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Sphinx Virtuosi

Concerti per Venti
Friday, October 13, 2017 7 PM Stern Auditorium / Perelman Stage
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Sphinx Virtuosi by Kevin Kennedy
String works from the Baroque to the present day are performed by the masterful young musicians of the Detroit-based Sphinx Organization. Vivaldi’s Concerto in B-flat Major is an energetic dialogue for the violin and cello soloists, while Beethoven’s Op. 133 masterpiece is a magnificent exploration of fugal writing. There’s also a new work by Jimmy López, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall, and much more.


Sphinx Virtuosi


MILSTEIN Paganiniana
BEETHOVEN Grosse Fuge, Op. 133
VIVALDI Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Cello, and Continuo, RV 547
JIMMY LÓPEZ Guardian of the Horizon: Concerto Grosso for Violin, Cello, and Strings (NY Premiere, co-commissioned by Carnegie Hall)
MICHAEL ABELS Delights and Dances

Event Duration

The printed program will last approximately 75 minutes with no intermission.

Lead support for the 125 Commissions Project is provided by The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation.

Additional funding is provided by members of Carnegie Hall's Composer Club.

The Sphinx Virtuosi performance and gala is made possible with lead support from JPMorgan Chase & Co., the Sander and Norma K. Buchman Fund, and the Kirkland & Ellis Foundation.

At a Glance


As a student in St. Petersburg, Milstein mastered the 24 fiendishly difficult solo Caprices by the early-19th–century Italian violinist Nicolò Paganini. Later he decided to flesh out his concert repertoire with an equally show-stopping set of variations based on Paganini’s music. After a straightforward rendition of the familiar tune from Paganini’s last caprice, Milstein plunges into a series of elaborately virtuosic variations on it and other themes.

LUDWIG VAN BEETHOVEN  Grosse Fuge, Op. 133

Originally composed as the finale to Beethoven’s String Quartet in B-flat Major, Op. 130, this massive fugue was later spun off and issued on its own. At the publisher’s insistence, rehearsal letters were inserted in the score to keep unwary amateur players from losing their way amid the tangled thickets of counterpoint.

ANTONIO VIVALDI  Concerto in B-flat Major for Violin, Cello, and Continuo, RV 547

A virtuoso violinist as well as a prolific composer, Antonio Vivaldi virtually created the instrumental concerto as we know it. This bravura double concerto for violin and cello with string accompaniment is laid out in the three-movement, fast-slow-fast format that Vivaldi helped to standardize in the early 18th century.

JIMMY LÓPEZ  Guardian of the Horizon: Concerto Grosso for Violin, Cello, and Strings

Peruvian composer Jimmy López sought inspiration in the multilayered textures of the concerto grosso. Like Vivaldi, he assigned the solo roles to violin and cello, treating them as both rivals and partners. Premiered last month in Miami, Guardian of the Horizon celebrates Sphinx’s 20th anniversary.

MICHAEL ABELS  Delights and Dances

This exuberant, concerto-like piece by African American composer Michael Abels is one of two works on tonight’s program commissioned by the Sphinx Organization. Scored for string quartet and string orchestra, Delights and Dances is spiced with elements of jazz, blues, bluegrass, and other distinctively American musical styles.


Sphinx Virtuosi

The Sphinx Virtuosi is one of the nation's most dynamic chamber orchestras. Eighteen of the nation's top Black and Latino classical soloists, these alumni of the internationally renowned Sphinx Competition come together each fall as cultural ambassadors to reach new audiences. This unique, self-conducted ensemble debuted at Carnegie Hall in December 2004 and has returned annually since 2006. Allan Kozinn of The New York Times described their performance as "first-rate in every way" with "more beautiful, precise, and carefully shaped sound than some fully professional orchestras that come through Carnegie Hall in the course of the year."

The Sphinx Virtuosi continue to garner critical acclaim during their annual national tours to many leading venues around the country, while also performing extensive outreach in underserved schools and community groups in those cities.

Sphinx Organization

The Sphinx Organization is a Detroit-based national organization that is dedicated to transforming lives through the power of diversity in the arts. Led by President and Artistic Director Afa S. Dworkin, Sphinx programs reach more than 100,000 students, as well as live and broadcast audiences of more than 2 million annually. Ms. Dworkin's work has been recognized globally. She was named one of Musical America's 30 Most Influential People and one of Detroit's 40 Under 40 by Crain's Detroit Business, in addition to being a frequent speaker on the importance of inclusion and music education at conferences nationwide and abroad, including the League of American Orchestras, Chamber Music America, Americans for the Arts, International Festival of Arts & Ideas, and beyond. Ms. Dworkin also serves on the faculty of Roosevelt University.

The organization's founding and mission were informed by the life experiences of Aaron P. Dworkin, who, as a young Black violinist, was acutely aware of the lack of diversity both on stage and in the audience in concert halls. He founded Sphinx, while an undergraduate student at the University of Michigan, to address the stark underrepresentation of people of color in classical music. President Obama's first appointment to the National Council on the Arts, Mr. Dworkin is now professor for art entrepreneurship and leadership at the University of Michigan's School of Music, Theatre & Dance.

Sphinx works to create positive change in the arts field and in communities across the country through a variety of programs organized into four main principles: education and access, artist development, performing artists, and arts leadership. Visit for more information.

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