Hearing Memory tells the story of a forgotten East German avant-garde, asking how an overlooked cultural history might inform our political present.

October 28, 2023
7:30 pm
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Oboist James Austin Smith brings his musical-historical project, Hearing Memory, to National Sawdust, exploring music lost to the 'end of history’. Through documentary interviews, story-telling and musical performance, Smith and pianist Cory Smythe reflect on the complicated legacy of the daring classical music scene that emerged in the 1970s in East Germany, offering a powerful example of musicians creating meaning beyond sound. Music of Friedrich Goldmann, Christfried Schmidt, Siegfried Thiele and Paul Dessau will be featured alongside a world premiere of a piece for oboe and piano by Matana Roberts.


Christfried SCHMIDT Aulodie: Episoden für Oboe (1975)
Paul DESSAU Guernica (1937)
Georg KATZER miteinander-gegeneinander for Englisch Horn und Viola (1982)
Matana ROBERTS New Work for Oboe and Piano (2023)
Friedrich GOLDMANN Sonata for Oboe and Piano (1980)

Praised for his “virtuosic,” “dazzling,” and “brilliant” performances (New York Times) and his “bold, keen sound” (New Yorker), oboist, curator and on-stage host James Austin Smith appears regularly at the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, at leading national and international chamber music festivals, as Co-Principal Oboe of the conductor-less Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, and as an artist of the International Contemporary Ensemble. As Artistic and Executive Director of Tertulia Chamber Music he curates intimate evenings of food, drink, and music in New York, San Francisco and Serenbe, Georgia.

Smith serves as professor of oboe and chamber music at Stony Brook University and the Manhattan School of Music and is a regular guest at London's Guildhall School of Music and Drama. He holds degrees in political science and music from Northwestern and Yale and spent a year as a Fulbright Scholar at the Felix Mendelssohn-Bartholdy Conservatory in Leipzig, Germany. Smith’s principal teachers are Stephen Taylor, Christian Wetzel, Humbert Lucarelli, and Ray Still.

Pianist Cory Smythe has worked closely with pioneering artists in new, improvisatory, and classical music, including multi-instrumentalist-composer Tyshawn Sorey, violinist Hilary Hahn, and transdisciplinary composers from Anthony Braxton to Zosha Di Castri. His own “perplexingly perfect” (The Wire) music “dissolves the lines between composition and improvisation with rigor” (Chicago Reader).

Smythe has been featured at the Newport Jazz, Wien Modern, and Tectonics festivals, as well as at Lincoln Center’s Mostly Mozart festival, where he premiered new work created in collaboration with Peter Evans and Craig Taborn. He has received commissions from Present Music, the Banff Centre for the Arts, the Trondheim Jazz Orchestra, the Wiener Festwochen, and the International Contemporary Ensemble, of which he is a longtime member.

Smythe’s recent albums on the Pyroclastic label have been made with the support of a grant from The Shifting Foundation. He received a Grammy award for his work with Ms. Hahn and, in 2022, a Herb Alpert Award in music.

Violinist/violist Yura Lee is one of the most versatile and compelling artists of today. She is one of the very few in the world that has mastery of both violin and viola, and she actively performs both instruments equally. Her career spans through various musical mediums: both as a soloist and as a chamber musician, captivating audiences with music from baroque to modern, and enjoying a career that spans more than two decades that takes her all over the world.

As a chamber musician, Yura Lee regularly takes part in the Marlboro Festival, Salzburg Festival, Verbier Festival, La Jolla SummerFest, Seattle Chamber Music Festival, ChamberFest Cleveland, Caramoor Festival, Kronberg Festival, Aspen Music Festival, among many others. She has collaborated with many artists including Gidon Kremer, Andras Schiff, Leonidas Kavakos, Mitsuko Uchida, Miklós Perényi, Yuri Bashmet, Menahem Pressler, and Frans Helmerson. Yura Lee is currently a member of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center (New York City), and Boston Chamber Music Society.

Yura Lee studied at the Juilliard School (New York City), New England Conservatory (Boston), Salzburg Mozarteum (Austria), and Kronberg Academy (Germany). Her main teachers were Namyun Kim, Dorothy DeLay, Hyo Kang, Miriam Fried, Paul Biss, Thomas Riebl, Ana Chumachenko, and Nobuko Imai. She teaches at the Thornton School of Music, University of Southern California.

Oct 28

James Austin Smith: Hearing Memory