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Pacific Symphony Flutist Cynthia Ellis brings light to music by composers suppressed during World War II for “The Inextinguishable Project”
Orange County, Calif. — June 01, 2016
Free Concert at Fullerton First United Methodist Church
Cynthia Ellis designed “The Inextinguishable Project” as an opportunity for concert listeners to discover some of the masterful music written in spite of the conflict and oppression of World War II. Ellis, Pacific Symphony’s flute and piccolo player, and a resident of Brea, won one of four “Musician Innovation Grants” awarded by the Symphony’s board of directors in the 2015-16 season for her project’s creativity and potential for creating deeper interest in classical music. Her concert explores the music of two composers who overcame political and geographical circumstances to bring their music into the world. Theo Smit Sibinga walked out of prison camp carrying a suitcase in one hand and the broken remains of his cello in the other. Bohuslav Martinu, blacklisted by the Nazis, fled Paris, sleeping on train platforms while trying to get to America. Both survived to write beautiful music—music that has become “inextinguishable.”
Presented in association with North Orange County Community Concerts, this unique musical performance takes place Monday, June 27 at 7:30 p.m. at Fullerton First United Methodist Church, 114 N. Pomona Ave., Fullerton. The program includes Sibinga’s “Trois Images for Flute and Harp” (1954), and Martinu’s “Madrigal Sonata for Flute, Violin and Piano” (1942) and “Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano” (1944). Ellis has invited an ensemble of first-class musicians (all members of Pacific Symphony) to join her for this performance: Timothy Landauer, cello; Bridget Dolkas, violin; and Michelle Temple, harp. Playing with them will be noted Steinway artist Robert Thies. The event is free to the public, with no ticket required. For more information, call (714) 755-5799 or visit www.PacificSymphony.org.
“To me, inextinguishable art means that which flourishes under all circumstances no matter how difficult, nor how many times people try to suppress it,” Ellis says. “My hope is for people to walk away learning something about composers who, while not necessarily household names, write beautiful chamber music; and, that art is appreciated anew because of its survival through difficult historical events.”
The first composer featured on the program, Sibinga, was born in the former Dutch East Indies and spent his youth in the Netherlands before moving to Indonesia. He first worked as a cellist before injuring his left hand, which caused him to give up performing. Sibinga worked as a conductor of several choirs and orchestras before becoming a prisoner of war from 1942-1945, after the Japanese occupied Indonesia. Barely surviving, he lost all his belongings, including his manuscripts and his cello—cut into pieces by the guards. While a prisoner, he composed the “Kantjil-Fantasie” and “Indische Nocturne No. 3,” which later premiered in New York under Arturo Toscanini. Sibinga eventually moved back to the Netherlands, where he found a job at the Amsterdam Conservatory of Music and wrote “Trois Images for Flute and Harp,” influenced by French impressionist music, much in the style of Debussy, though there are distinct oriental colorings in the more mysterious passages.
Ellis first came to know of Sibinga through his “Trois Images” when searching for music to perform for her flute and harp duo, Arioso, which she created with fellow Pacific Symphony musician, Michelle Temple. “Michelle and I performed Sibinga’s work on several programs and also recorded it for our CD, ‘Petite Delights,’ ” she says. “We learned about his circumstances being in a POW camp and it made a big impression on me. This composer was the catalyst for me learning about repressed composers. I learned about the OREL Foundation, which was founded by conductor James Conlon, and that also spurred me on in terms of learning about composers whose art had been touched by political circumstances, including Martinu.”
Despite having spent the last two decades of his life in exile, Martinu is considered a prolific composer of the 20th century. Born in Czechoslovakia, he established himself in Prague and Paris, before being blacklisted by the Nazi party in 1940. Fleeing Paris, Martinu escaped to Portugal first before making his way to America. Arriving in March of 1941, he produced many compositions while in America as World War II raged on in Europe. His “Madrigal Sonata for Flute, Violin and Harp” was written after his first few months in the new country, taking inspiration from birds singing. His “Trio for Flute, Cello and Piano” highlights the buoyant sound of the flute, and offers collaborative and solo moments for each instrument.
“Martinu’s works are infused with folk-song flavor,” says Ellis. “Also, because he grew up next to church bell towers, there are a lot of bell-like sounds in his music.”
Ellis has been a member of Pacific Symphony since 1979 and frequently serves as principal flutist for touring ballet companies on their Orange County stops, including American Ballet Theatre, Royal Ballet of London, Stuttgart Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet and San Francisco Ballet. She has recorded with the Hollywood Bowl Orchestra, Pacific Symphony and Los Angeles Philharmonic, as well as on several major motion picture soundtracks.
Ellis is an active chamber musician, playing on Pacific Symphony’s Café Ludwig concert series, the Sonora Bach Festival, Fullerton Friends of Music and the Baroque Festival Corona Del Mar, among others. In March 2000, her chamber music trio, Les Amis Musicalles won the National Flute Association Chamber Music Competition. The group has performed on three national conventions for the National Flute Association (NFA) in Dallas, Texas, Columbus, Ohio and San Diego and went on to record and release a critically acclaimed CD “Beyond Beethoven” released on the Centaur label in 2006. Her newest CD, “Petite Delights,” was released May 13.
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