme makes a brief appearance. Could Lisa be taken from us again? And might she actually prefer to disappear altogether? 


Gumboots for clarinet and string quartet

Born in Stamford, Connecticut in 1970, David Bruce grew up in England and now enjoys a growing reputation on both sides of the Atlantic. Bruce’s music draws on the wild dances and heart-felt laments of Roma music, flamenco, klezmer, and other folk traditions, as well as having a direct connection to composers like Stravinsky, Janaček, Berio, and Bartók who shared similar passions. Often witty and always colourful, pulsing with earthy rhythms, Bruce’s music has a directness rarely heard in contemporary music, but also contains an emotional core of striking intimacy and sensitivity.

Carnegie Hall has been a huge supporter of Bruce’s music, with several commissions including Gumboots for clarinet and string quartet (2008), originally for Todd Palmer and the St. Lawrence String Quartet. Bruce describes his piece as follows: 

 There is a paradox in music, and indeed all art—the fact that life-enriching art has been produced, even inspired by conditions of tragedy, brutality, and oppression, a famous example being Olivier Messiaen’s Quartet for the End of Time, written while he was in a prisoner-of-war camp. Gumboot dancing bears this trait; it was born out of the brutal labour conditions in South Africa under apartheid, in which black miners were chained together and wore gumboots (wellington boots) while they worked in the flooded gold mines, because it was cheaper for the owners to supply the boots than to drain the floodwater from the mine. Apparently slapping the boots and chains was used by the workers as a form of communication that was otherwise banned in the mine, and this later developed into a form of dance. If the examples of gumboot dancing available online are anything to go by, it is characterized by a huge vitality and zest for life. So, this, for me, is a striking example of how something beautiful and life enhancing can come out of something far more negative. Of course, this paradox has a far simpler explanation—the resilience of the human spirit. 

My Gumboots is in two parts of roughly equal length, the first is tender and slow moving, at times yearning, at times seemingly expressing a kind of tranquility and inner peace. The second is a complete contrast, consisting of five, ever-more-lively “gumboot dances”, often joyful and always vital. 

However, although there are some African music influences in the music, I don’t see the piece as being specifically “about” the gumboot dancers, if anything it could be seen as an abstract celebration of the rejuvenating power of dance, moving as it does from introspection through to celebration. I would like to think, however, that the emotional journey of the piece, and specifically the complete contrast between the two halves will force the listener to conjecture some kind of external “meaning” to the music—the tenderness of the first half should “haunt” us as we enjoy the bustle of the second; that bustle itself should force us to question or reevaluate the tranquility of the first half. But to impose a meaning beyond that would be stepping on dangerous ground—the fact is you will choose your own meaning, and hear your own story, whether I want you to or not. 

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


  • Featuring Members of the National Arts Centre Orchestra
  • jessica-linnebach
    Violin Jessica Linnebach
  • Violin Emily Kruspe
  • viola Carissa Klopoushak
  • rachel-mercer
    Cello Rachel Mercer
  • sean-rice-2
    Clarinet/Host Sean Rice