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An Afternoon of German Classics

"The Friends of Vienna welcome cellist Amelie Fradette and pianist Susan Schuman

After a taking some time off for a winter break, the Friends of Vienna will present their first concert of the spring season, this Sunday, March 11 at 3:30pm, in the Unity Church (1243 Delaware Avenue). The program by cellist Amelie Fradette and pianist Susan Schuman features works by Bach, Schubert, and Brahms.

A native of Saguenay, Quebec, Fradette has been a member of the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra since 2001. She earned both her BA and her MM at the Conservatoire de Musique de Montreal, where she studied with Guy Fouquet, earning the Prix avec Grande Distinction, the conservatory’s most prestigious award. Fradette continued her studies at the Cleveland Institute of Music with Richard Aaron and at Yale University, where she studied with the noted Brazilian cellist Aldo Parisot. A founding member of the Buffalo-based Clara String Quartet, she has also performed as a soloist with the Ars Nova Chamber Musicians, the Buffalo Chamber Players and the BPO. Now teaching in the Music Department of Buffalo State College, Fradette recently recorded Amistad, a CD for the Triloca label, along with fellow BPO musicians and guitarist Mir Ali.

Schuman received her degree in piano performance from the University at Buffalo, and she has studied at Ithaca College and Harvard. Currently on the faculty at Buffalo State, Schuman is the principal accompanist for the Buffalo Philharmonic Chorus and she is also the music director and organist at Knox United Presbyterian Church in Kenmore. A much in demand accompanist, Schuman has worked in degree recitals with undergraduates, graduate students, and faculty members at the Eastman School, Fredonia, UB, Canisius, and Buffalo State. She has also been a BPO rehearsal accompanist for many conductors, including JoAnn Falletta, Max Valdes, Matt Kraemer, Marvin Hamlisch, and Keith Lockhart, as well as being the accompanist for the JoAnn Falletta International Guitar Concerto Competition since its inception in 2004.

Sunday’s recital includes a transcription for cello and piano of the adagio movement from J. S. Bach’s mighty Toccata in C Major for Organ, by the Spanish cellist Pablo Casals, the cellist whose efforts almost singlehandedly returned Bach’s unique set of six suites for cello solo to the recital hall stage.

Schubert composed his melodically enchanting Sonata in A Minor, D. 821, in 1824, for arpeggione and piano. The arpeggione, invented in 1823 by the Viennese guitar maker Johann Georg Stauffer, is a six-string, fretted instrument, tuned like a guitar but bowed like a cello. Schubert’s sonata was the only composition by a well known composer written for the instrument, but since the arpeggione completely went out of fashion a decade or so after its invention, Schubert’s sonata for the instrument was transcribed and welcomed with open arms by cellists, quickly becoming a standard recital selection. Interestingly enough, the contemporary French cellist Nicolas Deletaille, who had often performed the piece, commissioned the Belgian violin maker Benjamen La Brigue to make an arpeggione for him in 2001, which he then taught himself to play. Deletaille started commissioning composers to write new works for the instrument, the first works composed for it in 175 years. However, since Schubert’s sonata sounds wonderful when played on the cello, it’s highly unlikely that it will ever leave the cello repertoire.

Brahm’s two sonatas for cello and piano are at the heart of the Romantic era cello repertoire, and his Sonata No. 1 in E Minor, Op. 38, with its use of themes from Bach’s Art of the Fugue, offers significant challenges for both performers, notwithstanding the composer’s ingenuous note to his publisher that “as far as both instruments are concerned, is certainly not difficult to play.”

The Jerusalem String Quartet

The only previous appearance of the Jerusalem String Quartet in the Buffalo Chamber Music Society series was back in 2005, and the impression that they made at that performance is still fresh in the minds of chamber music aficionados lucky enough to have been there. The quartet was formed while its members were students at the Jerusalem Conservatory of Music and they quickly found a shared commitment to the music that has not only endured, but has propelled them to the highest level of performance. The BBC Music Magazine writes that “Their playing has everything you could possibly wish for” while they have been hailed in The Strad as “one of the young, yet great quartets of our time.” Their concert in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans on Tuesday, March 13 at 8pm, includes Beethoven’s Op. 18, No. 2, Brahms’s Op. 51, No. 2, and Shostakovich’s Quartet No. 4, Op. 83.

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