UCSB faculty pianist Natasha Kislenko and guests Richie Hawley, Matthew Swihart, Chavdar Parashkevov and Tali Morgulis will  present music by Georges Auric, Louis Durey, Arthur Honegger, Darius Milhaud, Francis Poulenc, and Germaine Tailleferre

The UC Santa Barbara Department of Music will present a virtual chamber music recital Springtime in France: Music of Les Six, 6 p.m. Friday, May 7, as a YouTube premiere on the Music Department’s YouTube channel youtube.com/c/UCSantaBarbaraDepartmentofMusic.

The concert will feature UCSB faculty member and pianist Natasha Kislenko and guests, including clarinetist Richie Hawley, trumpeter Matthew Swihart, violinist Chavdar Parashkevov, and pianist Tali Morgulis.

The program will include solo and chamber works by the members of Les Six — Arthur Honegger, Georges Auric, Darius Milhaud, Germaine Tailleferre, Francis Poulenc and Louis Durey.

Following ideas of the well-known poet and playwright Jean Cocteau and composer Erik Satie, the group of young composer friends came together in their negative reaction to weighty German romanticism and complex writings of Debussy and Ravel in the years post-World War I.

They took their inspiration from street and cafe music in Paris, as well as the transparent writing style of the old masters, such as Jean-Philippe Rameau and Jean-Baptiste Lully. In the 1920s, the music of Les Six appeared light, witty, sardonic, and irresistibly joyful.

“The idea to perform music by Les Six came quite spontaneously,” said Kislenko. “To me, the early 20th century is one of the most fascinating and diverse time periods in art and music. In the past, I put several programs together featuring composers from that time. So, I started looking for new ideas …

“I remembered Les Six from my music history classes. The names of composers came back easily, though I only played and knew works by Milhaud and Poulenc, and some Honegger. Three others were a complete mystery.

“I am fortunate to have come across a wonderful book by Robert Shapiro, where I learned so much about every one of those six. The group did not exist long, each composer had a very unique journey and musical path, but their friendship and collegiality remained strong throughout the century.”

“I was very lucky that several wonderful musicians were willing to join me in this virtual recital project,” Kislenko said. “We have just completed all the recordings and had a lot of fun, particularly enjoying the lightness of the musical spirit and elegance of the selections.”

Kislenko has frequently collaborated with the artists on this program, both in the concert hall and recording studio. The Kislenko/Parashkevov duo has presented recitals and concerto performances all over the world since forming the duo in 2010, and recorded two albums — Russian Sonatas in 2011 and Beethoven, Brahms, Mahler in 2018.

Kislenko and Hawley have served on the Music Academy of the West Summer Festival Faculty, Kislenko (also an alumna, 2001) since 2004 and Hawley since 2005. Throughout the years, they have performed multiple compositions in faculty concerts.

Kislenko and Swihart, assistant professor at Nicholls State University in Louisiana, collaborated during their studies at Stony Brook University some 20 years ago, and now meet again to perform upon Kislenko’s invitation.

Morgulis, associate professor of piano at the University of Houston’s Moores School of Music, has invited Kislenko to give several masterclasses for her students; the pianists performed together for the first time in fall 2019.

Natasha said this program could have been called “Natasha Kislenko and friends”  for the strong ties with all four performers, and she is very grateful they were willing to jump on board and join on her exploration journey to France.

The May 7 program will include Arthur Honegger’s “Intrada” for trumpet and piano; Georges Auric’s “Five Bagatelles” for piano four hands; Darius Milhaud’s “Saudades do Brasil” for violin and piano; Germaine Tailleferre’s “Deux Valses“ and “Toccata” for two pianos; and Francis Poulenc’s “Sonata” for clarinet and piano; as well as “L’Album Les Six,” which features solo piano works by each member of Les Six.

The direct link to the video of the performance will be available on the event page on the Department of Music’s website the week of the event. For more information, visit music.ucsb.edu/news/event/2204.