Left Coast Chamber Ensemble 2014-15 Season Announced

We've lined up a provocative season of tantalizing music for you starting in September 2014.
Please join us!


SAN FRANCISCO SF Conservatory of Music • Monday, September 29, 2014 8PM
MILL VALLEY 142 Throckmorton Theatre • Thursday, October 2, 2014 8PM  

FILM: A Trip Down Market Street • scored by Gabriel Bolaños Chamorro
VIDEO: Klatka Still • scored by David Sanford
FILM: Borderline • scored by Sean Varah
FILM: Marcia Scott’s Bolinas • music by John Cage
Claude Debussy • Sonata for Cello and Piano in D Minor, L.135  
Henri Dutilleux  D’ombre et de silence  (In Shadow and Silence)
Felix Leuschner  Krieg ohne Schlacht for Tenor and Cello (2008) 2014 LCCE COMPETITION WINNER
Philippe Bodin  Métal

Left Coast screens silent films, beginning with early 20th century footage of a trip down San Francisco's Market Street, accompanied by a live score by Gabriel Chamorro, and continuing with films scored by Sean Varah. We'll also present the winner of the LCCE 2014 Composition Contest Felix Leuschner's Krieg ohne Schlacht a theatrical duet for cello and tenor. Serving as abstract foils for these dramatic works are French compositions; we feature favorite works chosen by the Left Coast players.


MILL VALLEY 142 Throckmorton Theatre • Sunday, December 7, 2014 7PM
SAN FRANCISCO Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion • Monday, December 8, 2014 8PM

Hans Werner Henze · Carillon, Récitatif, Masque: Trio for Mandolin, Guitar, and Harp
  Argento · Letters from Composers for Voice and Guitar
John Anthony Lennon · Ghostfires for Voice, Flute, Guitar, and Harp
  Martin · Quatre pièces brèves for Guitar
Amadeus Regucera · New
 Work for Bass Flute and Harp WORLD PREMIERE
Sam Nichols · New Work for Voice, Flute, Guitar, and Harp WORLD PREMIERE
Igor Stravinsky · Four Songs for Voice, Flute, Guitar, and Harp

In a concert curated by Left Coast guitarist Michael Goldberg, the timbral possibilities presented by an unusual collection of plucked instruments mandolin, harp, and guitar are combined with flute and voice. Stravinsky's delightfully off-kilter folk song settings and John Anthony Lennon's setting of text by James Joyce are complemented by a companion commission from the Bay Area composer Sam Nichols. Left Coast is delighted to welcome guest artists Ann Moss, Meredith Clark, and Travis Andrews, and guest composer Amadeus Regucera. 

3 CIRCA 1945

SAN FRANCISCO SF Conservatory of Music • Monday, February 2, 2015 8PM
MILL VALLEY 142 Throckmorton Theatre • Thursday, February 5, 2015 8PM

Bohuslav Martinů · Quartet for Oboe, Violin, Cello, and Piano, H.315
 Stravinsky · Elegy for Violin
David Coll · Remix:
 Take the A-Train WORLD PREMIERE
 Messiaen · Quartet for the End of Time

What did the world sound like in the 1940s? Music of that era straddled the old and new, as Left Coast shows with Martinů's neo-classical oboe quartet and a meditative elegy by Stravinsky. The ensemble revisits Messiaen's ground-breaking Quartet for the End of Time, last featured on our series in 2008, when Jerome Simas' sound was described as "clear, splendidly liquid, agile, mysterious, remote," and Eric Zivian's "bright-toned playing showered fistfuls of glittering notes" and with his "slow, serene pulse... he was, as ever, alert to the music's every gesture." (SF Classical Voice) And David Coll's new remix of the Ellington/Strayhorn classic "Take the A-Train" reflects on the WWII era from a 21st century vantage point.


MILL VALLEY 142 Throckmorton Theatre • Thursday, March 19, 2015 8PM
SAN FRANCISCO SF Conservatory of Music • Sunday, March 22, 2015 7PM

Additional free performance of Death with Interruptions only:  12:15pm, Monday March 16, 2015, (Hertz Hall, UC Berkeley Campus) 

Franz Schubert · Andante con moto from String Quartet No.14 in D Minor, D.810, “Death and the Maiden”
 Rohde · Death with Interruptions adapted by Thomas Laqueur from the novel by José Saramago, presented in collaboration with Volti SF · WORLD PREMIERE

Left Coast presents a new dramatic musical work based on Nobel Prize winner José Saramago's novelDeath with Interruptions. With music composed by Kurt Rohde and a libretto by the distinguished UC Berkeley historian Thomas Laqueur, the story recounts what happens when death, who lives in an unnamed Iberian country with her taciturn scythe, falls in love with the principal cellist of a local orchestra and fails to claim his life. Soprano Nikki Einfeld and cellist Leighton Fong are joined by Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and Volti San Francisco the noted chamber choir as well as other collaborators.  The concert opens with a contrasting take on the imagined embodiment of death, Schubert's, from his famous string quartet.

Support provided by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Distinguished Achievement Award granted to Professor Thomas Laqueur.


MILL VALLEY 142 Throckmorton Theatre • Sunday, May 31, 2015 8PM
SAN FRANCISCO SF Conservatory of Music • Monday, June 1, 2015 8PM

Robert Schumann · Impromptus sur une romance de Clara Wieck for Piano, Op. 5
 Musgrave · Impromptu No. 2 for Flute, Oboe, and Clarinet
Jon Deak · Lady
 Chatterley’s Dream for Violin, Viola, Cello, Double Bass, and Piano
NEW WORKS by Jean Ahn ·
 Nick Benavides · Jonathan Holland · Emily Koh · Mei-Fang Lin · Ryan Suleiman

Two exquisitely contrasting artworks, one black and one gold, displayed in Gallery 16 of the de Young Museum, serve as inspiration for the six emerging composers commissioned to write new works for this program. Both sculptures create art out of leftovers: Learning of an arson attack on a church that had a predominantly African American congregation, Cornelia Parker collected the charred remains of the building and constructed Anti-Mass, which seems to float in the gallery, defying gravity. On the opposite wall is El Anatsui's Hovor II; he transformed discarded bottle tops into an enormous opulent wall hanging. Completing this program are impromptus by Thea Musgrave and Robert Schumann, and the uproariousLady Chatterly's Dream, composed by New York  Philharmonic bassist Jon Deak. 

Support for this project was provided by the San Francisco Arts Commission Cultural Equity Grants Program.



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2014 Composition Contest Winner


April 19, 2014. Chosen from over 150 entries from 23 countries and 25 US states, the winning composition in this year's contest is Felix Leuschner's work for tenor and cello Krieg ohne Schlacht. Left Coast will perform the piece in the 2014-15 season.   Left Coast will perform the work  as part of our 22nd season.  The runner up is Gordon Williamson  for his work Vier Stückchen.

A huge thank you to all the composers who participated in the 2014 Left Coast Composition Contest.  We appreciate the hard work that went in to the works and we were very impressed by the quality and diversity of the music submitted to us.

Kurt Rohde at the Copland House

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble violist and composer Kurt Rohde will be in residence at the Copland House in New York in summer,  2014. According to the Copland House foundation,  "The Copland House Residency Awards were inspired by Aaron Copland's exceptional legacy of support for his fellow composers. Based at Copland House, a National Historic Landmark , the Copland House Residency Awards have earned nationwide recognition. Gifted emerging or mid-career American composers  are invited to reside, one at a time, at Rock Hill, Aaron Copland's restored New York home. There, they can focus on their creative work, free from the distractions of daily life and other professional responsibilities."

Here's what Kurt is planning: "While at the Copland House, I will compose a new “pocket” concerto (meaning it will be short and involve a small number of players in order to make it easy to do) for cellist Michelle Kesler. This multi-movement work for solo cello and small ensemble will involve a number of doublings by all the players on “humble” instruments (kazoos, harmonicas, slide whistles, beer bottles, toy drums). My idea for this piece incorporates a number of “stations” located throughout the hall, among which the soloist will move as the piece progresses. It is my intention to have this physical movement mimic and represent the progression/development of proficiency that a player encounters as they learn their instrument. The journey from being a beginning player on the cello and growing over the years into a well-trained, seasoned performer will be articulated as the piece moves from beginning to end. To strengthen this concept, the soloist will begin the piece playing on a half-size student cello and end with their full-size, "mature" instrument. This piece has also received support with a commission from the Barlow Endowment for New Music Composition."

Congratulations and good luck, Kurt!

Kurt Rohde, photo by Jeanette Yu

Kurt Rohde, photo by Jeanette Yu

Left Coast Chamber Ensemble 2013-14 Season Announced


We've got an enticing season planned for you starting in September 2013.

1 Point/Counterpoint

142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley 9/15/2013 

San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco 9/16/2013

Flutist Stacey Pelinka curated the first concert of Left Coast's 2013-14 season, Point Counter Point, a program exploring extremes of simplicity and complexity.  First we’ll hear Bach arias in which a vocal melody is set against wind obbligato parts, then, one of Elliott Carter's best-loved works, the Sonata for Flute, Oboe, Cello and Harpsichord. Carter’s sonata looks back to Bach's time. Bach wrote exquisite melodies and was a master of polyphonic complexity; Carter fused simple gestures and ornate rhythmic interplay, incorporating the sonority of the harpsichord and old dance forms into a modern idiom.  Erik Ulman, an emerging “New Complexity” composer wrote this until specifically for Pelinka. This until complements the Bach and the Carter; Ulman uses such intricate rhythms and melodies his music sounds improvised. Finally, Roussel’s Deux Poèmes de Ronsard looks backward over the centuries to songs and fantasies by John Dowland, a wizard of melody who lived more than 100 years before Bach.

Eric Ulman · this until for Flute

Albert Roussel · Deux Poèmes de Ronsard, Op. 26

John Dowland · Songs and Fantasies for Guitar and Voice

Elliot Carter · Sonata for Flute, Cello, Oboe and Harpsichord

J.S. Bach · Aus Liebe will mein Heiland sterben and other Arias

2 Left Coast String Bands

142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley 12/8/2013 

Dennis Gallagher Arts Pavilion, San Francisco 12/9/2013

String ensembles present a dazzling array of possibilities for composers, who can exploit the homogeneity of the instruments’ sonorities and variety in articulations and colors; this allows them to blend sounds and to delineate independent voices. Left Coast’s string players explore this range with music of diverse styles, from a duo for violin and bass by Edgar Meyer to a septet by Kurt Rohde, as well as György Ligeti’s first string quartet, Frank Zappa’s None of the Above, and Brahms’ String Quintet No. 1 in F Major; of this sublime piece, the composer wrote, “You have never had such a beautiful work from me.”

Edgar Meyer · First Movement from Concert Duo for Violin and Double Bass

György Ligeti · String Quartet No. 1 “Métamorphoses nocturnes”

Frank Zappa · None of the Above for String Quartet and Double Bass

Johannes Brahms · String Quintet No. 1 in F Major, Op.88

Kurt Rohde · Hear No Evil for String Septet

3 Some Serious Fun 

142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley 1/30/2014 

San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco 2/3/2014

Games inspired this program, which includes LCCE 2003 Composition Contest Winner Moritz Eggert’sPong, a charming musical rendering of the 1972 Atari game, as well as Mozart’s E-flat Trio, nicknamed “Kegelstatt,” or “Billiards,” and  György Kurtág’s Signs Games and Messages. Risk and competition come into play with Laura Schwendinger’s High Wire Act, and LCCE 2013 Composition Contest Winner Michael-Thomas Foumai’s Scat.  Local star Steve Horowitz, who teaches a course on writing music for games, is contributing a brief new trio. We also hear Scott Lindroth’s musical parallel of the imaginary world envisioned by Achilles Rizzoli, in Yield to Total Elation.

W.A. Mozart · Trio in E-flat Major,“Kegelstatt” for Clarinet, Viola and Piano 

Michael-Thomas Foumai · Scat for Flute, Clarinet, Violin and Cello


Scott Lindroth · Yield to Total Elation for Flute, Viola and Guitar

Steve Horowitz · NEW WORK for Chamber Ensemble WORLD PREMIERE

György Kurtág · Signs, Games and Messages for String Trio


Laura Schwendinger · High Wire Act for Flute, Violin, Viola, Cello and Piano

4 Short Stories

142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley 3/20/2014  

San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco 3/23/2014

We hear Bailes encima del escritorio de nuestra juventud, a scene rendered in music by Charles Zoll, the young top prize winner of the 2013 national Rapido! Composition Contest.  Bay Area composer Laurie San Martin is writing a new dramatic work for chamber ensemble and speaker.  

Charles Zoll · Bailes encima del escritorio de nuestra juventud for Oboe, Violin, Cello, Piano


Laurie San Martin· NEW WORK for Actor and Ensemble WORLD PREMIERE

This concert supported in part by San Francisco Friends of Chamber Music Musical Grant Program

5 Left Coast Summer Reading

142 Throckmorton Theatre, Mill Valley 6/8/2014  

San Francisco Conservatory of Music, San Francisco 6/9/2014

Kick off the summer reading season with Left Coast, listening to Robert Schumann’s  Märchenbilder(Fairy Tale Pictures), Leoš Janáček’s first string quartet––inspired by the Tolstoy novella The Kreutzer Sonata––and  Thomas Adès’ trio for clarinet, violin and piano––inspired by Shakespeare’s The Tempest.  Also featured are new works from composers Mika Pelo and Eric Zivian.

Robert Schumann · Märchenbilder for Viola and Piano

Thomas Adès · Court Studies from The Tempest for Violin, Clarinet and Piano

Mika Pelo · NEW WORK for Piano Trio WORLD PREMIERE

Eric Zivian · NEW WORK for Piano Trio WORLD PREMIERE

Leoš Janáček · String Quartet No. 1, “The Kreutzer Sonata”


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Profile: Left Coast Celebrates Its Two Cellists Leighton Fong & Tanya Tomkins

Leighton Fong, Michael Taddei, Tanya Tomkins

Tanya Tomkins was attracted to early music. Leighton Fong, to contemporary music.  Their paths never crossed until sixteen years ago when she heard him play at a Left Coast concert.

Yet they shared similar experiences (playing chamber music with members of their families, studying in Europe) and similar goals (neither was willing to specialize). Together they provide a breadth of music that gives Left Coast the freedom to program concerts spanning three centuries--from the late1600s to the early 2000s.

Leighton’s and Tanya’s families didn’t expect their children to become professional musicians. Leighton’s parents just thought playing music should be part of a child’s education. One of his two older sisters played the piano; the other, the clarinet and his brother, the clarinet and cello. When Leighton was nine, the public schools in Sacramento offered musical training to students in the fourth grade. He could have picked any instrument. He chose the cello because, “its sound resonated with him.”

Leighton and his sisters played chamber music together. It was “fun” and he “enjoyed playing with them.” He suspects that he might like playing chamber music as much as he does because it somehow “embodies his family’s spirit.” Of the four siblings, Leighton is the only one who became a professional musician. He never considered doing anything else.

Tanya’s mother played the piano and sang. Her father was a brilliant scientist and an accomplished jazz musician. He played classical music too. The clarinet, flute, saxophone and piano were his instruments. Like Leighton and his sisters, Tanya’s family played chamber music together. Tanya remembers, “always liking playing with other people. Chamber music is the most fun thing of all to do as a musician.”

The sound of the cello however, definitely didn’t “resonate” with Tanya. When she heard her older sister play the violin, she thought it was the “coolest thing she had ever seen or heard.” Her choice would have been the violin, but when she was eight she “succumbed to family pressure” and reluctantly completed the family’s chamber music ensemble by playing the cello.

Five years later Tanya’s father died unexpectedly. She was thirteen; her sister, seventeen. He never wanted his daughters to become professional musicians and instead had encouraged them to be, like he was, an amateur musician.   After he died though, music gradually became more and more important for Tanya and by the time she went to college, being a musician and playing the cello seemed the “natural track to take.” (Her sister became a professional violist.)

Tanya and Leighton both studied music in California and Europe.  Leighton attended the San Francisco Conservatory, the New England Conservatory, the Bern Conservatory in Switzerland, and the Royal Conservatory in Copenhagen, Denmark. Tanya attended the University of Southern California, the California Institute of Arts and the Royal Conservatory of Music in the Netherlands.

Leighton traveled to Europe for opportunity and adventure; Tanya, because she was determined to study with a particular teacher.  Leighton’s teachers in the conservatories played and regarded new and old music equally. Young musicians were not encouraged to specialize in one or the other. Old or new it was “all music-making.” Leighton’s primary goal has always been to “engage the audience by playing expressively and creatively.”

Tanya went to Amsterdam after she heard a recording of Anner Bylsma playing the Brahms Clarinet Trio. He was considered the world’s best baroque cellist, but she didn’t know that. She liked the sound of the cello when he played it. She wrote to him and sent him recordings. When he didn’t respond, she flew to Amsterdam. She knocked on his door. When his wife told Tanya he was teaching at a festival in northern Italy, Tanya took the train there. She played Bach for him. And, although “she played Bach in a very romantic way,” he accepted her and said he would be her teacher in exchange for her babysitting his children. She accepted. She learn to play Bach in the baroque style, she became fluent in Dutch (Bylsma’s children could not speak English) and learned firsthand by living with the Bylsmas what the life of busy professional musicians is like. (Anner’s wife, Vera Beths, is a violinist.)

Like Leighton’s teachers, Byslma encouraged his students not to specialize. And, in spite of being “the world’s best baroque cellist,” he stressed the importance of playing contemporary music. He thought it was important to interact with living composers and experience how much creative leeway they’re willing to give players.

In 1998, Tanya moved back home to the Bay Area.  She wasn’t sure if she would fit in with American chamber music groups after having played chamber music in Europe for so many years. Apparently, “American” chamber music playing can be louder and faster and is associated with excellent technique and “European” chamber music playing is more subtle and associated with greater nuance.    

Totally by chance, the very first concert Tanya attended after returning was a Left Coast concert. Left Coast’s pianist and her then new boyfriend Eric Zivian invited her. She heard “subtle, beautiful playing that reminded her of the European style. She thought, “Oh, this would be fun. I would like to do this.”

She was delighted when Leighton invited her to share the position. And, he was happy when she accepted. To him, it seemed like the “natural thing to do.” Playing all the Left Coast concerts in one season entailed a lot of work --- many hours of practicing and rehearsing. Having a second cellist in the group would free up some of his time to do other things like playing in orchestras and teaching.

Each of them appreciates having another cellist in the group---someone else who deeply understands the instrument’s complexities and can help find workable solutions. For most cellists that kind of interaction usually exists only in orchestras. It’s rare for a chamber ensemble to have two cellists.

It’s even more rare to feature them playing together in three pieces. In the final concert of Left Coast’s 20th season, Tanya and Leighton collaborate to play old and new pieces: the oldest is by J. S. Bach, the newest contains electronic music and is by a living composer, Matt Schumaker, and the third is an unusual string quartet (in terms of personnel) written by Arensky in 1894 in “Memory of Tchaikovsky.” It’s a typical Left Coast program, showcasing both old and new music and everything in between. Truly, it’s hard to imagine a better match than the one existing between the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble and its two cellists. 

Author: By Marilyn Zivian, Member, LCCE Board of Directors. Based on an interview with Tanya & Leighton in April 2013