The American String Project Chamber Players perform the Rossini String Sonata #6; Mendelssohn’s Quintet in B Flat Major; and the Brahms Quintet in G major. The group features Jorja Fleezanis, (former concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra and now a professor of violin at Indiana University), violin; Joan Blackman, violin; Maria Larionoff, violin and viola; Stephen Wyrczynski, viola; Ani Kalayjian, cello, and Barry Lieberman, double bass.
Rossini: String Sonata #6
Mendelssohn: Quintet in B Flat Major
Brahms: Quintet in G major
Jorja Fleezanis, violin
Jorja Fleezanis was concertmaster of the Minnesota Orchestra from 1989 to 2009—the longest-tenured concertmaster in the orchestra's history and only the second woman in the U.S. to hold the title of concertmaster in a major orchestra when appointed. Prior to Minnesota, she was associate concertmaster with the San Francisco Symphony for eight years and at age 23 began her orchestral career by joining the Chicago Symphony. In the fall of 2009 she was appointed the Henry A. Upper Chair in Orchestra Studies and Professor of Violin at the Jacobs School of Music at Indiana University.
A devoted teacher, Fleezanis became an adjunct faculty member at the University of Minnesota's School of Music in 1990. She has also enjoyed teaching roles with other organizations: teacher and artist at the Round Top International Festival Institute in Texas (1990-2007); artist-in-residence at the University of California, Davis; guest artist and teacher at the San Francisco Conservatory, where she served on the faculty from 1981 to 1989; artist and mentor at the Music@Menlo Festival (2003-present; teacher and coach at the New World Symphony (1988-present), and a visiting teacher at the Boston Conservatory, the Juilliard School, the New England Conservatory, Oberlin Conservatory of Music and Interlochen Academy and Summer Camp.
Fleezanis has had a number of works commissioned for her: the John Adams Violin Concerto and Ikon of Eros by John Tavener also recorded on Reference Records, and Aaron Jay Kernis' Brilliant Sky, Infinite Sky on CRI, commissioned for Fleezanis by the Schubert Club of St. Paul. Other recordings include Stefan Wolpe's Violin Sonata for Koch International and the complete violin sonatas of Beethoven with the French fortepianist Cyril Huvé, released in 2003 on the Cyprés label.
Fleezanis studied at the Cincinnati Conservatory of Music and the Cleveland Institute of Music. She plays a violin by the Venetian maker Matteo Gofriller made in 1700.
Maria Larionoff, violin
"An outstanding talent intoxicating in its brilliance" raved the San Francisco Chronicle at Ms. Larionoff's solo debut. Since then, she has appeared with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, the Seattle Symphony, and the Orquestra Sinfonica with Carlos Chavez in Mexico City, the University of Washington Orchestra, the Yakima Symphony, the Port Angeles Symphony and the San Francisco Chamber Orchestra.
A Loomis Scholarship Award winner at the prestigious Juilliard School, Ms. Larionoff was a student of Dorothy DeLay, and, upon graduating, was invited by the esteemed Maestro Carlo Maria Giulini to join the violin section of the Los Angeles Philharmonic. Ms. Larionoff serves as Concertmaster of the Seattle Symphony, where she has been featured as a soloist on numerous occasions. Her unusual versatility as a violist as well as a violinist has led to invitations at many chamber music festivals, including the Seattle Chamber Music Society, Chamber Music Northwest, The International Music Festival, the Marrowstone Festival and the Mostly Mozart Festival.
Ms. Larionoff has collaborated in chamber music concerts with many distinguished artists including Emanuel Ax, Itzhak Perlman, Lynn Harrell, Steven Staryk, Dmitri Sitkovetsky, Glenn Dicterow and William Preucil. She has worked with some of the world's leading conductors, among them Sir Simon Rattle, Zubin Mehta, Pierre Boulez, Andre Previn, Kurt Sanderling and Erich Leinsdorf.
Ms. Larionoff has served on the faculty of the University of Washington, and maintains a busy private teaching studio in addition to her performing schedule. Her CD of the Barber concerto won praise from renowned critic Byron Belt of the Newhouse News: "Miss Larionoff's solo performance matches the recently deservedly acclaimed Sony Classical recording by Hilary Hahn, with Hugh Wolff and the Saint Paul Chamber Orchestra."
In 2001 Ms. Larionoff and her husband Barry Lieberman founded the critically acclaimed American String Project, a conductorless string orchestra made up of Concertmasters and soloists from around the world. The group performs annually in May at Benaroya Hall .
Ms. Larionoff currently plays on a 1775 Guadagnini violin (the "ex-Lorand") loaned to her by the family of Dr. Benum W. Fox of Chicago.
Barry Lieberman, bass
Barry Lieberman is now in his sixteenth year as double bass faculty at the University of Washington, Seattle. He began his career at age twenty-one as principal bass of the Winnipeg Symphony. In 1976 Zubin Mehta appointed him associate principal bass of the Los Angeles Philharmonic, a post he held for sixteen years.
Mr. Lieberman has been a regular performer with Chamber Music Northwest, Music from Angel Fire, the International Festival in Seattle, Bravo Colorado, Bargemusic, the Seattle Chamber Music Festival, and Mostly Mozart; and he served as Principal Bass of the Colorado Music Festival in Boulder. He has performed with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, both in New York City and on tour in Europe and with the Mostly Mozart chamber orchestra in the Far East, Europe, and the U.S.
Additionally, Mr. Lieberman has performed with many of the world's greatest conductors, including Pierre Boulez and Sir Simon Rattle (both in orchestral and chamber music settings), Erich Leinsdorf, Leonard Bernstein, Daniel Barenboim, Georg Solti, Eugene Ormandy, Claudio Abbado, Pierre Boulez, and Kurt Sanderling.
He has performed chamber music with artists including Emmanuel Ax, James Galway, Lynn Harrell, Pinchas Zuckerman, Glenn Dicterow, and David Shifrin.
A member of the New European Strings for several years, Mr. Lieberman toured both the US and Europe with its leader, Dimirtri Sitkovetsky. He has also served as principal bass of the Seattle Symphony on many occasions.
In l994, Mr. Lieberman created the series "Barry Lieberman and Friends" at the University of Washington. The series combines the talents of members of the Seattle Symphony, the University, guest artists, and students from both the University and its preparatory level. "BL and Friends" has met with great success and is one of the most popular concert series in Seattle.
2000-2001 marked Mr. Lieberman's debut with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center in New York City. His recording of the complete Vivaldi sonatas arranged for the double bass and piano was released in 2001 and is the first and only recording of all ten of these sonatas. They were performed on Mr. Lieberman's 1597 Maggini double bass, one of the oldest in the world.
In May 2002 Mr. Lieberman launched The American String Project, bringing together fifteen of the world's greatest string players to form the first conductorless string orchestra. The three performances that year met with intense critical acclaim, with the Seattle Post-Intelligencer proclaiming the Project the "best musical event" of 2002. Superlative artistic achievement and critical kudos have been the norm in all subsequent seasons.
In the fall of 2003, Mr. Lieberman conducted several master classes at the Guildhall School of Music in London, England, the equivalent of the Juilliard School in America. In the summer of 2004 he was invited to become a member of the faculty of the Roundtop Music Festival in Texas, one of the country's most respected summer music programs.
Mr. Lieberman is a graduate of the Interlochen Arts Academy and the Cleveland Institute of Music. He and his wife, Maria Larionoff, live in Seattle with their two golden retrievers, Randolph and Mia.
Joan Blackman, Associate Concertmaster of the Vancouver Symphony, enjoys a vibrant and varied musical life. She has performed and recorded as soloist with the Vancouver Symphony, Victoria Symphony, CBC Radio Orchestra, Turning Point Ensemble and the Banff Festival Orchestra, and has played chamber music with premier groups such as the Penderecki String Quartet and the Purcell String Quartet. She has appeared on the series Music in the Morning, Music Fest Vancouver , the Pender Harbour Music Society Concert Series, The Jeffrey Concerts in London, Ont., and the American String Project, which brings together concertmasters and soloists throughout North America. Joan has appeared at numerous summer festivals including the Hornby Island Festival, the Pender Harbour Chamber Music Festival, and the Victoria Summer Music Festival. She is frequently heard in on CBC radio. Ms. Blackman is also the Artistic Director of Vancouver’s Vetta Chamber Music Society, a longstanding and well respected Vancouver series that celebrates its 30th anniversary next season.
“Shapelier phrases and sweeter tone would be hard to imagine”, “a ravishing tone”, “first rate soloist”, “exchanged lines meltingly in a flawless performance” “playing with lyricism, precision, and evident joy”; are some of the accolades that have graced Joan’s reviews. In 2010 Zach Carstensen of Seattle’s Gathering Note wrote “Your heart would need to be made of stone not to have loved Joan Blackman’s splendid solo “.
Joan is also an active teacher having been on faculty atthe University of British Columbia, Kwantlen College, the Symphony Orchestra Academy of the Pacific, Vancouver Academy of Music, and the VSO School of Music. She also adjudicates at festivals throughout BC.
Stephen Wyrczynski, viola
Violist Stephen Wyrczynski is a professor of music at the Indiana University Jacobs School of Music. He was a member of the Philadelphia Orchestra for 18 years, joining them in 1992.
He began violin studies at age 8 and eventually switched to the viola at age 16. In 1983, he began viola studies with Kim Kashkashian and later with Karen Tuttle at the Peabody Conservatory, where he became Tuttle's teaching assistant. He went on to receive his bachelor's degree in 1988 from Juilliard, where he continued to be her assistant. He was then accepted at the Curtis Institute of Music, where he studied with Joseph de Pasquale, then principal violist of the Philadelphia Orchestra. Wyrczynski earned a diploma there in 1991.
Wyrczynski keeps an active teaching schedule. He is also on the faculty of the Aspen Music Festival and School. In addition to teaching private lessons, he conducts a seminar in orchestral audition repertoire and techniques. He has taught at the New World Symphony in Miami, Florida, and Mannes College of Music in New York, where he does quarterly coachings in orchestral repertoire. He has previously taught orchestral studies at the Curtis Institute of Music, the National Orchestral Institute, and the New York State Summer School for Orchestral Studies.
As a chamber musician, he has played in many of North America's celebrated venues. He has had performances at the Aspen Music Festival, Le Domaine Forget, Newport Music Festival, Grand Teton Music Festival, Tanglewood, Kingston Music Festival, Casal's Music Festival, El Paso Pro Musica, and the Apollo Chamber Players. He also has collaborated in chamber music with artists such as Joshua Bell, Sarah Chang, Pamela Frank, Edgar Meyer, and Dawn Upshaw.
Ani Kalayjian, cello
Hailed by the Los Angeles Times as “representing the young, up-and-coming generation,” and a “superb cellist with with a large, expressive, singing tone, passionate musicianship, and magnificent playing" by Journal Tribune, Grand Prize Winner of the International Chamber Music Competition of New England, Armenian-American cellist Ani Kalayjian enjoys an exciting career that has taken her to Japan, Australia, Canada, Europe, and the United Sates, both as a soloist and chamber musician. Recognized for her innovative programs and passionate about expressing music to a wide audience, Ani has performed music from hospitals to concert halls, nursing homes, fundraisers and schools among other communities. Most recently, she performed Haydn, Beethoven, & Schubert for the Princes of Qatar & Princess Eugenie of England at the Frick Museum. This season will include tours around the United States as a chamber music artist on the Cranbrook Music Series in Michigan, Brooklyn Historical Society in NY, Fortuna Concert Series in CA, Concerts International Memphis, among others and a commisioned world premiere by Polina Nazakinskaya as well as her debut at the Chateau de la Moutte festival in St. Tropez.
Recent chamber music performances have included appearances at IMS Prussia Cove in England, Lark Chamber Music Society and La Jolla Chamber Music Festival in California, Great Lakes Chamber Music Festivals as a Shouse Artist in Michigan, BargeMusic in NY, American String Project in Seattle, Camerata Nordica in a U.S. and Swedish tour, Lichfield Festival in England, and a Weill Recital Debut at Carnegie Hall. She has performed at numerous universities around the US, including Harvard, Colombia, Dartmouth, Colby, Bates, Eastern Nazarene, Trinity, among others. Her competition successes includes winning the Anglo-Czechoslovak Trust competition in England as a soloist where she was also granted the Bohuslav Martinu Foundation Prize, as well as a top prize at the J.C. Arriaga chamber music competition with Sima Trio. She has also enjoyed collaborations with such musicians as Ani Kavafian, Jorja Fleezanis, Andres Cardenes, Kim Kashkashian, among others, and has served as co-artistic director of AGBU’s Performing Artists at Weill Recital Hall.
She has performed at major venues in the USA, such as Rutgers Zimmerli Arts Museum in New Brunswick, Dweck Center in Brooklyn, Saugerties ProMusica Series in New York, Avalon Theater in Easton, MD, Parish Hall in Wye Mills, MD, Ridotto series in Huntington, NY, Little Rock Chamber Music Society in Arkansas, Fortuna Music Club and Fort Bragg Arts Center in California, Izumi Hall in Osaka, the National Gallery of Victoria in Melbourne, among others.
Ani was one of two cellists accepted into the inaugural season of David Finckel and Wu Han’s Music@Menlo festival. She has also taken part in Michael Tilson Thomas’ Carnegie Hall workshop in NY, Pablo Casals Prades festival in France, Mendelsohn on Mull in Scotland, Banff in Canada, Sarasota/FL, Apeldoorn/Holland, London Masterclasses, New York String Seminar, Holland Music Sessions and the RNCM International Cello Festival in England. At Prussia Cove, she was featured in a BBC documentary playing in a masterclass with Steven Isserlis. Ani completed her Masters degree with Distinction at the Royal Northern College of Music as a student of Ralph Kirshbaum. Undergraduate studies were at Mannes College of Music as a student of Timothy Eddy. Passionate about teaching, Ani currently serves on faculty at the Elisabeth Morrow and Horace Mann schools in NJ & NY.