Concert Offerings from Rachel Lee Priday

Sei Solo: Bach, Berio, Andres

Andres, New Commission
Berio, Sequenza VIII
Bach, Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004

“Sei Solo” is a perspective on Bach’s awe-inspiring Chaconne, built upon the complete D Minor Violin Partita. From a single instrument, and from a single harmonic progression, Bach constructs in the Chaconne, like the processes of nature, a complex and universal reality that spans the depths of grief, wonder, and ecstatic joy. Exploring this work’s reverberation in the present day, this program also seeks to expand the “unaccompanied” violin repertoire by juxtaposing Bach against a new work for solo violin by Timo Andres.

Though one of a series of fourteen works for various solo instruments and voices, Berio’s bracing, knotty Sequenza VIII for solo violin had special significance for the composer, as a violinist himself. An explicit tribute to Bach’s Chaconne, Berio’s Sequenza VIII is also the composer’s personal expression of gratitude to the violin, which he calls “one of the most subtle and complex of instruments.” While Bach’s Chaconne has inspired numerous arrangements for various solo instruments throughout the centuries – in addition to accompanied versions by Mendelssohn and Schumann – the Chaconne in its original form conveys the purity and power unique to the solitary violinist, and the meaning written into Bach’s manuscript of the Six Sonatas and Partitas: “Sei Solo,” or in Italian, “you are alone.”

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Surface to Air

Prokofiev, Violin Sonata No. 1 in F minor, Op. 80
Christopher Cerrone, Violin Sonata
John Adams, Road Movies
Ravel, Violin Sonata

Surface to Air is a musical exploration of emotional terrains, built as a journey in perpetual motion from darkness into light. Commencing the program is Prokofiev’s epic masterpiece, the Violin Sonata No. 1 in F Minor, Op. 80, a riveting monument to futility and strife, brutality and tenderness. Chilling, whispered scales haunt the emotional soul of the work “like the wind in a graveyard.” From this dark vista of enclosure, “Surface to Air” journeys upward to landscapes of openness, spaciousness, and joyous freedom. Christopher Cerrone’s soaring Violin Sonata enfolds as one uplifting, harmonious crescendo that comes full circle, joining together the violin and piano as a single textural “hyper-instrument.” Its minimalist rhythmic drive finds a counterpart in John Adams’s Road Movies, which captures the motoric energy and relaxed meditation of a drive through America’s rolling landscape. In many ways a precursor to the Cerrone, Ravel’s stunningly sensual Violin Sonata evokes an incredible array of colors and temperatures, while detouring along its way for an exquisite take on the American blues before a sonorous and thrilling perpetuum mobile finale. In its maneuvering between darkness and light, and its sense of perpetual movement against the stillness of space, “Surface to Air” brings together works that conjure up images and arouse the sensory imagination to take flight.

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Chaos and Elegance

Stravinsky, Suite Italienne
Respighi, Violin Sonata in B Minor
Elgar, Violin Sonata in E Minor, Op. 82
Shostakovich, Violin Sonata in G Major, Op. 134

In this program Rachel Lee Priday focuses on four different composers during World War I and beyond who looked to the past in crafting a distinctive musical language. Stravinsky’s Suite Italienne, based on his 1920 neoclassical ballet Pulcinella, playfully injects Baroque forms in the style of Pergolesi with touches of modernist astringency. Of Pulcinella, Stravinsky wrote, “It was a backward look, of course…but it was a look in the mirror, too.” Elgar’s introspective Violin Sonata, written at the end of World War I during a final spurt of creativity, has a nostalgic and autumnal quality: “I fear it does not carry us any further,” the composer acknowledged, “but it is full of golden sounds.” Though Respighi was known for drawing inspiration from early Italian music and ancient Rome, his Violin Sonata is written in a lush and Romantic language. However, both Respighi’s and Shostakovich’s great Violin Sonata base their final movement on the Passacaglia, a variation form which originated in early seventeenth-century Spain. Shostakovich’s Sonata also makes use of Jewish klezmer music and nods to serialism throughout the piece. Yet it is the sound of funeral bells, recalled from earlier moments, that brings the work to a close.

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Songs of Seasons

Beethoven, Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 “The Cockcrow”
Bright Sheng, The Stream Flows (solo violin)
Heinrich Wilhelm Ernst, Variations on “The Last Rose of Summer” (solo violin)
Eugène Ysaÿe, Chant d’Hiver, Op. 15
Brahms, Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 “Rain”

In Tennyson’s poem, “Flower in the crannied wall,” the poet articulates a belief in the ultimate coherence between nature, the human heart, and the entire universe, as a macrocosmos. In the “Songs of Seasons” program, Rachel Lee Priday offers works that speak to this pattern: from nature, song arises, inspiring music that expresses the seasons of the heart. To begin, Beethoven’s Sonata No. 10 in G Major, Op. 96 “The Cockcrow” opens with a gentle figure reminiscent of a bird call, which develops into one of the most sublime pieces ever written for violin and piano. Next are three works for solo violin. Bright Sheng’s The Stream Flows is based on a well-known Chinese Yun-nan folk song:

The Stream Flows

The rising moon shines brightly

It reminds me of love in the mountains

Like the moon, you walk in the sky,

As the crystal stream flows down the mountain.

A clear breeze blows up the hill,

My love, do you hear I am calling you?

With Ernst’s Variations on the “The Last Rose of Summer,” a popular Irish tune and poem by Thomas Moore, the program edges toward the autumnal; it then journeys to winter with Ysaÿe’s Chant d’Hiver. Circling back to the violin and piano duo, the program concludes with a work in cyclic form. In Brahms’s Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78 “Regen,” a “rain” motif borrowed from Brahms’s Op. 59 songs “Regenlied” and “Nachklang” appears throughout the sonata, becoming in the middle movement a funeral march.