Fall Arts Preview: Princeton University Concerts’ 2109-20 Season


Princeton University Concerts’ 2019-20 season

Princeton University Concerts (PUC)’s 2019-20 season, the series’ 126th incarnation, reaffirms PUC’s roots as one of the country’s oldest and boldest chamber music series. The newly announced offerings channel the exuberant scope of PUC’s125th anniversary celebration — which included an extensive residency by world-renowned conductor Gustavo Dudamel — while also paying tribute to music and musicians closer to home.

A celebration of American musicians and composers begins at opening night in October, when The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center presents a program entitled “New World Spirit,” which explores the lineage of American classical music, and continues all the way through to the spring when the Dover String Quartet makes its Princeton University Concerts debut.

PUC will pay tribute to Beethoven’s 250th anniversary not only by presenting his music throughout the season, but also by supporting the creation of new work. As part of the Music Accord consortium, whose fellow members include the Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts and the Tanglewood Music Center, PUC has co-commissioned two works that will appear on the series. Frederic Rzewski’s “Demons,” dedicated to author/political activist Angela Davis, was written for young violin star Benjamin Beilman, who will make his PUC debut alongside fellow Avery Fisher Career Grant-winner Andrew Tyson at the piano. The Calidore String Quartet will return for their main stage debut in a program including a work by Grammy-nominated composer Anna Clyne as inspired by Beethoven’s :Grosse Fuge,” which they will also perform alongside Bach’s “Art of the Fugue.”

The 2019-20 “Performances Up Close” series will focus on the spontaneity of music by highlighting musicians who are also improvisers, composers and innovators. The young Berlin-based Vision String Quartet will both present classics in the chamber music repertory and their own arrangements of jazz and pop standards. Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero will offer staples of the piano repertoire by Rachmaninoff and Schumann alongside live improvisation, including improvised music to a screening of Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Immigrant.” And pianist/composer Conrad Tao will make his PUC debut with tap dancer Caleb Teicherin a program that includes dance improvisations to works by J.S. Bach, Tao and others.

PUC’s innovative programming is also apparent in a brand new “Icons of Song” series, featuring vocal superstars alongside luminary pianists. Tenor Ian Bostridge will make a return to the series with jazz pianist, improviser and composer Brad Mehldau in a program that pairs Schumann’s “Dichterliebe” with Mehldau’s brand new song cycle “The Folly of Desire,” featuring lyrics from the poetry of Shakespeare, E.E. Cummings, Brecht, Yeats, Goethe, Blake and others.

“After such a celebratory 125th anniversary season, it is thrilling to harness the energy that we have generated as a community as we look to our upcoming year of music,” Princeton University Concerts Director Marna Seltzer said. “From our new partnerships with the Princeton Garden Theatre and the Princeton Public Library, to the new friendship with students and families in the Trenton, NJ community that grew from Gustavo Dudamel’s residency this spring, it is tremendously exciting to see our Princeton University Concerts family expand and develop as we place music in direct conversation with current social issues. We are proud of our commitment to creating as many points of access to the music and musicians on our season, and look forward to the next 125 years.”

The 2019-2020 Season
(Organized by series, then chronologically)
*Denotes Princeton University Concerts debut

Icons of Song

Three vocalists pair with pianists from all realms of music in equally imaginative and unexpected programs.

Tuesday, Oct. 22, at 8 p.m.
Ian Bostridge, Tenor & Brad Mehldau, piano*
“The Folly of Desire”
Schumann “Dichterliebe, Op. 48”

The collaboration between tenor Ian Bostridge and jazz legend Brad Mehldau is a groundbreaking moment in music history. Both artists are unmatched in the musical spheres they inhabit. Bostridge’s many recordings have garnered all of the major international record prizes, including 15 Grammy nominations. Mehldau is considered to be the most influential jazz pianist of our time. His newest song cycle is a meditation on desire, with lyrics from the poetry of Shakespeare, E.E. Cummings, Brecht, Yeats, Goethe, Blake and others — a most fitting counterpart to Schumann’s yearning “Dichterliebe,” and to a program in which two of music’s greatest stars come to us as poets of love.

Wednesday, Dec. 11, at 8 p.m.
Joyce Didonato, Mezzo-soprano & Yannick Nézet-Séguin, piano*
“Winterreise D. 911”

Experience Franz Schubert’s iconic song-cycle, “Winterreise” (Winter Journey), from the unusual perspective of the protagonist’s surviving beloved. Metropolitan Opera and Philadelphia Orchestra Music Director Yannick Nézet-Séguin puts down his baton to join. This intimate and profound winter’s journey reminds us that the inner, private world that we can access through music does not exist in isolation, and that the songs that we have heard so many times before gain new meaning each time that they are sung.

Thursday, April. 30, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Matthias Goerne, Baritone & Jan Lisiecki, piano*
All Beethoven songs 

Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with his rarely heard songs, performed by a most remarkable duo. Baritone Matthias Goerne is a star both on the world’s most distinguished opera stages and recital halls. Just 23-years-old, Lisiecki has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since he was fifteen; his performance at his 2016 Carnegie Hall debut established his undisputed place among the greatest young pianists. The two come together for an Ode to Beethoven in this  birthday tribute.

Concert Classics Series

The cornerstone of the PUC season, offered as a series of 8 Thursday nights, features the pillars of classical music performed by today’s  artists.

Thursday, Oct. 10, at 8 p.m.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Harry Burleigh 
“Southland Sketches” (1916)
Quintet for Two Violins, Two Violas, and Cello in E-flat Major, Op. 97
Bernstein Clarinet Sonata
Copland “Appalachian Spring”

Just as Princeton University Concerts was born 126 years ago, Czech composer Antonín Dvořák composed his String Quintet, Op. 97 in American farm-country. Drawing on folk tunes and spirituals—many of which he learned from his assistant, African-American composer Harry Burleigh— Dvořák set the stage for a new tradition of “American music.” Hear this lineage evolve in a program also featuring Leonard Bernstein’s very first published work, and culminating in one of the most beloved American masterpieces: Aaron Copland’s “Appalachian Spring,” in its original instrumentation.

Thursday, Nov. 7, at 8 p.m.
Stefan Jackiw, violin & Jeremy Denk, piano*
Charles Ives Violin Sonata No. 4
Stites/Sweney “Beulah Land”
Lowry/Hawks “I Need Thee Every Hour”
Charles Ives Violin Sonata No. 3
Barthémon/Robinson “Autumn”
Charles Ives Violin Sonata No. 2
Root/Nelson “Shining Shore”
Root “Tramp! Tramp! Tramp! The Boys Are Marching”
Kiallmark/Woodworth “The Old Oaken Bucket”
Mason/Coghill “Work Song”
Charles Ives Violin Sonata No. 1

Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning violinist Stefan Jackiw and MacArthur “Genius” Award-winning pianist Jeremy Denk skillfully guide us through Charles Ives’ complete violin sonatas, in reverse order, from the raucous fourth violin sonata to the exuberant spontaneity of the first. By interspersing Ives’ sonatas with the popular Americana classics—hymns, songs, marches—that he imbued in these works with some help from our own Princeton University Glee Club.

Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Isabelle Faust, violin; Jean-Guihen Queyras, cello; Alexander Melnikov, piano
Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 11
“Kakadu” Variations, Op. 121a in G Major
Trio in B-flat Major, Op. 97 “Archduke”

To help celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday, three renowned soloists return for a joint appearance. Their uplifting program is a remarkable opportunity to immerse in the composer’s piano trios. While these works are often overshadowed by his monumental string quartets, the virtuosity and expanse of Beethoven’s piano trios revolutionized this genre. The “Archduke” trio remains one of the absolute pinnacles of the repertoire–its brilliance, power, and joy well matched to the musicians who will perform it.

Thursday, Feb. 20, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Calidore String Quartet
Bach selections from “Art of the Fugue,” BWV 1080
Anna Clyne New Work inspired by Beethoven’s “Grosse Fuge”
Beethoven String Quartet Op. 130 with Op. 133 “Grosse Fuge”

Beethoven wove Bach’s polyphonic thread into his own masterpiece, a work that in turn inspired Grammy-nominated composer Anna Clyne to write her latest composition, co-commissioned by PUC and fellow partners in the Music Accord consortium. Through this interconnected program, we will watch time unfold in the hands of performers who have also grown before our eyes. Having made their PUC debut alongside the Emerson String Quartet in 2015, the Calidore String Quartet recently made international headlines as the winners of the inaugural M-Prize, the world’s largest chamber music prize.  It is a thrill to welcome them back for their mainstage debut.

Thursday, March 26, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Mahler Chamber Orchestra*
Mitsuko Ucida, piano*
Mozart Piano Concerto No.17 in G Major, K. 453
Jörg Widmann Choralquartett
Mozart Piano Concerto No. 22 in E-flat Major, K. 482

The nomadic, self-governing Mahler Chamber Orchestra translates a full orchestral sound into the intimacy of chamber music. It is a true privilege to hear this fusion of artists who breathe new life into every note that they play on our stage, just a few days before they continue their American tour at Carnegie Hall.

Thursday, April 2, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Benjamin Beilman, violin* & Andrew Tyson, piano*
Beethoven Violin Sonata No. 5 “Spring”
Frederic Rzewski “Demons”
Britten Suite for Violin and Piano, Op. 6
Prokofiev Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94b

These two Avery Fisher Career Grant-winning musicians have established themselves firmly as the leading artists of their generation. The two make their Princeton debuts with a varied program, including a new work by Frederic Rzewski. This composition, a co-commission by PUC as part of the Music Accord consortium, is written for Beilman and dedicated to author/political activist Angela Davis.

Thursday, April 16, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Dover String Quartet*
Mozart Quartet in C Major, K. 465, “Dissonance”
Bartók Quartet No. 2
Ravel Quartet in F Major

Since the 24-year-old members of the Dover Quartet swept every prize at the 2013 Banff Competition, they have stunned the field with a rise to becoming one of the most in-demand ensembles internationally, making their Carnegie Hall Stern Auditorium debut, serving as the Quartet-in-Residence at the Kennedy Center, and sailing from one coveted prize to the next. The prolific career of such young performers is well matched to the program they bring for their Princeton debut: Mozart was just 29 when he wrote his famous “Dissonance” quartet; Ravel was 28 when he took to the form.

Thursday, April 30, 2020, at 8 p.m.
Matthias Goerne, Baritone & Jan Lisiecki, piano*

All Beethoven songs, including An die ferne Geliebte, Op. 98

Celebrate Beethoven’s 250th birthday with his rarely heard songs, performed by a duo. The baritone Matthias Goerne is a star both on the world’s most distinguished opera stages and recital halls. Just 23-years-old, Lisiecki has been an exclusive Deutsche Grammophon artist since he was fifteen. The two come together for an Ode to Beethoven in this wonderful birthday tribute, and the perfect culmination of this new series.


Monday, Nov. 18, at 7:30 p.m.
Princeton University Chapel
Ensemble Basiani
State Ensemble of Georgian Folk Singing

Thriving for centuries, the world’s oldest polyphonic choral tradition keeps alive the rich heritage of folk songs, monastic chants, religious hymns and epic ballads that have shaped the very spirit of the country of Georgia. This singular singing style, proclaimed by UNESCO as a Masterpiece of the Oral and Intangible Heritage of Humanity, pours from the twelve male vocalists of Ensemble Basiani in an unforgettably haunting way—especially within the spellbinding acoustic of the Princeton University Chapel. In a program traversing the 7th-13th centuries, these internationally-beloved singers bring the very soul of their homeland to our doorstep, reminding us of the timeless modernity of ancient tradition.

Performances Up Close

Witness music come to life right in front of you in these hour-long concerts all connected by the joy of improvisation, seated right on stage with the musicians.

Tuesday, Nov. 12, at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m.
Vision String Quartet*
6 p.m.: String Quartets by Grażyna Bacewicz & Robert Schumann
9 p.m.: Arrangements of jazz and pop tunes

The future is bright, in the hands of the four young players of the Berlin-based vision quartet. Whether breathing new life into a beloved masterpiece and paying tribute to an overlooked female composer (6 p.m.), or rocking out to their own compositions and arrangements of jazz and pop tunes (9 p.m.), this revolutionary group finds the spontaneity and groove in everything that they play. They will have you on the edge of your seat as they perform as if they are composing on the spot.

Tuesday, Feb. 11, 2020, at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m.
Gabriela Montero, piano*
6 p.m.: Rachmaninoff & Charlie Chaplin 
9 p.m.: Schumann “Carnaval, Op.9”

Venezuelan pianist Gabriela Montero has improvised since first touching the piano as a child. A pianist whom you might recognize from her performance at the inauguration of president Barack Obama, she will both offer us her inimitable interpretation of one of the greatest cycles in the piano repertory and let us witness the remarkable art of real-time improvisation to Charlie Chaplin’s film “The Immigrant” as well as to themes suggested by the audience.

Tuesday, April 7, at 6 p.m. & 9 p.m.
Conrad Tao, piano*
Caleb Teacher, tap dancer*
Works by Bach, Tao and others with tap improvisation

If ever there were a program that blurred the line between composition and performance, it would be this groundbreaking collaboration between pianist/composer Conrad Tao and tap-dancer/choreographer Caleb Teicher. The two former teenage prodigies have become leaders in shaping the future of their art forms—one as a Lincoln Center Emerging Artist, and the other as Dance Magazine’s “Best Emerging Choreographer.” As Teicher improvises dance to Tao’s breathtaking playing, in a program including everything from selections from J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg Variations” to original compositions by the pianist, the boundaries between choreography, composition, and genre will fade into the raw, free-spirited energy of artistic expression.

All in the Family

PUC nurtures a life-long love of music by offering kids of all ages a chance to encounter chamber music in person at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall through two special programs featuring world-class musicians. Pre-school aged children, ages 3-6, will be able to enjoy “Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard” hosted by the renowned pianist. PUC’s staple family concert “Meet the Music” for children ages 6-12 will also return with musicians from The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center.

Saturday, Nov. 2, at 1 p.m.
The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center
Bruce Adolphe, host/composer
Meet the Music: “Oceanophony”

Plunge into an ocean of music and poetry to meet the sarcastic fringehead fish, an expanding pufferfish, a stoplight parrotfish, a love-struck seahorse, an eight-part fugal octopus and more. Swim through marine snow and discover the mysterious world of coral music. Music, poetry, underwater photography, and amazing facts about the ocean and its creatures: it is all part of “Oceanophony.”

Saturday, March 14, 2020, at 1 p.m.
Shaham, piano/host
Orli Shaham’s Bach Yard

Back by popular demand, pianist and host Orli Shaham will introduce pre-school-aged kids to the joy of live classical music.

Richardson Chamber Players

Formed in 1994-95 on the occasion of PUC’s 100th anniversary, this mixed ensemble comprises Princeton’s Performance Faculty, distinguished guest artists, and supremely talented Princeton students. Richardson Chamber Players concerts take place on Sundays at 3 p.m. in Richardson Auditorium. The artistic direction of the group rotates. This seasons’ programs were conceived by a small committee consisting of pianist Geoffrey Burleson, mezzo-soprano Barbara Rearick and bassoonist Robert Wagner.

Sunday, Oct. 20, at 3 p.m.
A bicentennial birthday tribute to Clara Schumann.

Sunday, Nov. 24, at 3 p.m.
Dvořák & Burleigh: The American Connection

Sunday, March 8, 2020, at 3 p.m.
Beethoven at 250


PUC maintains its commitment to accessibility with tickets for all of the programs on the 2019/2020 season starting at just $10. Throughout the year, PUC also invites the community to a range of free supplemental events including the nationally-recognized Live Music Meditation series, pre-concert talks given by renowned musical scholars, musical previews by talented Princeton students, post-concert Q&A’s, an annual Chamber Jam and more. PUC will also release a new book, collecting reflections on music from some of today’s greatest minds.

Subscriptions to the 2019-2020 season are now on sale. Packages start at just $16 per concert. Patrons can choose from a flexible variety of subscription packages online at www.princetonuniversityconcerts.org or by phone at 609-258-2800. All concerts take place at Richardson Auditorium in Alexander Hall, unless otherwise noted.