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Momenta Festival: Schoenberg, Fernández, and Cuban Hip-Hop

Americas Society

October 2, 2017


Images: Courtesy of Telmary Díaz, John Gurrin.

Due to the overwhelming response for this event, registration is now closed. Seating will be first come, first served beginning at 6:45 PM.

Admission: Free and open to the public.

Not yet a member? Learn how to become a Cultural Circle member for reserved seating at this concert.

2017 marks the third installment of Momenta Quartet's unique festival. This concert, hosted by violist Stephanie Griffin, spotlights Schoenberg's Ode to Napoleon for string quartet, piano, and narrator, featuring Cuban rapper Telmary Díaz and pianist Christopher Oldfather. Also on the program are composers Agustín Fernández (Bolivia) and Alvin Singleton, with an improvised set by Griffin and bassist Hilliard Greene.

Telmary Díaz, official video for "Entre fieras" from Libre (2014), dir. Andros Barroso.



Alvin Singleton Somehow We Can for string quartet (1994)
Agustín Fernández String Quartet no. 2 'Sin Tiempo' (2013)
Griffin/Greene Improvised duo on "Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child"
Arnold Schoenberg Ode to Napoleon (1942)


About the artists

Havana-born street poet Telmary Díaz has emerged as a leader and trendsetter on the cutting edge of hip-hop and urban music in Cuba. As a rapper, Telmary uses her distinctive voice, at times deep and soulful, at times fast and aggressive to proclaim a positive, empowering message that contrasts with the genre's commercial norm. Telmary began her musical career with Free Hole Negro in 1999 before joining Interactivo in 2002, a collective of Cuban musicians whose singular groove layers rap, funk, jazz, and soul atop traditional Afro-Cuban rhythms. She launched her solo career with the album A Diario in 2007, which won the Cubadisco award for Best Hip-Hop Album that year; her second solo album Libre (2014) was awarded a second Premio Cubadisco. After seven years in Toronto, Telmary returned to Havana, where she formed the band Habana Sana. She has continued to collaborate with a wide variety of Cuban and international artists including Interactivo, Pedrito Martinez, Los Van Van, Descemer Bueno, and Dr. John. Telmary has graced stages throughout Europe, Japan, and North and South America. She performed at the Montreal Jazz Festival in 2008, participated in a tribute to Louis Armstrong with Dr. John at the Hollywood Bowl in 2013, was featured in the first Cuban music showcase at the 2016 South by Southwest, and performed with Habana Sana at the 2017 New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival.

Momenta: the plural of momentum—four individuals in motion toward a common goal. This is the idea behind the Momenta Quartet, whose eclectic vision encompasses contemporary music of all aesthetic backgrounds alongside great music from the recent and distant past. The New York City-based quartet has premiered more than 100 works, collaborated with over 120 living composers and was praised by The New York Times for its “diligence, curiosity, and excellence.” Momenta has appeared at such prestigious venues as the Library of Congress, National Gallery of Art, the Smithsonian’s Freer Gallery, Rubin Museum, Miller Theatre at Columbia University, the Princeton Institute for Advanced Study, Chamber Music Cincinnati, Washington University, Bates College, and Festival Cervantino (Mexico). Momenta has recorded for Centaur Records, Furious Artisans, PARMA, New World Records, and Albany Records; and has been broadcast on WQXR, Q2 Music, Austria’s Oe1, and Vermont Public Radio. The quartet’s debut album, Similar Motion, is available on Albany Records.

Pianist Christopher Oldfather has devoted himself to the performance of contemporary music for over twenty years. He has participated in innumerable world premiere performances, featuring every possible combination of instruments, in cities all over America. He has been a member of Collage New Music since 1979 and New York City’s Parnassus since 1997. He also performs with the Met Chamber Ensemble and is keyboard chair of the American Composers Orchestra. He appears regularly in Chicago and has joined singers and instrumentalists of all kinds in recitals throughout the United States. Since his Carnegie Hall recital debut in 1986 he has pursued a career as a freelance musician, which has taken him as far afield as Moscow and Tokyo and has seen him play virtually every sort of keyboard ever made, including the Chromelodeon. As a soloist Mr. Oldfather has appeared with the New York Philharmonic, the New World Symphony, and Ensemble Modern in Frankfurt, Germany. He has collaborated with the conductor Robert Craft and can be heard on several of his recordings. His recording of Elliott Carter’s violin-piano Duo with Robert Mann was nominated for two Grammy Awards in 1990.