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Chamber Music Competition

Runner-Up: Ensemble39

Ensemble39 combines great chops with a fearless attitude to repertoire and performance. “This is no ordinary chamber ensemble!” says Grammy-award winning contemporary ensemble, eighth blackbird.

E39, as the group is known among those who have experienced its thrilling performances, is quickly establishing its style, sound and programs. Its unique mix of strings and winds embraces many musical styles from the classical oboe to the jazz bass, the klezmer clarinet to the old time fiddle. Inspired by Sergei Prokofiev's Quintet, Op. 39, for oboe, clarinet, violin, viola and bass, this instrumentation is poised to become the new standard contemporary chamber music ensemble.

In just two years commissions for the Philadelphia-based ensemble have reached the double digits and continue to multiply. E39 has worked with some of the best young composers of their generation and have been regular performers at the Curtis Institute of Music's annual Composer Recital.

Their performance of Gabriella Smith's Children of the Fire, written for One Book, One Philadelphia and inspired by Edwidge Danticat's “Create Dangerously: The Immigrant Artist at Work,” landed them their second performance on the Curtis Institute's Dean's Honors Recital. Inspired by Haitian drum circles, with phasing and extended techniques for all instruments, the piece is an audience favorite.

The group premiered a work by Katerina Kramarchuk, "Wandering Through Night," at the Juilliard School in 2013. Kramarchuk's singer-songwriter style is supported by her strong classical training. Equally comfortable writing for the concert hall as performing her own music singing at the piano, her sexy, salsa-influenced quintet about finding oneself in semi-awake dreams, expertly performed by E39, was the highlight of the night.

The group balances old and new in its diverse programming. In 2013 the ensemble premiered its creative new arrangement of Mozart's Serenade in C Minor (arr. Andrew Hsu); and following a weeklong residency with eighth blackbird, premiered six new pieces based on Monteverdi's eighth book of madrigals, “Songs of Love and War.”

E39 changes the conventional concert paradigm, exploring new venues, seeking diverse collaborators, loosening the presentation protocol and pursuing mixtape-style programming. Equally at home in traditional concert spaces, art galleries, bars, pop-ups and living rooms, appearances have included Philadelphia's AxD Gallery, Dresden's Glaeserne Manufaktur, World Cafe Live and Miller Theater. The world of music is changing; musicianship among composers and players is high. E39 reminds us that it’s an exciting time to be a listener of music in all its contemporary and classical forms.


Challenge the conventional. Create the exceptional. No Limits.