Bearthoven [ \'bâr-toh-vən\ ] is a piano trio creating a new repertoire for a familiar instrumentation by commissioning works from leading young composers. Karl Larson (piano), Pat Swoboda (bass), and Matt Evans (percussion) have combined their individual voices and diverse musical backgrounds, coming together to create a versatile trio focused on frequent and innovative commissioning of up-and-coming composers. Bearthoven is rapidly building a diverse repertoire by challenging composers to apply their own voice to an instrumentation that, while common amongst jazz and pop idioms, is currently foreign in the contemporary classical world.
Formed in 2013, Bearthoven has quickly established themselves as a forerunner in the New York City contemporary music scene. Commissioning over 30 new works in their first six seasons, the trio has created its own diverse repertoire ranging from the driving, post-minimal voices of Ken Thomson, Brooks Frederickson, and Shelley Washington to the atmospheric and abstracted offerings of Sarah Hennies, Scott Wollschleger, and Anthony Vine. Bearthoven’s commitment to collaboration and innovation has garnered both critical and peer acclaim and has led to featured performances on notable series including the MATA Festival, the Bang On a Can Marathon, the Music/Sound Series at EMPAC, the Princeton Sound Kitchen, and the Ciclo de Conciertos de Música Contemporánea in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The group's debut album Trios was released on Cantaloupe Music in May of 2017. Their second album, American Dream, features the works of Scott Wollschleger, and was released in February of 2019 on the same label. Bearthoven was recently selected as 1 of 24 ensembles to be a part of the inaugural New Music USA Impact Fund cohort.
Bearthoven exists in an era where music no longer fits into discrete genre categories. Audiences have well trained ears attuned to aural cues and sonic associations, connecting pieces of music with our larger conception of culture like never before. The current generation has access to an unprecedented amount and variety of music, and these associations grow stronger and more developed with each technological development. Larson, Swoboda, and Evans believe these developments raise interesting questions about how contemporary chamber ensembles approach commissioning, programming, and marketing strategies. Through their work in Bearthoven, the musicians strive to address these questions, developing a new model for contemporary chamber groups in the 21st century.
Bearthoven’s instrumentation, while a clear reference to jazz and pop idioms, is intended to serve as an access point for the current listener. When commissioning new works, the trio invites composers to explore their cultural relationship with the instrumentation, creating a dialogue between their compositional voice and their own associations with the piano, bass, and percussion sound palette. This approach is a provocative prompt for composers and provides the audience with a secure sonic foothold, even in the most abstract compositions.
Bearthoven's New Music USA NYC New Music Impact Fund profile can be found here. Support through New Music USA's NYC New Music Impact Fund is made possible with funding from The Scherman Foundation's Katharine S. and Axel G. Rosin Fund.