Classical Music

VIDEO: ‘Bohemian Inception, American Inspiration’: Apollo Chamber Players’ World Premiere

The Houston quartet debuts a brand new commission from Libby Larsen.

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The Apollo Chamber Players begin their 2014-15 season with a recital Sunday at Rice University’s Shepherd School titled “Bohemian Inception, American Inspiration.” The program explores the intersection of the music of Antonín DvoÅ™ák and 19th-century African American spirituals. 

Apollo Chamber Players in the Geary Studio: (L-R) Matt Detrick, Anabel Ramirez, Libby Larsen, Matt Dudzik, Whitney Bullock.
Apollo Chamber Players in the Geary Studio: (L-R) Matt Detrick, Anabel Ramirez, Libby Larsen, Matt Dudzik, Whitney Bullock. Photo credit: St.John Flynn

From 1892 to 1895, DvoÅ™ák was the director of the National Conservatory of Music in New York City. During his tenure he came across Henry Thacker Burleigh, an African American scholarship student at the conservatory, who introduced the Czech composer to black spirituals and folk songs. Burleigh went on to become a great singer and composer of works rooted in African American musical traditions.

DvoÅ™ák, an advocate of the use of folk idioms in the works of contemporary composers, was so captivated by this music that he incorporated it into many of the works he wrote while in the U.S.

Like Henry T. Burleigh, Florence Price, one of the first African American female composers to gain significant recognition, was also inspired by DvoÅ™ák’s example to use the folk music of her ancestors in the works she wrote.

Last year, the Apollo Chamber Players commissioned internationally-acclaimed American composer, Libby Larsen, to write a piece for the quartet for their 2014-15 season opener. Larsen’s work, Sorrow Song and Jubilee, is based in DvoÅ™ák’s relationship to African American spirituals.

“Bohemian Inception, American Inspiration” features the Apollo Chamber Players performing their own arrangements of two of Henry T. Burleigh’s Six Plantation Melodies; Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint; DvoÅ™ák’s String Quintet in E-flat Major, Op. 97, featuring guest violist James Dunham; and the world première of Libby Larsen’s Sorrow Song and Jubilee.

The members of the Apollo Chamber Players (Matthew Detrick and Anabel Ramirez, violins; Whitney Bullock, viola; and Matthew Dudzik, cello), along with composer Libby Larsen, join Houston Public Media’s St.John Flynn in the Geary Studio to talk about and play some of the music on their recital.

[The musical excerpts, played by Apollo, heard in this interview include, in order, “Negro Lullaby” from Henry T. Burleigh’s Six Plantation Melodies; Libby Larsen’s Sorrow Song and Jubilee; and “Calvary” from Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint.]

The Apollo Chamber Players present “Bohemian Inception, American Inspiration,” Sunday, September 21, 6PM, in Duncan Recital Hall at Rice University’s Shepherd School of Music.

Watch the Apollo Chambers Players perform “Clementine” from Florence Price’s Five Folksongs in Counterpoint in the Geary Studio.


The Apollo Chamber Players in the Geary Performance Studio. Video by Troy Schulze.

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