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Philharmonic Ensembles at Merkin Concert Hall

This concert is now past.
New York Philharmonic Ensembles
Location: Merkin Concert Hall (Directions)
Sun, Nov, 18, 2012
3:00 PM

Closer to it all.
An Ensembles concert provides an intimate connection between musician and audience. Hear the individual talents that make up the orchestra. Experience the passion and personality of the performers. And see how a small setting can make for a huge musical event.

Merkin Concert Hall Box Office
(212) 501-3330

Individual tickets for this concert will be available starting September 10, 2012. Subscriptions for the Ensembles series are available now. For information on the series, visit the Ensembles series.

The 2014-15 Season

Program (Click the red play button to listen)

Quartet for Guitar and Strings in B major

Sextet in E-flat major, Op. 71

Quartet for the End of Time



Irene Breslaw

A former Naumburg Scholarship winner and graduate of The Juilliard School, Irene Breslaw joined the viola section of the New York Philharmonic in August 1976. She was named Assistant Principal Viola in 1989. Prior to joining the Orchestra, Ms. Breslaw was a member of both the St. Louis Symphony Ochestra and the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra. In May 2001 Ms. Breslaw celebrated 25 years as a member of the New York Philharmonic.

An active chamber musician, Ms. Breslaw appears regularly with the New York Philharmonic Ensembles. In the summers of 1993 and 1995, she traveled to Finland to perform chamber music with several of her Philharmonic colleagues and to coach members of the VIVO Youth Orchestra, an experience she found extremely rewarding. She has also recorded the Mozart Clarinet Trio, "Kegelstatt," with Principal Clarinet Stanley Drucker and pianist Lukas Foss for Elysium Records. Since 1998 Ms. Breslaw has been on the orchestral performance faculty at the Manhattan School of Music, and is an adjunct at Queens College.

Ms. Breslaw is married to Dr. Daniel Grapel and is the mother of a son and daughter.

Learn more about Irene Breslaw




Bassoon, Contrabassoon

Arlen Fast

Arlen Fast joined the Philharmonic in 1996 as Bassoonist and Contrabassoonist after serving 17 seasons as second bassoonist for the San Diego Symphony and San Diego Opera. Mr. Fast earned his music degree at Wichita State University in Kansas, where he was second bassoonist of the Wichita Symphony Orchestra. While on the West Coast, he studied with Norman Herzberg, who himself had studied with the New York Philharmonic’s former second bassoonist, Simon Kovar. Mr. Fast has performed on tours with the Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra and the Japan Philharmonic.

Active in chamber music as well as teaching, Mr. Fast has appeared with the New York Philharmonic's Ensembles at Merkin Concert Hall, the Orchestra's collaboration with the 92nd Street Y Chamber series, the Making Music series at Weill Recital Hall, Music from Copland House, Sunriver Music Festival, Mainly Mozart Festival in San Diego, and the Summerfest Chamber Music Festival in La Jolla, California. He has given numerous master classes and lectures, including at Juilliard and U.C.L.A., and was twice the featured guest artist at the Contrabassoon Festival in Park City, Utah.

A pioneer in instrument design, Mr. Fast has invented a new system of register keys for the contrabassoon, the most significant design change for this instrument since the 1870s. This new system greatly improves the performance and significantly extends the practical range of the instrument. His collaboration wtih the Fox Bassoon Company has produced a new, improved instrument, one of which he presently plays in the Philharmonic.

He is married to Anne Ediger, an applied linguist and author who is a professor at Hunter College of the City University of New York.

Learn more about Arlen Fast



Pascual Martinez Forteza

A native of Mallorca, Spain, clarinetist Pascual Martínez Forteza joined the New York Philharmonic in 2001, the first and only Spanish musician in the Orchestra’s history. Prior to his appointment with the Philharmonic, he held tenure with the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, and at age 18 he was assistant principal and later acting principal of the Baleares Symphony Orchestra in Spain. He has recently performed as guest principal clarinet with the Berlin Philharmonic under Sir Simon Rattle.

Mr. Martínez Forteza appears regularly as a soloist, recitalist, and master-class teacher at international festivals and conservatories, including the International Clarinet Festival of Chanchung (China), ClarinetFest 2009 (Porto, Portugal), Buffet Crampon Summer Clarinet Festival (Jacksonville, Florida), University of Southern California, Mannes School of Music, The Juilliard School, New Jersey Clarinet Symposium, XI Encuentro Internacional de Clarinetes de Lisboa (Portugal), Mexico Clarinet Convention, and I Latinoamerican Clarinet Congress (Lima, Peru). Past and future engagements include solo performances of Copland’s Clarinet Concerto, Mozart’s Clarinet Concerto, Weber’s Clarinet Concertos Nos.1 and 2, Krommer’s Concerto for Two Clarinets, Rossini’s Introduction, Theme and Variations for Clarinet and Orchestra, and Luigi Bassi’s Fantasy on Themes from Verdi’s Rigoletto. He frequently collaborates with Philharmonic colleagues in New York City venues such as Avery Fisher Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, and Carnegie Hall.

Since 2003 Mr. Martínez Forteza and Spanish pianist Gema Nieto have played throughout Asia, Europe, and the United States as Duo Forteza-Nieto. Together they founded the Benifaio Music Festival in Spain, where Philharmonic colleagues have joined them for a week of master classes and concerts. A decade ago Mr. Martínez Forteza founded Vent Cameristic, a wind ensemble of professional musicians from Spain. As a soloist with that ensemble, he has played every year at the Concerts d’Estiú in Valencia, Spain. In 2003 Spanish National Radio (RNE) produced a CD featuring selections from these performances. Mr. Martínez Forteza has also made recordings for radio and television in Asia, Europe, and the United States.

Pascual Martínez Forteza started playing clarinet at age ten with his father, Pascual V. Martínez, principal clarinet of the Baleares Symphony Orchestra for 30 years and teacher at the Baleares Conservatory of Music in Spain. Mr. Martínez Forteza earned his master’s degree from the Baleares and Liceo de Barcelona Music Conservatories in Spain and pursued advanced studies with Yehuda Gilad at the University of Southern California, where he won first prize in the university’s 1998 Concerto Competition.

Mr. Martínez Forteza is currently a faculty member at New York University and teaches orchestral repertoire at Manhattan School of Music. A Buffet Crampon Artist and Vandoren Artist, he plays Green Line Tosca Buffet clarinets and uses Vandoren reeds and M30D mouthpieces.

Learn more about Pascual Martínez Forteza



Sumire Kudo Photo Credit: Chris Lee

Sumire Kudo joined the Philharmonic as a cellist in June 2006. Previously she taught at Indiana University–South Bend and was the cellist of the Avalon String Quartet. Born in Tokyo, Japan, Ms. Kudo began cello studies at age four with her father, cellist Akiyoshi Kudo. She came to the United States in 2000, after establishing herself in her native country through solo performances and recordings. Her honors include the Hideo Saito Memorial Fund Award, which she received from the Sony Music Foundation after being chosen by Seiji Ozawa and Tsuyoshi Tsutsumi as the most promising cellist in 2005, and prizes at the Sapporo Junior Cello Competition and 62nd Japan Music Competition. Ms. Kudo is a graduate of Tokyo’s Toho School and The Juilliard School. She has participated in the Nagano-Aspen Music, Aspen Music, Santa Fe, and Marlboro Music festivals. Record Geijutsu, Japan’s leading classical music magazine, named her second solo CD, Love of Beauty, Best Recording.

Learn more about Sumire Kudo





R. Allen Spanjer

R. Allen Spanjer joined the New York Philharmonic as Second Horn, The Rosalind Miranda Chair, in February 1993. His appearances with the Orchestra as a featured soloist have included performances of Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns in 1995 and 2001, as well as on the Philharmonic’s 1996 European Festivals Tour and 2001 Latin American Tour, conducted by then Music Director Kurt Masur. He was also featured in 1996 in Vivaldi’s Concerto for Two Horns with Principal Horn Philip Myers, also conducted by Mr. Masur.

Prior to joining the Philharmonic, Mr. Spanjer was a full-time freelance musician in New York City, performing in a broad range of classical and commercial settings. During this time he was also a frequent substitute with the New York Philharmonic, as well as with the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, and he spent one season as Second Horn of the Orquesta Filarmonica de la UNAM in Mexico.

A Georgia native, R. Allen Spanjer began horn lessons at age 13. He was a pupil of Norman Schweikert at the Interlochen Arts Academy and later studied with former Philharmonic hornist Ranier De Intinis at The Juilliard School. He also studied at the Brevard Music Center, Aspen Music Festival with Philip Farkas, SUNY Purchase with Paul Ingraham, Waterloo Music Festival with Martin Smith, Tanglewood Festival with Harry Shapiro, and privately in New York City with Carmine Caruso.

Mr. Spanjer maintains as active teaching studio, and is frequently a guest performer and teacher at music schools around the United States. In addition to his New York Philharmonic work and teaching horn, he is a certified instructor of the Alexander Technique, having graduated from the American Center for the Alexander Technique in New York City in 1981. He is on faculty at the Manhattan School of Music and frequently performs as a chamber musician. He has written for The Horn Call, the journal of the International Horn Society. In addition, he was featured at the 1999 Symposium of the International Horn Society, as well as the 2000 and 2001 Northeast Horn Workshops.

Learn more about R. Allen Spanjer



Sheryl Staples

Violinist Sheryl Staples joined the New York Philharmonic as Principal Associate Concertmaster, The Elizabeth G. Beinecke Chair, in September 1998 and currently serves as Acting Concertmaster, The Charles E. Culpeper Chair. She made her solo debut with the Philharmonic in 1999 performing Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto, led by Kurt Masur, and has since been featured in concertos by Mendelssohn, Mozart, Haydn, Bach, and Vivaldi with conductors including Alan Gilbert, Lorin Maazel, and Sir Colin Davis. In addition she has performed as soloist with more than 40 orchestras nationwide, including The Cleveland Orchestra, Los Angeles Philharmonic, San Diego and Richmond Symphony Orchestras, and Louisiana Philharmonic. In November 2014 she performs Mozart’s Sinfonia concertante with Principal Viola Cynthia Phelps, led by Jaap van Zweden.

A great lover of chamber music, Ms. Staples frequently performs in the New York area in venues including Avery Fisher Hall, Merkin Concert Hall, 92nd Street Y, and The Metropolitan Museum of Art. Ms. Staples has performed chamber music for U.S. Ambassadors in London, Paris, Berlin, Beijing, and Hong Kong, and in 2013 she toured Mexico, Brazil, and Chile. Recent summer festival appearances include La Jolla Music Society’s SummerFest, Boston Chamber Music Society, and Salt Bay Chamberfest. She has also collaborated and performed at the chamber music festivals of Santa Fe, Mainly Mozart, Seattle, Aspen, Sarasota, Martha’s Vineyard, Strings Music Festival, and Brightstar Music Festival. She appears on three Stereophile compact discs with the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival.

Sheryl Staples is a native of Los Angeles, where she developed her love for ensemble work at an early age. She began studying the violin at age five, and her major mentors were Robert Lipsett and Heiichiro Ohyama. Before finishing studies at the University of Southern California’s (USC) Thornton School of Music, Ms. Staples was appointed concertmaster of the Santa Barbara Chamber Orchestra and other professional ensembles in Los Angeles. She then became concertmaster of the Pacific Symphony in 1994 while enjoying a varied career consisting of solo appearances, chamber music, teaching (at USC’s Thornton School of Music and the Colburn School of Performing Arts), and Hollywood studio recording work for numerous major motion pictures.

At the age of 26 Ms. Staples joined The Cleveland Orchestra as associate concertmaster, a position she held for three years. In addition, she taught at the Cleveland Institute of Music, Encore School for Strings, and Kent/Blossom Music Festival, and she was a member of the Cleveland Orchestra Piano Trio. Currently she is on faculty at The Juilliard School working with students aspiring toward orchestral careers.

Ms. Staples resides in New Jersey with her husband, percussionist Barry Centanni, and children, Michael and Laura. Mr. Centanni and Ms. Staples premiered William Kraft’s Concerto a Tre for piano, violin, and percussion, written for them, at Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society’s summer festival and recorded it for release on the Albany Records label in 2008. They also premiered David Sampson’s Black River Concerto for solo violin, percussion, and orchestra in April 2011 with the Montclair State University Symphony.

Ms. Staples performs on the “Kartman” Guarneri del Gesu, c. 1728, previously on loan from private collector Peter Mandell and now in the collection of the New York Philharmonic.

Learn more about Sheryl Staples



img Howard Wall, a native of Pittsburgh, joined the horn section of the New York Philharmonic in 1994, after having been a member of The Philadelphia Orchestra for almost 20 years. He is also a former member of both the Phoenix and Denver Symphony Orchestras. Mr. Wall has appeared as soloist with the New York Philharmonic in Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns in New York (1995, 2001, and 2007) as well as on Philharmonic tours in Europe (1996) and South America (2001). He appears regularly at the New York Chamber Music Festival, and performs with the Delphinium Trio. He can be heard on the CD Take 9, featuring the New York Philharmonic horn section and the American Horn Quartet, as well as on Principal Horn Philip Myers’s New York Legends CD. In 2012 Mr. Wall recorded David Amram’s Blues and Variations for Monk for Solo Horn, and in 2013 he recorded Poulenc’s Elégie for Horn and Piano with French pianist Pascal Rogé. Howard Wall began the horn at age ten and earned his bachelor’s degree in music performance at Carnegie Mellon University. He made his Carnegie Hall debut at age 19 performing Schumann’s Konzertstück for Four Horns; he most recently performed the same work again at Carnegie Hall in 2012.

Learn more about Howard Wall



Wei Yu

Cellist Wei Yu joined the New York Philharmonic in September 2007 at age 26. Mr. Yu has been a prizewinner at the Hudson Valley Philharmonic String, Holland American Music Society Cello, Music Teacher National Association (MTNA National Collegiate Strings), Canada’s National Music Festival, Calgary’s Kiwanis Festival, and China’s National Cello competitions. He was invited to play for Mstislav Rostropovich at the Seventh American Cello Congress in 2003.

An active chamber musician, Mr. Yu has been invited to the Marlboro and Ravinia music festivals, and recently he has collaborated with musicians such as cellist David Soyer, pianists Richard Goode and Menahem Pressler, violinists Midori and Pinchas Zukerman, and members of the Guarneri and Juilliard Quartets. As a member of the New York Philharmonic Ensembles, he makes regular appearances at Merkin Concert Hall.

In the summers of 1998 through 2000, Wei Yu participated in the Morningside Music Bridge program at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Canada. He subsequently enrolled in the University’s Gifted Youth program under the tutelage of John Kadz and is currently on the faculty of the Morningside Music Bridge program and has given cello master classes at universities and festivals in the United States, Canada, and China.

Born in Shanghai, China, Mr. Yu began studying the cello at age four and made his concerto debut at age eleven performing Elgar’s Cello Concerto with the Shanghai Symphony Orchestra. His principal teachers include Mei-Juan Liu, John Kadz, Hans Jørgen Jensen, and David Soyer. He performs on the 1778 “Ex-Soyer” Gagliano cello, on generous loan from the Marlboro Music Festival.

Learn more about Wei Yu



Yula Ziskel

A member of the New York Philharmonic’s first violin section since 2001, Yulia Ziskel, who holds the Orchestra’s Friends and Patrons Chair, has established herself as a highly acclaimed solo, chamber, and orchestral musician. She has been praised by The Strad Magazine for “the sweetness of her sound.”

Ms. Ziskel’s recent appearances apart from the Philharmonic include a successful tour of Spain and the Ballearic Islands and recitals at Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall, Alice Tully Hall, and Merkin Concert Hall as well as venues in Italy, Germany, and Russia. Her solo appearances include performances with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, South Florida Symphony, New York Chamber Symphony Orchestra, and St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra. She has performed chamber music at Minato Mirai Hall in Yokohama, Japan; former Philharmonic Music Director Lorin Maazel’s private theater for the Chateuville Foundation; Lyric Chamber Music Society of New York for the Kosciuszko Foundation; and with Philharmonic colleagues during Saturday Matinee Concerts at Avery Fisher Hall and the New York Philharmonic Ensembles series at Merkin Concert Hall. Ms. Ziskel has also appeared on numerous radio programs, including WQXR’s The Listening Room, hosted by Robert Sherman. Her awards include First Prize in the Assembly of Arts International Violin Competition; the New Names award, one of the highest honors for young talent in Russia; and the Anna Bernstein Memorial Award.

Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Yulia Ziskel began her musical training on the violin and piano at the age of four. She made her solo debut at age seven at the St. Petersburg Philharmonic Hall and at age twelve was a soloist with St. Petersburg Chamber Orchestra. As a teenager she toured extensively, appearing in solo recitals throughout Russia, Germany, Finland, Poland, and the United States. In 1994 Ms. Ziskel’s family immigrated to the United States, where she completed her bachelor of music degree at Indiana University and later received her master’s degree from The Juilliard School. Her teachers included Philharmonic Concertmaster Glenn Dicterow and violinist Yoko Takebe as well as Nelli Shkolnikiva, Lev Ivashenko, and Eugenia Poustireva.

Ms. Ziskel’s debut solo CD on the Sonoris label includes works by Wieniawski, Tchaikovsky, Ysaÿe, Brahms, and Paganini and features pianist Tatiana Goncharova, and her recording of chamber music was released on the Naxos label.

Learn more about Yulia Ziskel

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