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by Mike Telin

BROUWER-CD-ShatteredOn her latest recording, Shattered, released on the Naxos Label, composer Margaret Brouwer has compiled four beautifully constructed and emotionally captivating compositions. Each work reflects her personal and continuing musical journey to come to terms with the first decade of the turbulent twenty-first century. However what makes Shattered so appealing is that you do not need to know of Brouwer’s inner conflicts in order to immerse yourself in her alluring music. She has a talent for taking the simplest melody and through her expansive array of compositional techniques, develop it into a polished musical gem. And even when employing a twelve-tone row, Brouwer never ventures into the realm of compositional gimmickry. Every note she writes has musical purpose.

Margaret Brouwer’s immense prowess as a composer is in full evidence in her Quintet for Clarinet in A and String Quartet (2005), which is masterfully performed by the Maia String Quartet – Tricia Park and Zoran Jakovic, violins, Elizabeth Oakes, viola, Hannah Holman, cello and clarinetist Daniel Silver. In her informative liner notes, Brouwer describes the work as “a musical experiment to see whether the overlaying of different cultural influences can add to and enhance each other.” For example, during the opening movement she inventively layers musical quotes from Christian hymns with an imitation of the Muslim Call to Prayer. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

BROUWER-MargaretWe’ve played at Nighttown before and I really love playing there. It’s sort of like the way chamber music was originally conceived,” composer and Blue Streak Ensemble founder Margaret Brouwer said in a recent telephone conversation. “In the days before television and Internet, people would go to each other’s homes and entertain each other with a meal and musicians would play the latest music. I think Nightttown is like that. The people are enjoying a meal and a glass of wine. I just really like it for chamber music so I look forward to performing there again.”

On Thursday, March 13 beginning at 8:00 pm at Nighttown, Brouwer and her Blue Streak Ensemble will present a concert featuring the music of J.S. Bach, Brouwer, Bond, Ravel, Debussy and Desmond.

Formed in 2011 to launch a concert series along the shores of Lake Erie, Brouwer named the ensemble after The Blue Streak, Cedar Point’s famed roller coaster. Brouwer is dedicated to presenting concerts with an eclectic array of the latest, most interesting and expressive, and most exciting new music. Her mission is to show the connection between the rich music of the past and recently written new music. Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Blue-Streak-Ensemble-1Composer Margaret Brouwer’s Blue Streak Ensemble visited Nighttown in Cleveland Heights on Monday, July 15 to preview the concert it would give the next evening in Hoover Auditorium at Lakeside. Two more disparate venues would be hard to imagine — an intimate room in a restaurant/jazz club and an auditorium you could park a Boeing 777 in — but the delightful playlist would work well under any circumstances, and was perfect for a summer evening, whether on Cedar Road or on the shores of Lake Erie.

Brouwer designed Blue Streak as an ensemble that would play summer concerts on the Lake (it gets its name from the famous roller coaster at Cedar Point) as well as a vehicle for performing her own compositions and arrangements of works by other classical composers (above: the 2012 ensemble). The personnel changes a bit from season to season. Monday’s group included Jinjoo Cho, violin, Irwin Shung, piano, Maaike Harding, cello, Sarah Beaty, mezzo-soprano and Robert Davis, clarinet, who played three contrasting pieces by Brouwer, plus movements from a suite by Milhaud, Brouwer’s arrangement of a well-known Rossini aria, Dvořák’s own arrangement for cello and piano of his Silent Woods, a duo for clarinet and bassoon attributed to Beethoven repurposed for clarinet and cello, a virtuosic cello piece by Turtle Island Quartet cellist Mark Summer, and three arias from Porgy and Bess, two of them in virtuosic violin and piano arrangements by Jascha Heifetz written for recital encores. Read the rest of this entry »

by Mike Telin

Blue-Streak-Ensemble-1Composer Margaret Brouwer’s Blue Streak Ensemble will return to the shores of Lake Erie for its second summer season, with a concert in Hoover Auditorium at Lakeside on Tuesday, July 16 at 8:15 pm and an indoor preview at Nighttown in Cleveland Heights on Monday, June 15 at 7. The performances include the world premiere of Browuer’s new work for voice, violin, cello, clarinet, and piano, Deserted Delphi Veiled in Mist.

Founded in 2011, Blue Streak comprises young professional musicians from around the globe who trained at the Cleveland Institute of Music (left, the ensemble in 2012). The current personnel includes violinist Jinjoo Cho, pianist Irwin Shung, cellist Maaike Harding, cello, mezzo-soprano Sarah Beaty, and clarinetist Robert Davis. When not performing locally, the ensemble tours the country offering innovative programming of repertoire that spans 400 years and includes many of Brouwer’s own acclaimed compositions. Blue Streak will be playing at Symphony Space in New York in April of 2014.

The original impetus for creating Blue Streak was to perform Brouwer’s Lonely Lake, a work commissioned from her a few years ago, Brouwer said in a telephone conversation. “I also formed the group because for years I had thought it would be fun to have an ensemble that would perform classical and newly composed works at the resorts along the shores of Lake Erie. I felt that was a real need.” Read the rest of this entry »

by Daniel Hathaway

Margaret Brouwer’s Path at Sunrise, Masses of Flowers, was premiered by the Cleveland Women’s Orchestra under Robert L. Cronquist on Sunday, April 11 during its 75th anniversary concert at Severance Hall. The piece was made possible by a Commissioning Music USA award from Meet the Composer. Margaret Brouwer retired in 2008 from her position as professor of composition at the Cleveland Institute of Music. We spoke with her by phone at her home in Cleveland.

Daniel Hathaway: I assume you’ve had a bit more time to compose since you retired from teaching.

Margaret Brouwer:  I have! It’s been wonderful and it’s lucky because I’ve had several big commissions and it’s been terrific to be able to just concentrate on that without trying to fit it in amongst many other things”.

DH: You just had a premiere in Dallas in January.

MB: I did — with the Dallas Symphony. It went beautifully. It really did. It was just a terrific experience. Got terrific reviews, and you know, there was actually a lot of press before the concert  and some radio coverage. And you know there’s a new music group there called Voices of Change — they’ve been around for a long time, probably 20, 35 years — they piggybacked on the Dallas Symphony bringing me down there and so the Dallas Symphony played the concert premiere on Thursday, Friday and Saturday and then they scheduled a concert on Sunday where they did several of my chamber pieces.

DH: Fabulous. They should have given you the key to the city for the weekend.

MB: I know! It was terrific and they were wonderful. A lot of people in that group are members of the Dallas Symphony, so it’s a very high-level group, and they gave two wonderful performances of several chamber pieces in addition to the new concerto for viola and orchestra. It was hard to get back and just get to work again.
Read the rest of this entry »

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