Violinist Stephanie Sant’Ambrogio, founder and Artistic Director of the Cactus Pear Music Festival and a BPA audience favorite, is joined by pianist Scott Cuellar. Her 2016 appearance here with the Argenta Trio was a musical high. This program includes works by lesser known composers of the early 2oth century including Melanie Bonis whose beautiful, ethereal work was introduced to us by Sant’Ambrogio in that 2016 concert. They conclude with the rousing Suite Italienne by Stravinsky.
Described by Gramophone Magazine as a "violinist who most often takes your breath away" and praised as an "expressive and passionate chamber musician" by the San Antonio Express-News, Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio enjoys a varied performing and recording career as a soloist, chamber musician and orchestral leader. Professor of Violin and Viola at the University of Nevada, Reno (UNR) and member of the Argenta Trio, she is also Artistic Director of Cactus Pear Music Festival, which she founded in 1997 while serving as Concertmaster of the San Antonio Symphony. Previously First Assistant Principal Second Violin of The Cleveland Orchestra, under Christoph von Dohnányi, she toured and recorded internationally with this ensemble for eight seasons. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio has performed as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the U.S. as well as in Mexico, Canada, Estonia, Sweden, Ghana, Italy, Peru and Chile. In 2009, she was appointed Concertmaster of the Lancaster Festival Orchestra and the following year was appointed Concertmaster of the Fresno Philharmonic Orchestra. That same year she was awarded UNR's prestigious Alan Bible Teaching Excellence Award. In addition to her active performing career, Stephanie is devoted to teaching serious young violinists, many who have won positions in America's symphonies and universities.
Ms. Sant'Ambrogio has a discography of over seventy-five orchestral and chamber music CDs. Audiophile Review described her Johannes Brahms: The Violin Sonatas CD as one of "fine readings of great finesse, rich coloring and complete understanding." Her other recent releases include Late Dates with Mozart; Going Solo: Unaccompanied Works for Violin & Viola and Soaring Solo: Unaccompanied Works for Violin & Viola, II on the MSR Classics label, as well as Argenta Trio: The Piano Trios of Felix Mendelssohn on Bridge Records and Love Comes in at the Eye: Songs & Instrumental Works on Albany. In addition to her performances as violinist, violist and Artistic Director of Cactus Pear Music Festival, Ms. Sant'Ambrogio frequently performs and teaches at various festivals including: Bach, Dancing & Dynamite Society (WI); Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival (WA); Nevada Chamber Music Festival (NV); Music in the Vineyards (CA); Round Top Festival Institute (TX); and, Tuckamore Festival (Newfoundland, Canada).
Her chamber music activities have included performances and recordings with such noted artists as William Preucil, Ida Kavafian, Richard Stoltzman, David Shifrin, Richard Goode, Walter Trampler, Anne Epperson, Jon Kimura Parker and Gunther Schuller. She is featured in chamber music recordings under the Arabesque, Albany, Bridge and MSR Classics labels, and her live concert performances are heard on National Public Radio's Performance Today. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio has performed as first violinist with the Miami String Quartet and has been a guest artist with The Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, performing at both the Lincoln and Kennedy Centers. She toured Italy with Mikhail Baryshnikov's White Oak Dance Project, toured extensively throughout Ohio with Cleveland's Myriad, and for ten years performed with the Amici String Quartet, of which she was a founding member. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio studied with and was the graduate assistant to Donald Weilerstein at The Eastman School of Music, where she received her Master of Music degree. Previously she received her Bachelor of Music degree with distinction from Indiana University as a scholarship student of Laurence Shapiro and James Buswell.
The name Sant'Ambrogio is frequently found in concert programs throughout America. John Sant'Ambrogio, former Principal Cellist of the Saint Louis Symphony Orchestra, gave his daughter Stephanie her first violin lessons at the age of five. Her sister Sara is a cellist with the Naumberg Award-winning Eroica Trio. For thirty years the Sant'Ambrogio family directed Red Fox Music Camp, which was founded by grandmother Isabelle Schiebler Sant'Ambrogio, a celebrated concert pianist. The legacy of teaching music has been passed down in the Sant'Ambrogio family for four generations. Ms. Sant'Ambrogio plays a violin crafted in 1757 by J.B. Guadagnini of Milan, Italy, the city from which the family name Sant'Ambrogio originates and her contemporary viola was made by Jacek Zadlo in Chicago in 2008. She and her graphic designer husband Gary Albright, enjoy exploring Lake Tahoe with their daughters, twenty-year-old Isabel and eighteen-year-old Gabrielle.
In reviewing pianist Scott Cuellar's debut recital at Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, David LaMarche of the New York Concert Review described Mr. Cuellar's performance as "virtuosic in scope and expression, like a great man of the theater," and praised his "ability to illuminate both the external structure and the emotional core of the work he plays." He has been described by Cleveland Classical as possessing "nerves of steel, a formidable technique, and an architect's understanding of structure." The San Antonio Express-News praised his "luxuriant exploration" of Liszt's First Piano Concerto, adding that his "technique was clean, his melodies and cadenzas were expressive, but most noticeable was his keyboard fluidity."
Mr. Cuellar won the gold medal at the 2016 San Antonio International Piano Competition, where he also received prizes for the best performance of both a Romantic work (Schumann's Humoreske), as well as of a Russian work (Prokofiev's 4th Sonata). He was the 1st place winner in the solo division of the 2013 Virginia Waring International Piano Competition, where he also took 2nd place in the concerto division, and was the winner of the Krenek Prize for the best performance of a sonata by Ernst Krenek. Additionally, he was the 3rd place winner of the 2016 New Orleans International Piano Competition, the winner of both the Rice and Oberlin concerto competitions, and was a semifinalist in both the 2017 Seoul International Piano Competition and the 2015 Honens Piano Competition.
He has given solo recitals at major venues around the world, including Carnegie Hall's Weill Recital Hall, Vienna's Konzerthaus and Bösendorfersaal, the Newport Music Festival, the Polytheatre Chongqing and the Shenyang Conservatory of Music in the People's Republic of China, and has been a guest recitalist at Northwestern University's Bienen School of Music, the University of Washington, and Grand Valley State University. He has performed in solo and collaborative settings at major venues including the Kennedy Center, the Sede Histórica of Peru's Conservatorio Nacional de Música in Lima, the Seoul Arts Center in South Korea, Minneapolis's Orchestra Hall, New York's Merkin Hall, Calgary's Jack Singer Concert Hall, and the Greene Space of WQXR New York. He has appeared as a soloist with the San Antonio Symphony, the Louisiana Philharmonic, the Rochester Symphony Orchestra, the Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, the Oberlin Orchestra, the Lima Symphony Orchestra, and several others.
Mr. Cuellar has performed with many of the world's great artists, including Cho-Liang Lin, Jennifer Koh, Chee-Yun, Stephanie Sant'Ambrogio, Desmond Hoebig, Aloysia Friedmann, and many others. He has performed at the La Jolla Music Society's Summerfest, the Orcas Island Chamber Music Festival and the Cactus Pear Chamber Music Festival. He has been heard on WQXR in New York, the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, Houston Public Media, and WGTE Toledo.
Mr. Cuellar holds a Master of Music from the Juilliard School, where he studied with Julian Martin, and holds a Bachelor of Music from the Oberlin Conservatory of Music, where he studied with Alvin Chow. During his time at Oberlin, he won three of the largest prizes offered to pianists: the Oberlin Concerto Competition, the Arthur Dann Competition, and the John Elvin Prize for Juniors. Mr. Cuellar is completing his Doctor of Musical Arts at the Shepherd School of Music at Rice University, where he studies with Jon Kimura Parker.
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