Memory: Brahms

Backstage with

Jenna Sherry, violin

Shuann Chai, piano

Teunis van der Zwart, natural horn

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Although this event has ended, you can watch the entire program below.

View the 2021 Birdfoot Festival season program book here



Selections from:

Johannes Brahms: Horn Trio in E-flat Major Op. 40

Join Birdfoot and a trio of musicians to explore the way that music unfolds in time, against the backdrop of memory.

Listening is an experience that plays on memory: as we listen to a musical line in the present, we make sense of it based on what has come before while also imagining what will come next. Brahms wrote his horn trio specifically for the Waldhorn (or natural horn), and the symbolism of this instrument, evoking primeval forests, galloping hunts, and distant farewells, adds yet another dimension to the rich tapestry of sound and memory. Brahms was himself a devoted scholar of early music, and his music often longs for a lost past. The Horn Trio plays with all these threads, weaving together history and personal experience.

Come Backstage with Birdfoot Artistic Director and violinist Jenna Sherry, pianist Shuann Chai, and natural horn player Teunis van der Zwart, to discover Brahms’s music through the textures and colors of historical instruments and delve into the many facets of musical memory.

Birdfoot and the performers would like to thank Andriessen Pianos in Harlem (The Netherlands) for generously allowing the performance recording for this event to be made in their showroom, using one of their historical instruments.

Note: This event features excerpts that this ensemble will perform in full on a virtual concert on June 2, 2021 at 1 PM CDT. More information here

About the Artists:

Jenna Sherry, violin

Shuann Chai, piano: Ms. Chai is an active and engaging performer, recognized for her interpretations on a wide range of historical pianos as well as the modern piano.

She began piano lessons at age 5 in a group class at the local YWCA and had a number of wonderful teachers in her early years including Jack Radunsky, a former student of the pianist/composer Percy Grainger. Shuann earned degrees from Oberlin (majoring in Biology, as well as Piano with a Fortepiano minor) and the New England Conservatory. She also had the privilege of  studying privately with pianists such as Norma Fisher and Claus-Christian Schuster, and worked extensively with Canadian pianist Anton Kuerti.

As a soloist and chamber musician, she has performed in the Kleine Zaal of the Concertgebouw (Amsterdam), De Doelen (Rotterdam), the Orlando Festival (Limburg, Netherlands); Festival La Folle Journée, Suntory Hall, Izumi Hall, (Japan); Bach en Combrailles, the American Church of Paris (France); Troldsalen (Norway), National Concert Hall (Taipei), St. Cecilia’s Hall (Edinburgh), Jordan Hall (Boston), and the Forbidden City Concert Hall (Beijing), to name but a few.

Shuann has given masterclasses and lecture recitals at institutions internationally, including Temple University, the University of California at Davis, CodArts Rotterdam, the Conservatorium of Amsterdam, Gulanyu Piano Academy (Xiamen, China) and Central Conservatory in Beijing. She is also active in community outreach on both sides of the Atlantic, having performed hundreds of concerts in care facilities, senior living centers, music schools, and libraries.

In 2012, Shuann’s debut CD of three Beethoven Sonatas on the fortepiano was released, garnering enthusiastic reviews in publications such as Fanfare Magazine (“…bristling with excitement… a real ear-opener”), BBC Music Magazine (“Stimulating… Chai has a keen sense for the colouristic possibilities of her instrument”), and the Classical Music Sentinel (“…played with a determination and urgency that makes Beethoven’s music sound larger than life”). Future recording projects include a CD of early songs by Alban Berg with contralto Noa Frenkel, as well as a recording of Brahms’s chamber music with violinist Shunske Sato, and cellist Hidemi Suzuki.

Among other things, Shuann Chai is grateful for having three inspiring musical companions: a concert grand Steinway signed by jazz legends Herbie Hancock and Ahmad Jamal; an original Érard piano (1861), and an original 1820 Rosenberger fortepiano, generously provided on permanent loan by the National Musical Instruments Foundation of the Netherlands (NMF).

Teunis van der Zwart, natural horn: Upon becoming a prizewinner in the Bad Harzburg Natural Horn Competition 1989, Teunis van der Zwart decided to become a worldwide ambassador for the natural horn.  He is a renowned specialist for his instrument, both as a soloist, chamber music player, and teacher, and since 2008, has been increasingly active as conductor of orchestras and choirs.   

As a hornplayer, Mr. van der Zwart has made numerous recordings and concert-tours with outstanding ensembles for early music including the Amsterdam Baroque Orchestra, Orchestre des Champs-Elysées, wind sextet Nachtmusique, Akademie für Alte Musik Berlin, Bach Collegium Japan, and Collegium Vocale Gent. For fifteen years, van der Zwart was the principal horn player of the Freiburg Baroque Orchestra, a position he still holds with the Orchestra of the 18th Century. He has regularly performed as a soloist with both of these orchestras and recorded Mozart’s horn concertos for Harmonia Mundi France and Glossa.   

With the Japanese Orchestra Libera Classica and Hidemi Suzuki, he recorded Joseph Haydn’s horn concerto for TDK. In 2008, he recorded of Brahms’ horn trio with Isabelle Faust, violin, and Alexander Melnikow, piano for Harmonia Mundi France, and in 2007,  Van der Zwart recorded the Ries Double Concerto for two horns with the Kölner Akademie, conducted by Michael Willens. With both the Orchestra of the 18th Century and the Netherlands Bach Society, Van der Zwart recorded the Quoniam of Bach’s b-minor mass. As a soloist he has worked with such conductors as Frans Brüggen, Philippe Herreweghe, Hidemi Suzuki, and René Jakobs.   

As a chamber music player, soloist, teacher and lecturer, he regularly appears in numerous concert-series and festivals throughout Europe, the United States, Australia and Japan. Teunis van der Zwart teaches both at the Conservatory of Amsterdam and the Royal Conservatoire in The Hague. At both conservatories he is a regular conductor of the baroque orchestras. He is the founder and musical leader of the Sinuet Chamber Orchestra.

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