The newly formed Trio Florida is the first faculty ensemble in residence at the University of North Florida.
The trio is dedicated to performing the masterpieces of the piano trio repertoire with an additional emphasis of performing works by the great American composers. The members include Dr. Simon Shiao (violin), Dr. Gary Smart (piano), and Dr. Nick Curry (cello). All three members are dedicated fulltime faculty members at UNF.
RACHMANINOFF Trio élégiaque no. 1
BEETHOVEN Allegro moderato (“Archduke” Trio)
SMART Fancy (in memoriam Joe Venuti) --
Lil’s Hot Fancy -- Bright Eyed Fancy
Simon Shiao, a versatile performer who has appeared at Carnegie Hall as a recitalist and with both string quartet and orchestra, has played concerts around the world, including at the Museum of Oceanography in Monte Carlo, the U.S. Embassy in Vienna, the Banff Centre for the Arts in Canada, A Winter Festival in Jerusalem, and the Heidelberg Schloss Festspiele in Germany. Other career highlights include appearances at the Isabella Stuart Gardner Museum in Boston, and on broadcasts of CNN's Science and Technology program and Public Radio's Live on WGBH. He has performed as soloist with Miami’s New World Symphony, and as that orchestra’s co-concertmaster Dr. Shiao has led performances at Davies Symphony Hall in San Francisco under the direction of Michael Tilson Thomas and John Adams. Dr. Shiao currently performs with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra and with the Grand Teton Music Festival Orchestra in Wyoming. At the University of North Florida he teaches violin and viola and is Director of Orchestral Studies, and he has adjudicated the Music Teachers National Association Young Artist Competitions and the UNF String Competition. Simon has presented lecture-recitals and master classes at numerous universities and conservatories in the U.S., Belize, Taiwan, and China, and he is currently the chair of the solo competition for the Florida Chapter of the American String Teachers Association. Dr. Shiao holds a Bachelor of Music degree from the Manhattan School of Music and both Master and Doctor of Musical Arts degrees from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.
The career of Gary Smart has encompassed a wide range of activities as composer, classical and jazz pianist, and teacher. Always a musician with varied interests, he may be the only pianist to have studied with Yale scholar and keyboardist Ralph Kirkpatrick, the great Cuban virtuoso Jorge Bolet, and the master jazz pianist Oscar Peterson. A true American pluralist, Dr. Smart’s compositions reflect an abiding interest in Americana, jazz, and world music, as well as the Western classical tradition, and he has received support from the Ford and Guggenheim foundations, the Music Educator's National Conference, the Music Teachers National Association, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Smart’s works have been performed in major U.S. venues, including the Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall, as well as in venues in Europe and Asia, and his Concordia for orchestra won the Concordia jazz composition award and was premiered at Lincoln Center. Dr. Smart's compositions are published by Margun Music (G. Schirmer) and his work has been recorded on the Mastersound, Capstone, and Albany labels, including The Major’s Letter, featuring songs for voice and piano, and American Beauty – a Ragtime Bouquet, both released by Albany Records. Forthcoming CD projects include Turtle Dreams of Flight, with works for solo piano performed by the composer, and Hot Sonatas, a collection of jazz-influenced chamber music prepared in collaboration with members of the UNF music faculty. Dr. Smart spent residencies in Japan at Osaka University and Kobe College, and taught in Indonesia as a Fulbright Distinguished Lecturer in Jazz. He was head of the music department at the University of Wyoming from 1978-1999, and from 1999-2003 he served as Chairman of the UNF Music Department, where he currently is the Terry Professor of Music.
Nick Curry is the recently-appointed Cello Professor at the University of North Florida. Prior to moving to Jacksonville, Dr. Curry was the Professor of Cello at the University of South Dakota and the cellist in USD’s Rawlins Piano Trio. He was born in Atlanta, Georgia, where he was a student of David Starkweather from the University of Georgia. Nick received his Bachelor of Music degree from Vanderbilt, where he studied with Grace Mihi Bahng and also was her teaching assistant, and where he received the Jean Keller Heard Award for Excellence in string playing. While earning his Masters and Doctoral degrees at Northwestern University, Dr. Curry served as Hans Jorgen Jensen's teaching assistant for five years, and he also was Jensen’s assistant at the Meadowmount School of Music for four summers. During this time Nick appeared as soloist with the Northwestern Philharmonic Orchestra, and won the Northwestern Chamber Music Competition. He has played in master classes for Lynn Harrell, Ralph Kirschbaum, Paul Katz, David Geber, the Emerson String Quartet, the Pacifica String Quartet, and the Blair String Quartet, and has studied privately with Harvey Shapiro, David Finckel, and John Kochanowski. Dr. Curry has played concerts in Taiwan and all over the United States, and in 2006 he performed as a soloist on Garrison Keillor’s Prairie Home Companion, where he played the King Amati cello.
PROGRAM NOTESby Ed Lein and Dr. Gary Smart
[Listen to it at last.fm]
[Download the score (PDF) from imslp.org]
Composer Gary Smart (b.1943) wrote Fancy – in memoriam Joe Venuti (Margun Music, 1978) "in heartfelt homage" to Joe Venuti (1903-1978), the great jazz violinist. Beginning in the mid-1920s Venuti performed with many leading jazz artists, including such greats as Louis Armstrong, Paul Whiteman, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman—and he also was a legendary cut-up and practical joker. The composer observes that his Fancy "features the violin playing abstracted Venuti-isms with the support of an abstract ‘stride piano’ accompaniment. The piece closes in serene meditation with the open strings of the violin (G-D-A-E) echoing on the piano."
Both Lil’ Hot Fancy and Bright Eyed Fancy were performed in February 2009 at a concert at the University of North Florida. The following comments are taken from the composer’s notes for that occasion.
"My Lil’ Hot Fancy, written in 2007 for my friend and colleague Simon Shiao, is a companion piece to the first Fancy of thirty years earlier. This fancy is fast, brilliant and short, a sort of avant-garde encore piece. It is inspired by a cartoonish image I have of an angelic Joe standing on a cloud, happily playing hot licks for his fellow angels. Almost all of the piano part is written in the treble clef, giving it a surreal, toy-piano quality. The ‘three time ending’ is a kind of cliché-joke. The music ascends to the very highest notes of both instruments, keeping the solid beat intact as it slowly fades into another dimension." —Gary Smart
About Bright Eyed Fancy … "On the first page of the score of this one movement trio for violin, cello, and piano I quote the English poet Thomas Gray: ‘Hark, his hands the lyre explore! Bright Eyed Fancy, hov’ring o’er.’ This quote is taken from Gray’s The Progress of Poesy (1754), which the celebrated Christian mystic and poet-artist William Blake (1757-1827) illustrated some thirty years later. My Bright Eyed Fancy was inspired both by Mr. Gray’s words and Mr. Blake’s watercolor. Blake’s picture depicts an angelic muse hovering over a working musician who strums his lyre, while the muse, sitting on a rainbow, pours forth a cornucopia of musical ideas. … My trio, then, is a portrait of angelic visitation, written in homage to Mr. Blake. It is often exuberant, even ecstatic, but is also at times profoundly solemn, sometimes quite simple and lyrical. I hope to have evoked here some of the strange truth that Blake proclaimed. My choice of musical materials is not unusual, though perhaps the way I mix materials is. Much of the harmonic language of this piece is modal and/or polytonal. I make some use of jazz gestures and style, but I also have made free use of folk music’s modal melody and other more abstract textures. As would seem appropriate, I let ‘form follow fancy’ in this work. The opening is bright and enthusiastic, full of light. A second section presents a solemn, timeless chorale. A florid ensemble section with shades of modal jazz improvisation closes the exposition. These three ideas are then developed. A cello solo, presenting the piece’s one real tune, is labeled Song of the Angel. After more free development the solo piano recapitulates the tune. The last section of the work opens with the solo cello playing a motive (A-B-D-C#) over which I have written the syllables Al-le-lu-ia. I have no succinct explanation for these extra-musical markings, except that they may inspire the players in some way—and it seemed important that they be included in the score. The program of the work is partly a mystery to me too. The climax of the work is simple, almost minimalistic in its ecstatic repetitions. The Angel’s Song rings out triumphantly above grandiose piano flourishes. The piece closes playfully, with no great show of emotion. Perhaps the angel simply disappears with no fanfare. The visitation is over. Make of it what you will." — Gary Smart