Members of Seattle Symphony and School of Music faculty Melia Watras, viola, and Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello, present a program including world premieres by UW Music director Richard Karpen and faculty (and SSO) bassoonist Seth Krimsky and music by Icelandic composer Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Seattle Symphony Music Director (and head of UW Conducting) Ludovic Morlot and David Alexander Rahbee conduct.
Seth Krimsky: Rabble Rouser (world premiere)
David Alexander Rahbee, conductor
Páll Ragnar Pálsson: Quake
Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, cello
David Alexander Rahbee, conductor
Richard Karpen: I'm just saying... (world premiere)
Melia Watras, viola
Ludovic Morlot, conductor
The French conductor Ludovic Morlot has been Music Director of the Seattle Symphony since 2011. During the 2018/19 season the orchestra continues on its incredible musical journey, focusing particularly on the music of Debussy, and works by composers he influenced or that influenced him. Amongst others, newly commissioned works this season are Caroline Shaw’s Piano Concerto and the US premiere of Pascal Dusapin’s At Swim-Two-Birds. The orchestra have many successful recordings, which have won two Grammy Awards. A box set of music by Dutilleux was recently released on their own label, Seattle Symphony Media, to mark the 100th anniversary of the composer’s birth.
This season, Ludovic’s guest engagements include the Houston, Detroit, Melbourne and Bamberg Symphony Orchestras, and the Netherlands Radio, BBC and Bergen Philharmonic Orchestras.
In 2018 his summer festival appearances included the BBC Proms and Edinburgh Festival (City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra), the Caramoor Festival (Orchestra of St Luke’s), the Hollywood Bowl (Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra) and the Aspen Music Festival, where he is a regular guest.
He also has a particularly strong connection with the Boston Symphony Orchestra having been the Seiji Ozawa Fellowship Conductor in 2001 at Tanglewood and subsequently appointed assistant conductor for the orchestra (2004-07). Since then he has conducted the orchestra in subscription concerts in Boston, at Tanglewood and on a tour to the west coast of America.
Recent and future debuts include the Berliner Philharmoniker, Vienna Symphony (Wien Modern Festival) and the Yomiuri Nippon Symphony Orchestras. Ludovic has conducted the London Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Festival Hall in London and on tour in Germany. In 2017 he conducted the inaugural concerts of the National Youth Orchestra of China in New York and China. Other recent notable performances have included the New York Philharmonic, Chicago Symphony, Atlanta Symphony, Royal Concertgebouw, Czech Philharmonic, Dresden Staatskapelle, Tonhalle, Budapest Festival, Orchestre Philharmonique de Radio France, Helsinki Philharmonic, and Tokyo Philharmonic Orchestras. Ludovic served as conductor in residence with the Orchestre National de Lyon under David Robertson (2002-04).
Ludovic was Chief Conductor of La Monnaie for three years (2012-2014). During this time he conducted several new productions including La Clemenza di Tito, Jenufa and Pelléas et Mélisande as well as concert performances in both Brussels and at the Aix-en-Provence Easter Festival.
Trained as a violinist, Ludovic studied conducting at the Pierre Monteux School (USA) with Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo. He continued his education in London at the Royal Academy of Music and then at the Royal College of Music as recipient of the Norman del Mar Conducting Fellowship. Ludovic was elected a Fellow of the Royal Academy of Music in 2014 in recognition of his significant contribution to music. He is Chair of Orchestral Conducting Studies at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle.
David Alexander Rahbee is currently Senior Artist in Residence at the University of Washington School of Music in Seattle, where he is Director of Orchestral Activities and Chair of Orchestral Conducting. He is Music Director and Conductor of the University of Washington Symphony Orchestra and founder of the UW Campus Philharmonia Orchestras. He is a recipient of the American-Austrian Foundation's 2003 Herbert von Karajan Fellowship for Young Conductors, the 2005 International Richard-Wagner-Verband Stipend, a fellowship the Acanthes Centre in Paris (2007), and is first prize winner in conducting from The American Prize national non-profit competitions in the performing arts for 2020. His work at UW has earned national recognition. In 2021 he was praised by The American Prize as “Consistently one of the most courageous and comprehensive [orchestral] programmers working in higher education in the U.S. today…”
Dr. Rahbee has appeared in concert with orchestras such as the Seattle Symphony, RTE National Symphony Orchestra of Ireland, Orchestre Philharmonique du Luxembourg, Kammerphilharmonie Berlin-Brandenburg, Guernsey Symphony Orchestra, Chattanooga Symphony, National Chamber Orchestra of Armenia, Orchestre de la Francophonie, Orchesterakademie der Bochumer Symphoniker, the Dresden Hochschule orchestra, Grand Harmonie, the Boston New Music Initiative, Seattle Modern Orchestra, Orquesta Sinfónica de Loja (Ecuador), Savaria Symphony Orchestra (Hungary), Cool Opera of Norway (members of the Stavanger Symphony), Schönbrunner Schloss Orchester (Vienna), the Whatcom Symphony Orchestra, the Kennett Symphony, and the Divertimento Ensemble of Milan. His collaborations with the Seattle Symphony include assistant conductor for the performance and recording of Ives’ Fourth Symphony, and as guest conductor for their Native Lands project and the North American premiere of Páll Ragnar Pallson's Quake with faculty cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir. He has collaborated with several prominent soloists such as Sarah Chang, Jon Kimura Parker, Yekwon Sunwoo, Glenn Dicterow and Jonathan Biss. He has been a guest rehearsal conductor for numerous young orchestras, such as the New England Conservatory Symphony Orchestra, The Symphony Orchestra of the Hall-Musco Conservatory of Music at Chapman University, and the Vienna University of Technology orchestra. He has served on faculty of the Pierre Monteux School as Conducting Associate, has been resident conductor of the Atlantic Music Festival and guest conductor at the Hawaii Performing Arts Festival.
Dr. Rahbee was an assistant at the Vienna State opera from 2002-2010. As part of his fellowship and residency at the 2003 Salzburg Festival, Dr. Rahbee was assistant conductor of the International Attergau Institute Orchestra, where he worked with members of the Vienna Philharmonic. He has been selected to actively participate in masterclasses with prominent conductors such as Kurt Masur, Sir Colin Davis, Jorma Panula, Zdeněk Mácal, Peter Eötvös, Zoltán Peskó and Helmut Rilling, and counts Nikolaus Harnoncourt to be among his most influential mentors. From 1997-2001, David Rahbee was founder and conductor of the Fidelio Chamber Orchestra in Cambridge, Massachusetts.
Dr. Rahbeeʼs principal conducting teachers were Charles Bruck and Michael Jinbo at the Pierre Monteux School. He holds a Bachelor of Music degree in violin and composition from Indiana University, a Master of Music degree from the New England Conservatory in orchestral conducting, and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from the University of Montreal in orchestral conducting. He has also participated in post-graduate conducting classes at the Universität für Musik und Darstellende Kunst, Vienna. His brass arrangements are published by Warwick Music, and his articles on the music of Mahler have appeared in journals of the International Gustav Mahler Gesellschaft, among others.
In addition to being awarded first prize in conducting from The American Prize for 2020, he was awarded 2nd place in 2019. He has also placed among winners for five consecutive years for The American Prize Vytautas Marijosius Memorial Award for Orchestral Programming, recognizing his programming with the UW Symphony and its affiliated ensembles for every season since he joined the faculty. The UWSO has also been a finalist in the category of orchestral performance in 2018, 2019 and 2020.
Dr. Rahbee is co-editor of Daniels’ Orchestral Music (6thedition) and Daniels’ Orchestral Music Online (DOMO), the gold standard among conductors, orchestral administrators, orchestra librarians as well as other music professionals and students researching for orchestral programming.
Icelandic-American cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir enjoys a varied career as a performer, collaborator and educator. She has appeared as soloist with the Los Angeles Philharmonic, NDR Elbphilharmonie Orchester, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Toronto Symphony Orchestra and Iceland Symphony, among others, and her recital and chamber music performances have taken her across the US, Europe and Asia. Sæunn has performed in many of the world’s prestigious halls including Carnegie Hall, Suntory Hall, Elbphilharmonie, Barbican Center and Disney Hall and the press have described her as “charismatic” and “riveting” (NYTimes) and praised her performances for their “emotional intensity” (LATimes).
An avid chamber musician, she has collaborated in performance with Itzhak Perlman, Mitsuko Uchida, Richard Goode and members of the Emerson, Guarneri, St. Lawrence and Cavani Quartets and has performed in numerous chamber music festivals, including Santa Fe, Seattle, Stellenbosch, Orcas Island, Bay Chamber, Prussia Cove and Marlboro, with whom she has toured. She is cellist of the Seattle-based group, Frequency, and cellist and founding member of Decoda, The Affiliate Ensemble of Carnegie Hall.
In the 2018-2019 season, Sæunn makes her debut with the BBC and Seattle Symphonies performing the award-winning cello concerto,Quake, written for her by Páll Ragnar Pálsson. Chamber music appearances take her to Carnegie Hall in New York City, Glasgow, and Los Angeles, as well as recitals in Reykjavík, Seattle and Chicago following the Spring 2019 release of “Vernacular”, her recording of Icelandic solo cello music on the Sono Luminus label.
Highlights of the 2017-2018 season included the US premiere of Betsy Jolas’ Wanderlied and the Hong Kong premiere of Sofia Gubaidulina’s Canticle of the Sun, as well as recitals and chamber music appearances in New York City, San Francisco, Seattle, Glasgow, London and Reykjavík. In addition to collaborating with Daníel Bjarnason on his award-winning composition Bow to String, Sæunn enjoys close working relationships with composers of our time such as Páll Ragnar Pálsson, Halldór Smárason, Melia Watras, Jane Antonia Cornish and Þuríður Jónsdóttir.
Sæunn has garnered numerous prizes in international competitions, including the Naumburg Competition and the Antonio Janigro Competition in Zagreb. She received a Bachelor of Music from the Cleveland Institute of Music, a Master of Music from The Juilliard School and a Doctorate of Musical Arts from SUNY Stony Brook. Her teachers and mentors include Richard Aaron, Tanya Carey, Colin Carr and Joel Krosnick.
Born in Reykjavík, Iceland, Sæunn serves on the faculty of the University of Washington in Seattle, teaching cello and chamber music. For more information, please visit www.saeunn.com
Melia Watras has been hailed by Gramophone as “an artist of commanding and poetic personality” and by The Strad as “staggeringly virtuosic.” As a violist, composer and collaborative artist, she has sustained a distinguished career as a creator and facilitator of new music and art. The 2022-23 season brings numerous world premieres for her as a performer and composer: Joël-François Durand’s viola concerto (written for Watras), Geister, schwebende Geister…, which she will perform with Dal Niente; Watras’s Sarabanda for solo viola, which she will premiere as part of Atar Arad’s project, Partyta; six new works for viola written for Watras, penned by composers Ryan Carraher, Durand, Sandesh Nagaraj, Jonathan Rodriguez, Breana Tavaglione and Wei Yang; and String Theory I and II, works co-composed by Watras and Madeline Warner.
Watras’s discography has received considerable attention from the press and the public. Her recent recording String Masks, a collection of her own compositions including the titular work which utilizes Harry Partch instruments, was praised for “not only the virtuoso’s sensitive playing, but also her innovative and daring spirit,” by the Journal of the American Viola Society. Her compositional debut album, Firefly Songs, was hailed for “distilling rich life experiences into strikingly original musical form” by Textura. Schumann Resonances was described by the American Record Guide as “a rare balance of emotional strength and technical delicacy.” The Strad called 26 “a beautiful celebration of 21st century viola music.” Ispirare made numerous Best of 2015 lists, including the Chicago Reader’s (“Watras knocked the wind out of me with the dramatically dark beauty of this recording”). Short Stories was a Seattle Times Critics’ Pick, with the newspaper marveling at her “velocity that seems beyond the reach of human fingers.” Of her debut solo CD (Viola Solo), Strings praised her “stunning virtuosic talent” and called her second release (Prestidigitation) “astounding and both challenging and addictive to listen to.”
Watras’s compositions have been performed in New York City, Chicago, Seattle, Bloomington (IN), Columbus (GA), Denmark and Spain. She has been commissioned by the Avalon String Quartet, violinists Rachel Lee Priday and Michael Jinsoo Lim, cellist Sæunn Thorsteinsdóttir, pianist Cristina Valdés, accordionist Jeanne Velonis, violist Rose Wollman, and has had works performed by artists such as violist Atar Arad, singer Galia Arad, pianist Winston Choi, Harry Partch Instrumentarium Director Charles Corey, violinists Tekla Cunningham, Manuel Guillén and Yura Lee, vocalist Carrie Henneman Shaw, percussionist Bonnie Whiting and the ensemble Frequency. Her music has been heard on National Public Radio’s Performance Today, and can be found on the albums String Masks; 3 Songs for Bellows, Buttons and Keys; Firefly Songs; Schumann Resonances and 26. Watras’s adaptation of John Corigliano’s Fancy on a Bach Air for viola is published by G. Schirmer, Inc. and can be heard on her Viola Solo album.
Watras is the violist of Frequency, and for twenty years, she concertized worldwide and recorded extensively as violist of the renowned Corigliano Quartet, which she co-founded. The quartet appears on 13 albums, including their recording on the Naxos label, which was honored as one of the Ten Best Classical Recordings of the Year by The New Yorker.
Melia Watras studied with Atar Arad at Indiana University, earning Bachelor’s and Master’s degrees and the prestigious Performer’s Certificate. While at Indiana, Watras began her teaching career as Professor Arad’s Associate Instructor, and was a member of the faculty as a Visiting Lecturer. She went on to study chamber music at the Juilliard School while serving as a teaching assistant to the Juilliard String Quartet.
Watras serves as Professor of Viola and Chair of Strings at the University of Washington, where she holds the Adelaide D. Currie Cole Endowed Professorship and was previously awarded the Donald E. Petersen Endowed Fellowship and the Royalty Research Fund. Watras has given viola and chamber music classes at schools such as Indiana University, Cleveland Institute of Music, Strasbourg Conservatoire (France), and Chosun University (South Korea). She frequently returns to her alma mater, Indiana, to teach as a guest professor. She plays a viola made by Samuel Zygmuntowicz.
Richard Karpen (b. New York, 1957) is a composer and researcher in multiple areas of music and the arts. His compositions for both electronic media and live performance are widely known, recorded, and performed internationally. Since the early 1980s he has also been in the forefront of the development of computer applications for music composition, interactive performance, and the sonic arts. He is also active as pianist.
Karpen is a Professor of Digital Arts and Experimental Media (DXARTS) and Music Composition at the University of Washington in Seattle. Also at the UW he was founding Director of DXARTS in 2001 and Director of the School of Music from 2009-2020. He has been the recipient of many awards, grants, and prizes, including those from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Bourges Contest in France, and the Luigi Russolo Foundation in Italy. Karpen has composed works for many leading international soloists, such as soprano Judith Bettina, violists Garth Knox and Melia Watras, trombonist Stuart Dempster, flutists Laura Chislett and Jos Zwaanenberg, guitarist Stefan Östersjö, and ensembles such as The Six Tones, JACK Quartet, The Seattle Symphony, and the Harry Partch Ensemble. Karpen is a founding member, with Cuong Vu, of the experimental improvisation ensemble Indigo Mist. As a pianist, Karpen has performed and recorded with Cuong Vu, Bill Frisell, Ted Poor, Steve Rodby, and others. Karpen's compositions and performances have been recorded on a variety of labels including Wergo, Centaur, Neuma, Le Chant du Monde, DIFFUSION i MeDIA, Fleur du Son, Capstone, and RareNoise.