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Cosmos Trio Premieres "Columbus Triptych"

color photo of Cosmos Trio in the Classical 101 studio
WOSU Public Media
WOSU Public Media
The Columbus-based Cosmos Trio: violist Mary Harris, flutist Katherine Borst Jones and harpist Jeanne Norton

“This is an amazing place.”

That’s what San Francisco-based composer Stephen Main said recently about Columbus, the namesake of his new work Columbus Triptych, written for the Columbus-based Cosmos Trio.

Main’s Columbus Triptych is just one of a number of new works composed specifically for Cosmos Trio – comprised of flutist Katherine Borst Jones, violist Mary Harris and harpist Jeanne Norton – and featured on the group’s new recording, American Premieres (MSR Classics).

Cosmos Trio visited the Classical 101 studios recently to perform selections from some of these new works, all commissioned by Cosmos since its founding 15 years ago.


American Premieres showcases new works by the major American composers Stephen Paulus, Andrew Boysen, Jr., Libby Larsen, Dale Warland, Stephen Main and the late Columbus composer Donald Harris.

Each of the new works on American Premieres brings out different aspects of what the members of Cosmos Trio call the “magical” sound of their combination of instruments. The composers represented on the disc wrote works across the full range of human emotion in musical languages, putting flesh on a combination of instruments too often considered ethereally beautiful but light on substance.

Stephen Main’s Columbus Triptych is by turns playful, pensive, punchy and percussive. In celebration of Columbus Day weekend, Main’s Columbus Triptych will air on The American Sound Saturday, Oct. 12 at 6 p.m. and Tuesday, Oct. 15 at 7 p.m. on Classical 101.

A New York City native and Oberlin Conservatory alumnus who spent his college years checking out the classical music scene in nearby Cleveland, Main and his music are today no strangers to Columbus. Main’s music has been performed by the Columbus Symphony Orchestra and has appeared on the extensive concert series at First Community Church.

“I have lovely associations with Columbus,“ Main said in a recent phone interview. “Part of my delight in writing (Columbus Triptych) was also coupled with my delight in discovering Columbus and the arts scene there for the first time. And when I was getting to know people in Columbus and beginning to write music for people there, it was really a sense of joyful homecoming, like, Wow, Columbus has exploded in the last 30 years. I used to not even think about Columbus, but now I think everybody agrees it’s sort of the artistic hub of Ohio.”

Stephen Paulus’ Petite Suite brings the trio’s magical sound world to life in a harmonic language peppered with exotic dissonances. In Paulus’ hands, this winsome combination of instruments weaves a tapestry of profound emotions.

Beautiful, Sweet, Delicate by Andrew Boysen, Jr. is everything its title promises, packaged in a meditative musical language reminiscent of the Middle Ages and redolent of Asia.

Libby Larsen’s Trio in Four Movements weeps with elegiac gravity, sparkles from the inspiration of birdsong, sings in wistful dissonances and tumbles in cascades of arpeggios, trills and roulades.

In Letter from Home by the late Donald Harris, Cosmos Trio and sopranos Lucy Shelton and Christine Mortine give voice to Columbus poet Jeremy Glazier’s text by way of an intense harmonic language and an eerie coloristic sheen.

Dale Warland’s gorgeous Arise My Love is a bashful and tender evocation of the flowers, turtledoves, figs and blooming vines in the Song of Songs text that inspired the piece.

Watch the video above of Cosmos Trio’s recent visit with Classical 101 to hear them perform selections from Stephen Paulus’ Petite Suite and Libby Larsen’s Trio in Four Movements. Also hear the musicians talk about how each of these new gems of the repertoire came to be written for them.

And be sure to Catch the Columbus-based Cosmos Trio’s performance of Stephen Main’s Columbus Triptych on The American Sound, 6 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 12 and 7 p.m. Tuesday, Oct. 15 on Classical 101.

Jennifer Hambrick unites her extensive backgrounds in the arts and media and her deep roots in Columbus to bring inspiring music to central Ohio as Classical 101’s midday host. Jennifer performed with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra and the Civic Orchestra of Chicago before earning a Ph.D. in musicology from the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.