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Pittance Chamber Music’s ‘Modern Beauty’ Concert of Contemporary Repertoire Featuring Pianist Gloria Cheng

Modern Beauty is a concert of contemporary repertoire featuring GRAMMY and EMMY-winning pianist Gloria Cheng with members of the LA Opera Orchestra
Published on Feb 26, 2020
Gloria Cheng Photo credit: Lefteris Photography

Pittance Chamber Music presents Modern Beauty, inviting you to experience the beauty of modern music via the artistry of GRAMMY and EMMY-winning pianist Gloria Cheng, one of today’s most respected and revered interpreters of contemporary repertoire. Cheng has been lauded in the Washington Post, New York Times and LA Weekly for her “breathtaking”, “exhilarating” and “broadly expressive” performances. For this Pittance Chamber Music concert, Cheng teams up with members of the LA Opera Orchestra: Jennifer Cullinan, Oboe; Donald Foster, Clarinet, and Judith Farmer, Bassoon, for a transcendent evening of favorite chamber music pieces by composers with whom she has collaborated – including Billy Childs, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Steven Stucky, Fang Man, Kay Rhie and Gernot Wolfgang. Modern Beauty takes place on Sunday, April 5, 7:30 p.m. at the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.

The program includes the world premiere of Gernot Wolfgang’s Decisions for Oboe and Piano as well as works by women composers: Fang Man’s That raindrops have hastened the falling flowers – in memory of Steven Stucky and Interlude by Kay Rhie. Also on the program is Trio for Oboe, Clarinet and Bassoon by Witold Lutoslawski, Iscrizione by Esa-Pekka Salonen, Sonata for Bassoon and Piano by Billy Childs and Meditation and Dance for Clarinet and Piano by the late Steven Stucky.

Gernot Wolfgang’s Decisions for Oboe and Piano was written for oboist Cullinan and is a probing piece that raises more questions than it answers. Written in three movements entitled This – Or That?, Where To? and Case Closed?, the work presents a musical exploration of various stages in a decision-making process.

According to Pittance Chamber Music Artistic Director Lisa Sutton, “The creation of the Modern Beauty program was a collaborative effort between all the performers involved. We wanted to feature composers with whom Gloria Cheng had a personal connection and to showcase each woodwind instrument. The Lutoslawski Trio features the woodwind ensemble and establishes the connection to Steven Stucky (the foremost authority on Lutoslawski) and subsequently Esa-Pekka Salonen, Fang Man and Kay Rhie. Stucky’s Meditation and Dance features clarinetist Donald Foster; Gernot Wolfgang’s Decisions for Oboe and Piano features oboist Jennifer Cullinan (for whom the piece is written) and Billy Childs’ Sonata for Bassoon and Piano features bassoonist Judith Farmer. Gernot Wolfgang is no stranger to Pittance audiences, who loved his work Road Signs (performed during our 2018 season) and we are excited and honored to premiere this new work. Billy Childs is well-known in the world of jazz, but what is less known is that he has written a number of chamber music works. Interestingly, both Cheng and Farmer both proposed doing his Sonata for Bassoon and Piano independent of one another. And so, with this final accord, the program was complete.”

GRAMMY and EMMY-winning pianist Gloria Cheng has long been devoted to a process of creative collaboration, having worked with internationally acclaimed composers such as John Adams, Terry Riley, Thomas Adès and the late Steven Stucky. Cheng has appeared as a soloist with the LA Philharmonic, and as a recitalist on their Green Umbrella Series. She has performed at the Ojai Festival (first appearing there in 1984 with Pierre Boulez), the Chicago Humanities Festival, the William Kapell Festival and the Tanglewood Festival of Contemporary Music. Cheng has inspired and premiered many compositions, including Esa-Pekka Salonen’s Dichotomie, which is dedicated to her. She received a GRAMMY for her 2009 recording, Piano Music of Salonen, Stucky and Lutoslawski, and a nomination for her 2013 disc, The Edge of Light: Messiaen/Saariaho. Ms. Cheng’s film, MONTAGE: Great Film Composers and the Piano – documenting the recording of works composed for her by Bruce Broughton, Don Davis, Alexandre Desplat, Michael Giacchino, Randy Newman and John Williams – aired on PBS SoCal and captured the 2018 Los Angeles Area EMMY Award for Independent Programming. Her most recent disc, Garlands for Steven Stucky, is a star-studded tribute to the late composer by 32 of his friends and former students. After receiving her Bachelor’s degree in Economics from Stanford University, Cheng studied in Paris on a Woolley Scholarship and earned graduate degrees from UCLA and USC, where she studied with Aube Tzarko and John Perry. Cheng is currently on the faculty at the UCLA Herb Alpert School of Music, where she has created courses and programs designed to unite performers, composers and scholars.

Jennifer Cullinan is a member of the LA Opera Orchestra and the Santa Barbara Symphony. She has also performed with the LA Philharmonic, the LA Chamber Orchestra, the Pasadena Symphony, and the Colorado Symphony Orchestra. Jennifer holds degrees from the University of Colorado, the University of Southern California, and the Colburn School of Music, and has been a multiple fellowship recipient at the Aspen Music Festival and School. She has performed chamber music on a variety of local series including Camerata Pacifica, Chamber Music Palisades, LACMA Sundays Live, and the South Bay Chamber Music Society. Jennifer is currently a member of the faculty at the University of California Santa Barbara and the Pasadena Conservatory of Music.

Donald Foster is one of Southern California’s most active musicians, serving as Principal Clarinet in the Pasadena Symphony and Santa Barbara Symphony, and Second Clarinet in the LA Opera Orchestra. Foster is a frequent auxiliary/substitute musician with the LA Philharmonic and San Diego Symphony and can be heard often as part of the Jacaranda Chamber Music Series in Santa Monica. A busy studio musician, Don has been featured on numerous soundtracks for motion pictures and television. He became John Williams’ Principal Clarinet in Los Angeles when he performed on Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull. He received screen credit for his solo work on Williams’ Oscar-nominated score to The Book Thief and, more recently, played for the latest Star Wars movie, Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker. Prior to working in Los Angeles, Don served as Principal Clarinet with the Philharmonie der Nationen based in Hamburg, Germany. While with the Philharmonie he performed in over 250 concerts in virtually every major city in Europe. He has also served as Principal Clarinet of the Colorado Music Festival, in Boulder, Colorado and has performed in Central America with his reed trio Trianche, a featured ensemble for the Costa Rica Music Festival. Don holds a Master of Music degree from the University of Southern California, where he studied with Yehuda Gilad and Michele Zukovsky. He has received fellowships from both the Tanglewood and Aspen Music Festivals, the latter of which he attended for four consecutive summers. Don is currently Associate Professor of Music at Moreno Valley College in the Riverside Community College District and divides his time between residences in Palm Springs and downtown Los Angeles.

GRAMMY nominee Judith Farmer was Principal Bassoon of the Austrian Radio Symphony Orchestra and the Camerata Academica Salzburg under Sandor Vegh. Critics have described her playing as “impeccable” (American Record Guide), “masterly” (Fanfare) and “brilliant” (Kronenzeitung, Austria). She has appeared as a soloist at the Salzburg Festival and has participated in chamber music festivals in Prussia Cove (UK), Martha’s Vineyard, MA and La Jolla, CA. Ms. Farmer has performed as guest Associate Principal Bassoon with the LA Philharmonic, and is currently a member of the LA Opera Orchestra and the Pasadena Symphony. An active studio musician, she has played on more than 200 motion picture scores and has recorded with artists such as Daft Punk, Josh Groban, Billy Childs, Barbra Streisand and Neil Young. Judith Farmer is on the faculty at the University of Southern California where she teaches bassoon and chamber music.

Among the most extraordinary musicians in the world are those you seldom see – the musicians of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra. Founder and Artistic Director Lisa Sutton, who also happens to be the Assistant Concertmaster of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra, formed Pittance Chamber Music in 2013 to shine the spotlight on these remarkable yet invisible artists, bringing them from the pit to the stage to perform in small ensembles, hence the name Pittance. Pittance Chamber Music utilizes a roster of artists drawn from a large pool of talent including members of the Los Angeles Opera Orchestra as well as Los Angeles Opera resident vocalists, resulting in a unique variety of repertoire not often heard together in one program.

Single tickets are $35; Seniors $20; Student Rush $10 (at the door only). Tickets are available online at or at the venue on the day of the concert if tickets remain. The Pasadena Conservatory of Music is located at 100 North Hill Avenue in Pasadena.

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