VIOLIN AT THE EDGE: Manhattan violinist Curtis Macomber at UB

BY JAN JEZIORO

The focus of the local classical music scene shifts to Slee Hall on the UB Amherst Campus starting on Friday, October 21 at 7:30pm when New York City violinist Curtis Macomber will be joined by UB faculty members Eric Huebner on piano and Jean Kopperud on clarinet for a concert that includes both mid-20th century, and contemporary works. Then, on Tuesday October 25 at 7:30pm the young French conductor Julien Leroy will make his Buffalo debut conducting the Slee Sinfonietta in a program of new music.

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CURTIS MACOMBER

The venerable and prestigious British magazine The Strad, the unofficial bible of the classical string music scene, has praised the playing of violinist Curtis Macomber for his “panache” and he was recently praised by The New York Times for its “thrilling virtuosity”. He continues to enjoy a varied and distinguished career as soloist, chamber musician and teacher, and has for several decades been recognized as one of America’s foremost interpreters and proponents of new music.

As first violinist of the award-winning New World String Quartet for 11 years Macomber performed standard repertoire as well as numerous contemporary works in performances in major halls throughout the United States and Europe. He was an artist-in-residence at Harvard University for eight years with that group, with which he also recorded 14 discs and performed numerous times on NPR in this country, and the BBC in Great Britain. Macomber is also a founding member of the Apollo Piano Trio and a member of the Da Capo Chamber Players, the Manhattan String Quartet, the Walden Chamber Players and the New York Chamber Soloists. His extensive discography includes the complete Brahms and Grieg sonatas and hundreds of critically praised recordings of contemporary solo and chamber works. His CD of Roger Sessions’ Solo Sonata was acclaimed by American Record Guide as “one of the best recordings of 20th-century solo violin music ever made.”

Friday’s program includes Béla Bartók’s Contrasts, for clarinet violin and piano, a 1938 work suggested by the Hungarian virtuoso violinist Joseph Szigeti and commissioned by the legendary jazz clarinetist Benny Goodman. Olivier Messiaen composed his unique Quartet for the End of Time while he was a French prisoner of war in a German camp where the work received its premiere on a bitterly cold night in January 1941. The middle, “Louange à l’Immortalite de Jësus” movement, marked “infinitely slow, ecstatic”, was composed for cello and piano, and it will be interesting to hear how Macomber interprets the movement on his violin.

Macomber will also tackle Salvatore Sciarrino’s Six Caprices for Solo Violin, composed in 1976. These six pieces have been described as “Living, breathing musical paradoxes. Each Caprice is an ambitious, virtuosic showpiece that’s almost exclusively made from the most insubstantial of violin sounds, such as ethereal, whistle-like harmonics”. The program also includes Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronisms #9, for violin and electronics, Eric Moe’s Flex Time, and Signs, Games and Messages, by György Kurtág, the leading contemporary Hungarian composer, who is still active at the age of 90.

 Slee Sinfonietta

On Tuesday October 25 at 7:30pm French conductor Julien Leroy will lead the Slee Sinfonietta, UB’s cutting edge new music ensemble, in works by French composer Philippe Leroux, AAA, Italian composer Franco Donatoni, Lumen, and UB faculty member David Felder, Requiescat. British composer Jonathan Harvey’s, Scena will receive its area premiere.

Composed in 1992, Scena is a quasi-operatic work for violin soloist and nine players. Written for strings and featuring the soloist in the role of diva, the work’s first, anguished movement is titled ‘Lament’. Lush woodwinds mark the work’s next two movements, ‘Mystical Event’ and ‘Romantic Event’, while ‘Dream’, the fourth movement, is marked by stately tremolando swells. ‘Metamorphosis’, the final melodic movement, features the return of the entire ensemble.

As an added bonus, on Monday, October 24 at 7:30pm, in anticipation of the Sinfonietta program, the program’s featured violin soloist, Alex Greffin Klein, will be performing a solo violin recital in Baird Recital Hall. Attendance for this event, which will feature the works of Carter, Felder, Saariaho, Hurel, and Canat de Chizy, is free.

Tickets for each concert: $15/10 seniors, students; free for UB students. Information: www.slee.buffalo.edu