Merling 'Quartet' premieres multi-genre composition
April 14, 2003
KALAMAZOO -- Western Michigan University's acclaimed Merling Trio will be joined by bassist Tom Knific for the premiere performance of "Quartet for Piano and Strings" by Frank Proto at 8 p.m. Thursday, April 17, at the Wellspring Theatre in downtown Kalamazoo's Epic Center.
Part of the Fontana Chamber Arts Series, the program also features Haydn's Piano Trio in C minor and Piazzolla's "De Las Cuatro Estacinoes Portenas." Tickets are $20 general admission and $5 for students and are available through the Miller Auditorium ticket office at 387-2300, from Fontana Chamber Arts at 382-7774, or at the door.
The Merling Trio commissioned Proto for the quartet composition, which is described as "a little bit of everything," from blues to funk to Charleston and more traditional classical themes.
In addition to Thursday's Fontana-sponsored performance, Kalamazoo's Plaza Arts Circle is sponsoring a residency for the quartet and Proto. On Tuesday and Wednesday, April 15-16, the musicians will visit Kalamazoo Christian West Elementary School, Woods Lake Elementary in Kalamazoo and Angling Road Elementary in Portage, Mich.
Proto will give a master class for double bass students in the Dalton Center Lecture Hall Wednesday, April 16, from noon to 2 p.m. He also will be visiting with composition students on Wednesday from 3 to 5 p.m., in room 2004 of the Dalton Center to talk about his life as a composer, his music, and the compositional process. Both of these master classes are free and open to the public.
Proto, of New York City, is the premier composer for the double bass, according to Knific, who is, himself, highly regarded as a bassist. Knific is a professor and chair of jazz studies at WMU and bassist for the award-winning Western Jazz Quartet. He is president-elect of the International Society of Bassists and will preside over the society's world conference at WMU in June 2005.
Members of the Merling Trio--all members of the WMU School of Music faculty--are Renata Artman Knific, violin; Bruce Uchimura, cello; and Susan Wiersma Uchimura, piano.
Frank Proto was born in 1941 in Brooklyn, N.Y. He began piano studies at age 7 and double bass at age 16 while a student at the High School of Performing Arts in New York City. He earned his bachelor's and master's degrees at the Manhattan School of Music where he was a student of David Walter Frank.
As a composer, he is self-taught. For his graduation recital in 1963, Proto confronted the typical bass player's problem--there was very little literature for the instrument. He programmed a baroque work, a romantic piece, and an avant-garde composition using electronic tape, but he wanted a contemporary composition in a more American style. Unable to find one he liked, he decided to write his own. The resulting piece, "Sonata 1963 for Double Bass and Piano," was his first composition. It has subsequently been performed hundreds of times, worldwide by scores of bassists, and has entered the standard double bass repertoire.
In 1966, Proto joined the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra where, with the help and encouragement of CSO Music Directors Max Rudolf and Thomas Schippers, he began to bloom as a composer. The early opportunities given him by the CSO to compose and arrange for the orchestra resulted in a 30-year stay, during which the orchestra premiered more than 20 large works and countless smaller pieces and arrangements composed for Young People's concerts, Pop's concerts, tours and special occasions.
Since leaving the Cincinnati Symphony in 1997, Proto has continued to compose in a wide variety of styles. He has written music for such artists as Dave Brubeck, Eddie Daniels, Duke Ellington, Cleo Laine, Benjamin Luxon, Sherill Milnes, Gerry Mulligan, Roberta Peters, François Rabbath, Ruggerio Ricci, Doc Severinsen, Richard Stoltzman and Lucero Tena.
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