Bach to the Edge
by Jan Jezioro
The Friends of Vienna showcase the Master and the Moderns
The Friends of Vienna (FOV) concert on Sunday October 11 at 3:30pm at the Unity Church, 1242 Delaware Avenue features UB colleagues, cellist Jonathan Golove and violinist Yuki Numata Resnick, in a program with a decidedly modern emphasis. While it begins with one of the sonatas for solo cello by Johann Sebastian Bach that is at the very core of the repertoire, it also features unjustly neglected works by overlooked 20th century masters, as well as the world premiere of a work by the rising, young Turkish composer Esin Gündüz, commissioned by the FOV in celebration of their 40th anniversary season.
Golove will open the recital with Bach’s Suite No.2 in D minor for solo cello, one of his six masterworks that were almost forgotten before being revived by Casals, and he will also perform the very rarely programmed Sonata for solo cello, op. 31 by the Austrian-born, British composer Egon Wellesz.
“Wellesz was a Viennese student of Arnold Schönberg,” says Golove, “and I always try to bring a bit of Vienna to my FOV programs. It’s a continuous work of about 12 minutes with a main theme, marked ‘Largo,’ that recurs throughout, and various larger sections that are the equivalent of the discrete movements we expect in a sonata form work. The harmonic idiom is somewhere along the continuum toward atonality, but in fact it’s never hard to discern the tonal centers, and the writing is highly melodic, and beautiful.”
“Wellesz was also a student of Guido Adler, a Viennese pioneer in the field of musicology, and student of Bruckner. Wellesz’s specialty was Byzantine music and he received an honorary doctorate from Oxford, where he taught, after emigrating to escape the Nazis. He certainly had an interest in old music, and Bach’s cello suites were just that in 1920, when they were just being rescued from obscurity by the dedicated efforts of Pablo Casals. Wellesz’s sonata is one of the early wave of works for cello solo, a genre almost completely neglected after Bach. Its form is unlike Bach’s series of individual movements, but like a Bach suite, it has a number of dance-like sections in different meters, including a gentle 5/4 ‘waltz’ (I think of Tchaikovsky’s 6th Symphony) and a march-like scherzo.”
There are two rarities composed for violin and cello on the program. Arthur Honegger, though Swiss by birth, was a member of the group of French composers known as “Les Six.” He composed his Sonatina for Violin and Cello in 1932, and the neo-classical work, traditional in sound and structure, is emblematic of how composers in the 1920s and 30s often looked back to older musical forms. George Antheil, the self proclaimed American “bad boy of music” composed his Sonatina for Violin and Cello in 1931, and while his style of composition got lost during the post World War II ascendency of atonal music, this lively piece shows him at his best.
About her work Cura, for violin, cello and voice, composer and vocalist Esin Gündüz says that it was inspired by an ancient tale collected by the Roman grammarian Hyginus. “I came by this fable while reading the book Security: Politics, Humanity, and the Philology of Care by John Hamilton. He describes how Cura—a personification of ‘care’, ‘concern’, ‘anxiety’, or ‘trouble’—formed the first human being:
‘When crossing a shallow river, Cura spotted the bank’s muddy clay, gathered it up, and molded it into a figure. She then asked Jupiter, who was passing by, to breathe spirit into her freshly crafted work. The god readily obliged, yet became angry when Cura expressed her desire to name the animated figure after herself. Cura, Tellus (Earth) and Jupiter all wanted the new creature to be named after him or herself, so when Saturn came to act as a judge he decided:
‘Jupiter will take the soul after death, since he provided it, and Earth, since she provided the body, should receive the body. Since Cura first molded him, she will possess him as long as he is alive. But since there is a dispute over the name he’ll be called homo, since he appears to have been made from humus, that is, the earth.’
“So the word care also has concern within it and the concept of the molding of a human being by both care and concern interested me, and my piece is about the simultaneous existence of care and concern in every creation process. I used the word ‘Cura,’ with its harsh beginning consonant and fluid vowels, as a tool to create these states of care and of concern, re-creating the transformations that occur during the molding process of creating something that is alive.”
“I am much honored to be the composer-in-residence for the Friends of Vienna, and to have the work I composed in celebration of its 40th anniversary season played by these fantastic musicians.”
Tickets: $10/5 students. Information: www.friendsofvienna.org
Finnfest at the Buffalo Chamber Music Society
The Buffalo Chamber Music Society opens its 91st season with a performance by the acclaimed Carpe Diem String Quartet celebrating Finnfest, on Tuesday October 13 at 8pm in the Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans Music Hall. The mostly Finnish program includes an arrangement for string quartet of the Andante Festivo, an orchestral work by Sibelius, and “The Sunflower” movement from the String Quartet No. 3 by Erkki Melartin, as well as the String Quartet No.1 ‘Quartettino’ by Einojuhani Rautavaara, who is perhaps the most prominent contemporary Finnish composer. The one decidedly non-Finnish work on the program is the Fiddle Suite Montana, composed by the group’s violist, Korine Fujiwara.
Tickets: $20/$10; free admission for Middle/High School students. Information: www.bflochambermusic.org
Finnfest at Fredonia
Soprano Angela Haas, cellist Natasha Farny and pianist Anne Kissel, all faculty members of the Fredonia School of Music, make up the ensemble known as the ANA Trio. They will perform works by the contemporary Finnish composer Kaija Saariaho, which are among the most rapturous and colorful sounds that we hear today, as part of Buffalo’s Finnfest celebration, at First Presbyterian Church on Saturday October 10th at 3pm; tickets are $15 at the door.
This concert will be repeated on Tuesday October 13th at 8pm in Rosch Recital Hall on the Fredonia State College Campus, along with an additional work, Neiges, written for cello ensemble; the event is free.
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