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K2 Comes to the Friends of Vienna

BPO violinists Richard Kay and Francis Kaye are K2.

Sometimes the mountain does, indeed, come, when summoned

There is a now proverbial saying, attributed to the early 17th-century English philosopher Francis Bacon, in his 1625 collection of essays: “If the mountain does not come to Muhammad, then Muhammad must come to the mountain.”

For those familiar with the mountains of the world, K2 can only refer to one mountain, the second-highest peak in the Himalayas. Of course, when K2 does come to the Friends of Vienna concert on Sunday, November 14, at 3:30pm in the Unity Church on Delaware Avenue in Buffalo, audience members should not be expecting the mountain but rather the violin duo of the same name. BPO violinists Richard Kay and Frances Kaye (no relation) make up the K2 duo, and they will be joined for this recital by pianist Paul Ferington, who is now in his 26th year as a staff conductor with the BPO.

Richard Kay, a member of the BPO for 35 years, describes his collaboration with violinist Frances Kaye, a long-standing member of the BPO’s first violin section: “We have been working together as a duo for roughly a year. We had worked together in another chamber music group, and we liked each other’s playing, so we decided to explore some of the more rarely publically performed violin duo literature together. As we expanded our performance repertoire, we also decided to try to broaden it, looking for works beyond the range of just two violins, so it seemed natural to include pianist Paul Ferington, a fine musician whose talent and point of view we both respect and appreciate.”

According to Kay, Mozart’s Duo for Two Violins, Op. 70, No.12 is an arrangement, by another hand, of Mozart’s popular Sonata in A Major, K. 331 for piano. “While the arrangement is based on the original piano sonata, there are some differences,” he says. “The theme in the first movement is followed by four instead of the original six variations, and the famous, final ‘Alla Turca’ movement is arranged differently, and is shorter in length.”

Those patrons who were at the initial Friends of Vienna concert at few weeks ago will be in the enviable position of comparing this arrangement for two violins with the effervescent performance of the original version of the work, which Karen Schmid offered on the fortepiano at that event.

The origin of the version of Boccherini’s Violin Duet Op. No. 2 in E Major, which is also on the program, remains something of a mystery. “Fran Kaye picked up a copy of these duets at a music store in Detroit,” Kay says. “We liked the E Major duet, and decided to focus our energies on the piece. Why the publisher decided to use the designation of ‘Opus 5’ for this set is a mystery, as it disagrees with the numbering in the now standard catalog of Boccherini’s works by Gérard. Nevertheless, it is a delightful piece which we enjoy playing.”

Béla Bartók composed his 44 Duos for Two Violins in 1931, at the request of Erich Doflein, a German violinist and teacher, to provide his students with graded technical studies for violin. The duos are based on pre-existing folk melodies from Hungary, Slovakia, Serbia, and the Ukraine, as well as music from the Arab world—areas in which Bartók had carried out his extensive field research in folk music. Though they are based on folk songs, the duos are written in a modern idiom that makes full use of polyrhythm and dissonances, and they are musically interesting beyond their pedagogical use.

Richard Kay, who has been playing the Bartók duos since his college days, likes the way that Bartók changes “relatively simple pieces into quite complex compositions with the use of interesting harmonies and rhythms. The other wonderful thing about them is the very full sound that the two violins can make in several of these pieces.” Violinist Frances Kaye observes “the music in Bartók’s 44 Duos is rich in colorful harmonies, interesting rhythms and abounds with wonderful folk melodies. The pieces we’ve chosen to play for Friends of Vienna are pretty much the set we like to play; however, we do make a few changes from program to program.”

Richard Kay describes the Suite in G Minor for Two Violins and Piano, Op.71 by Moritz Moszkowski (1854-1925) as “the major piece on this concert. It is a musically well-balanced composition requiring full participation from each musician to bring about the success of the whole. Romantic in nature, it is a very rewarding piece to play.”

“Moszkowski’s music as a whole is overlooked and under-performed,” Pianist Paul Ferington adds. “It is lush, late Romantic music that equals and parallels the finest of European and Eastern European traditions: the elegance of Chopin, the lyricism of Dvorak, and the expressiveness of Richard Strauss. While Moszkowski’s many collections of solo piano pieces embrace the ‘new pianism’ established years earlier by Chopin, in the Suite in G Minor the pianist is expected to not only underwrite the two violinists, but also maintain the elements of solo bravura and showmanship. It is an extremely gratifying and exhausting work for all three players.”

Tickets are $8 general admission, $6 for students. For more information, visit

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