Small curtis Bartók: Contrasts

Performances | Slavko Popovic, Clarinet / Stephen Waarts, Violin / Chelsea Wang, Piano

Commissioned by famed clarinetist Benny Goodman, Béla Bartók’s Contrasts could hardly be a better representation of the twin dichotomies present both in Bartók’s mature style and in Goodman’s fascination with classical music. Bartók was known for drawing heavily in his compositions from the Hungarian folk music that he studied and preserved as a musicologist, and each of the work’s three movements reflect this influence. Traditional Romanian and Hungarian folk tunes are the basis of many of the melodies, and the shifting rhythms are typical of Hungarian dance music. At the same time, he makes use of a complex tonal system incorporating elements of bitonality and atonality, and these features are evident in Contrasts, as the music shifts back and forth between tonal and contemporary harmony. The resulting changes in style, harmony, and expression led Bartok to the work’s eventual title, Contrasts. (An earlier version of the work was performed with the title Rhapsody.) Goodman, on the other hand, made his name in jazz, which had grown out of the tradition of “hot music,” a popular style of performing and embellishing folk tunes in the American South after the turn of the century. Known as perhaps the greatest jazz clarinetist of the 20th century, Goodman also had significant impact in the classical world, commissioning and premiering Aaron Copland’s Clarinet Concerto and Poulenc’s Sonata for Clarinet and Piano in addition to Contrasts, and recording many other important classical works for clarinet. As artists whose work involved both popular and classical influences, Bartók and Goodman shared a clear affinity with one another, and both pushed popular melodies and styles to new heights. Nowhere is this more evident than in Contrasts, a classical work that could equally recall the folk dances of Hungary or the wild, improvisatory feel of early 20th-century “hot music” and jazz dance halls.

Bela Bartók


Clarinet, Piano, and Violin

Recorded Date: 02-12-2015

Thumb slavko popvic

Slavko Popovic

Three hours a day of practice have paid off for Slavko Popovic. The 17-year-old Hamilton clarinetist, in his final year at Westdale Secondary, has been awarded a full-tuition scholarship toward an undergraduate degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia.

Stephen Waarts

Violinist Stephen Waarts has been praised for playing “with technical command and a totally natural sense of musical drama” (Strings Magazine). He has already garnered worldwide recognition, having captured both audience prizes and jury laureate prize in the Queen Elizabeth competition, First Prize, the Bach Prize and the Composer’s Prize at the 2014 Menuhin Competition, First Prize and six additional awards in the 2013 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, Second Prize and the Audience Prize in the 2013 Montreal International Competition; and First Prize and romantic Concerto prize in the 2011 International Louis Spohr Competition for Young Violinists. On his prize winning performances in the recent Queen Elizabeth Competition Ariane Todes in Elbow Music commented “For me there was a clear winner (Waarts) in terms of sheer musicality, imagination, range, sensitivity, expression, humility, maturity and chamber musicianship.” And – Heather Kurtzbauer: “… most original musical voice among the finalists … A master of color, form and musical character, Waarts mesmerized the audience with cries and whispers… the king of subtlety and nuance…”, and Slipped Disk - Norman Lebrecht: “… (Waarts) brought the house down with his final Bartok performance and walked off unusually with both audience prizes, French and Flemish (there’s not much the two halves of Belgium can ever agree upon)”. Le Soir: “A musical prodigious UFO… unpredictable… ” La Libre: “...deeply artistic (of the extraterrestrial kind)… an outsized interpretation...” On previous award winning performances the Montreal Gazette commented: “there’s little point trying to wrap words around his talent…” Le Devoir Libre de Penser: "The winner of my heart…when he starts to play, something happens". “On this night, I finally knew. I heard a few things (in Prokofiev Concerto No. 2) I hadn't heard before…” “A shockingly mature, nuanced performance of Prokofiev’s second violin concerto…” La Scena Musicale: “...technical perfection and great beauty of tone… a presence on stage that commands attention… his playing soars over the orchestra…” Lapresse-Montreal : “He draws in a noble Brahms sound reminiscent Milstein and impresses a continuous thought, from beginning to end..." The UK’s Daily Telegraph: "…something special,... not just the mechanical wonder, but a soul." And the Strad magazine: “from the first note... I was hooked, and within a few bars I was moved to tears... such an experience is rare... Although it is possible to analyze it (Waarts' playing)... perhaps it is better not to try... truly poetic and sincere”.

Waarts 2014-2015 season began with a performance of Chausson’s Concerto for Violin, Piano, and String Quartet at the French Classical Music Festival of Silicon Valley, and performances at the Orford - Canada and Lake George - NY Music Festivals. As Winner of the 2013 Young Concert Artists International Auditions, he made recital debuts this December at the Kennedy Center in Washington DC and Merkin Concert Hall in NYC, to rave reviews, including on the Bartok Solo Sonata: “Mr. Waarts, playing commandingly from memory, balanced passages that evolve in the halting dance idiom of the chaconne with rhapsodic stretches that in this gripping account seemed somberly ruminative. He was comparably inspired in the resolute intricate fugue, the searching slow movement marked Melodia, and the frenetic finale.” (The New York Times) And: “…difficult music, … in a range of styles and impeccably rendered — Waarts showed an uncommon, preternatural sense of tonal color and lyrical beauty on the instrument.” (The Washington Post). His other performances this season include re-engagement concerts with San Francisco Chamber Orchestra on which it was written: “This was familiar music (Mendelssohn Concerto in E minor); but the execution had a freshness to it. This was a reading that seized attention from the opening notes and held it to the final cadence.” (San Francisco Examiner) and a recital at the Louvre-Paris which was filmed to be broadcasted on TV.

Acclaimed from a young age, Waarts has already performed over fourty standard, as well as rarely performed, violin concertos, appearing as soloist with the Cleveland Orchestra, Orchestre Symphonique de Montreal and Austin Symphony, and also with orchestras in Russia, Germany, Norway and Spain as well as with numerous orchestras throughout California, such as the Redwood Symphony, the Prometheus Symphony Orchestra, the Silicon Valley Symphony, the Saratoga Symphony, and the Winchester Orchestra of San Jose. He has been a frequent participant of Summer Music Camps including Verbier Festival in Switzerland, the Perlman Music Program in New York and Florida, Music@Menlo in California and the Summit Music Festival in New York.

A native of the San Francisco Bay Area, Waarts started his music education with Suzuki violin lessons with Krishnabai Lewis and continued it with violin lessons with Jenny Rudin and piano studies with Steve Lightburn. Since April 2005 he studied violin with Li Lin, with whom he is still collaborating, at the San Francisco Conservatory, and since June 2006 he also studied piano with Irina Sharogradski. Concurrently, since 2009, he has studied also with Alexander Barantschik, Concertmaster of San Francisco Symphony, and with Baroque violinist Elizabeth Blumenstock. After graduating from both high school and the San Francisco Conservatory Preparatory at age 14, he currently works with Aaron Rosand at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, where he is pursuing a bachelor of music and holds the Frank S. Bayley Annual Fellowship. In addition to his music studies, he is also an accomplished mathematician and has won several national math awards. Find more about Waarts at

[Pronunciation: Surname “Waarts” rhymes with “Hearts”]

Chelsea Wang

Praised by the New York Times as an “excellent young pianist”, Chelsea Wang has appeared as a soloist and chamber musician in many venues across North America and Europe, including Kennedy Center in Washington DC, New York’s Merkin Hall, Buffalo Chamber Music Society, Orford Music Festival in Orford, Quebec, Salmagundi Club, Ossining Library, Temple E-manuel, among others. She is a prizewinner of many national and international piano competitions: the 2012 New York International Piano Competition, 2012 Music Teachers National Association Yamaha Senior Competition, 2010 Eastman International Piano Competition, the 2009 Liszt-Garrison International Piano Competition. She was also a recipient of the 2012 Schubert Club Scholarship.

Ms. Wang made her orchestral debut (when she was still unable to reach the pedals of the piano) at the age of six, playing Haydn’s D Major Piano Concerto. She has performed with many orchestras since then, including the Des Moines Symphony Orchestra, New Orleans Civic Symphony, Waterloo-Cedar Falls Symphony Orchestra, Fort Dodge Symphony Orchestra, among others. In 2011, Ms. Wang was chosen to perform in an all-Beethoven concerti concert with the Fort Worth Symphony Orchestra, performing Beethoven’s 2nd Piano Concerto under the baton of maestro Miguel Harth-Bedoya. She has been a Young Artist performer at the 2010, 2011 and 2015 PianoTexas International Academy and Festival, formerly known as the Cliburn Institute, and was one of the youngest pianists chosen in the years 2010 and 2011. Other festival appearances include Fontainebleau Music Festival in France, where she won the ‘Prix de Piano’ festival prize, Music from Angel Fire, the Amalfi Coast Music and Arts Festival in Italy, Banff Piano Masterclass, and Norfolk Chamber Music Festival.

Ms. Wang has had the honor to work with many influential musicians and chamber groups, including Leon Fleisher, Richard Goode, Gary Graffman, Robert McDonald, Seymour Lipkin, Arie Vardi, Aldo Cicollini, John Perry, Yoheved Kaplinsky, Andre Watts, Jonathan Biss, Leonidas Kavakos, Ida Kavafian, Peter Wiley, Steven Tenenbom, eighth blackbird, Emerson Quartet, members of the former Tokyo String Quartet, and more.

As a passionate chamber musician, Ms. Wang frequently performs with violinist and friend Stephen Waarts. Together, they have performed across the United States and Canada, and have shared the honor of meeting and playing for the Spanish and Dutch Ambassadors to the United States, his excellencies Ramón Gil-Casares, and Rudolf Bekink, respectively.

Ms. Wang has been featured on many radio shows, including NPR’s “From the Top” hosted by Christopher O’Riley, “What Makes It Great” with host Rob Kapilow, along with other programs on Iowa, Kansas, Minnesota, New York’s WQXR, and Philadelphia’s WHYY Public Radios. Future recital engagements in 2016 include performances at the Morgan Library in New York, Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and Music at Evergreen Museum and Library, and summer Curtis on Tour performances in Spain and Germany.

A native of West Des Moines, Iowa, Ms. Wang started learning piano at the age of four and violin at age seven. She is currently pursuing her Bachelor of Music degree at the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia, PA, studying with Ignat Solzhenitsyn. At Curtis, she holds a full-tuition scholarship as a recipient of the William A. Horn M.D. Fellowship. Previous instructors include Meng-Chieh Liu, Ksenia Nosikova, Chiu-Ling Lin, and Damarez Alvarez.