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Faculty Tuesdays

Faculty Tuesdays

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Nov 9, 2021

Faculty Tuesdays

Longtime CU Boulder College of Music duo Margaret McDonald and Erika Eckert invite you to a special evening of sublime, quirky, lyrical and sometimes toe-tapping works for piano and viola. Spanning the globe from England, Holland and France to Australia, this wonderful collection of short pieces explores some of the many delightful facets of musical collaboration and conversation.

Renowned CU Boulder College of Music faculty artists perform with students and colleagues in chamber music recitals featuring world premieres and beloved classics. Free most Tuesdays August through March.

Performance date and time

Tuesday, Nov. 9, 7:30 p.m. MST

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Program 

Keal: Ballade in F minor for viola and piano; Kats-Chernin: Still Life for viola and piano; Fleury-Roy: Fantaisie de Concert for viola and piano, Op. 18; Bosmans trans. Grinten: Nuit Calme from Trois Impressions for cello and piano; Boulanger: Trois Pièces pour violoncelle et piano

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Program notes

Ballade in F minor for viola and piano (1929)

Minna Keal (1909-1999)

Minna Keal (née Nerenstein) was born to Russian-Jewish immigrants in London’s East End. Only Yiddish was spoken in her house, and it was not until entering grade school that Keal learned English. Her family was not musically trained, yet there was always music in the house, especially in the form of her mother’s folk songs. Keal began to play piano and compose simple pieces while still in grade school. In 1928, she enrolled at the Royal Academy of Music to study composition with William Alwyn and piano with Thomas Knott. Her time at the Academy was quite prolific—during her first year she composed a piano sonata, Three Summer Sketches for piano, the Fantasy for String Quartet, and the Ballade in F minor. Keal’s time at school was cut short when family pressures required her to leave school to help run the family book business. Keal would not compose again for 46 years.

Keal’s fascinating life took many turns following her departure from composition. She became involved in politics, joined the Communist Party and formed an organization that rescued hundreds of children from Nazi Germany. She married three times, raised her family and held several secretarial jobs. Keal began to study piano again as she approached retirement and completed qualification to teach beginning piano herself. At the age of 64, one of Keal’s young pupils took an examination to qualify for a Grade 3 piano exam. The examiner happened to be a young composer named Justin Connoly, who learned that Keal had studied composition and persuaded her to share her music with him. The first piece she presented was the Ballade in F minor. Upon hearing the piece, Connoly encouraged Keal to return to composition. She subsequently returned to the Royal College of Music and went on to study with Oliver Knussen. Her works include a symphony that was performed by the BBC Symphony in 1987, a cello concerto, a mini violin concerto and several chamber works, including a cello quintet. It is not surprising that the Ballade made an impression on Connoly. The work demonstrated Keal’s great talent and makes wonderful use of the capabilities of both instruments. The late romantic style of the Ballade is reminiscent of Frank Bridge’s compositions, a composer Keal greatly admired. Lionel Tertis praised the Ballade, and Keal won a composition prize with the work as a first-year student.

—Program note by Hilary Herndon, La Viola: Music for Viola and Piano by Women Composers of the 20th Century, MSR Classics

Still Life for viola and piano (2001)

Elena Kats-Chernin (b. 1957)

Elena Kats-Chernin was born in the Uzbekistan capital of Tashkent. As a child, she received intensive training in both figure skating and music. At age fourteen she chose music as a career, leaving her home in the Volga riverside town of Yaroslavl to study at the Gnessin Musical College in Moscow. Four years later, she and her family emigrated from the Soviet Union to Australia. She entered the New South Wales Conservatory as a pianist and as a composition pupil of Richard Toop. Graduating in 1980, she received a DAAD Fellowship (a German academic exchange program) to study with Helmut Lachenmann in Hanover, West Germany. While in Europe she became active in theater and ballet, composing for state theaters in Berlin, Vienna, Hamburg and Bochum. Her music attracted the attention of the Ensemble Modern; in 1993 the group premiered Clocks which was an artistic breakthrough for the composer. Clocks has since been performed in Europe, Australia, and the USA. Kats-Chernin remained in Germany for 13 years, returning to Australia in 1994. Since her return, Kats-Chernin has become one of Australia’s leading young composers. Among her many commissions are works for the Sydney Alpha Ensemble, Ensemble Modern (Concertino), Bang on a Can All-Stars, the Australian Chamber Orchestra, the Sydney Symphony Orchestra, and also for the opening ceremony of the Sydney Olympic Games. Her music was featured at the Musica Nova Helsinki in March of 2001, and the 2002 Soundstreams Festival in Toronto. Her recent full length ballet, Wild Swans, with choreography by Meryl Tankard for the Australian Ballet, was an enormous critical and public success.

Still Life for viola and piano was written for Patricia Pollett with Australia Council support. It is in six movements and is based on intimate and self-contained cells. Each movement starts in D minor and mostly stays in that key. Still Life 1 is hypnotic in nature and sets the mood for the whole suite. It is slow and the piano’s high register is used extensively. Still Life 2 is based on an interval of a fifth and is reminiscent of cimbalom based folk music. It is probably the most virtuosic of the six movements. Still Life 3 lightens up the atmosphere somewhat, being a kind of a blues in a strange 3+3+2 meter. Still Life 4 is very still and quiet, underscored by a constant pizzicato figure in the viola. Still Life 5 is a movement with a repetitive tango element and is more forceful than the others. Still Life 6 is almost funereal in nature, it is the most archaic and simple in this suite and sees the return of the material of the first movement towards its end. —Program note by Elena Kats-Chernin, Still Life, Tall Poppies Records

Fantaisie de Concert for viola and piano, Op. 18 (1906)

Hélèna Fleury-Roy (1876-1957)

Hélène Fleury-Roy (1876-1957) studied composition at the Paris Conservatory with Henri Dallier, Marie Widor and André Gedalge. She was the first female French composer to enter and to win a prize in the Prix de Rome composition competition (1904). In 1928 she moved to Toulouse where she was professor at the conservatory teaching piano, harmony and composition until 1945. She taught students such as the future conductor Louis Auriacombe, violinist Pierre Doukan and composer Charles Chaynes.

Fleury-Roy wrote mainly for the piano, but left us also with a few songs, pieces for violin and cello as well as the Fantaisie for viola (or violin) op 18, composed in 1906, which was dedicated to Théophile Laforge and used in the same year as a pièce de concours, an exam composition for students enrolled at the Conservatoire Supérieur de Paris.
—Program note by Jutta Puchhammer-Sédillot

Nuit Calme from Trois Impressions for cello and piano (1926)

Henriëtte Bosmans (1895-1952)

trans. Tom van der Grinten

Henriette, an only child, was raised in a musical environment. Her father, Henri (1856-1896), had been principal solo cellist of the newly established Concertgebouw Orchestra. He died when she was just a baby. Her mother, a piano teacher at the Conservatory of Amsterdam, gave Henriette her first piano lessons. At seventeen she passed her final piano examination at the Maatschappij tot Bevordering der Toonkunst (Society for the Advancement of Music). She studied music theory and composition with Jan Willem Kersbergen, later followed by composition lessons with Willem Pijper, who happened to be her neighbor at the time.

In the 1930s Bosmans performed regularly with the Concertgebouw Orchestra. As a woman composer she found less recognition in the Netherlands, except from colleagues and friends. Cellist Marix Loevensohn frequently performed her Poème for cello and orchestra, while Louis Zimmermann, concertmaster of the Concertgebouw Orchestra, premiered the Concert Piece for Violin and Orchestra in 1935, conducted by Willem Mengelberg. Her international breakthrough began in 1938, when violinist Willem Noske played this work, full of “Oriental moods,” in Prague and Paris. In October 1941 it was also performed several times in the United States with Ruth Posselt as violinist. However, the prospect of further international engagements became blocked by the war.

The increasing interference by the Nazis in cultural life was evident early on. In 1933 the Maandblad voor Hedendaagsche Muziek (Monthly Magazine for Contemporary Music) published an article entitled “Terror in Germany.”  By April 1939 newspapers reported that music by Jewish composers was banned in Italy. Paradoxically, Bosmans’ career as a pianist prospered, as many foreign soloists could not or dared not travel to the Netherlands. Bosmans considered exile to the United States, but at the last moment decided to stay; she didn’t want to leave her elderly mother behind.

If musicians wanted to pursue their profession, they were obliged to register as of April 1, 1941 at the Kultuurkamer, a regulatory cultural agency instated by the German occupying forces during World War II. Bosmans was half Jewish and was registered at the Kultuurkamer as a “Jewish Case.” At first, she continued giving concerts, but in June the Concertgebouw Orchestra was informed that Bosmans was undesirable as soloist because of her “partial Jewish origin.” In 1942 she could no longer perform in public. Over the next five months, Bosmans wrestled with a nerve inflammation in her leg. At the same time, she collected genealogical information about her family, trying to save her mother, one of the 140,000 Dutch Jews, from persecution by the Nazis. She was terribly worried, even though Sara Benedict Bosmans was registered in the category “mixed marriages,” because her husband had been a Roman Catholic. The Germans had no uniform policy for this category.

Meanwhile, Bosmans’ income had diminished. Bosmans earned some at the so-called “black evenings,” underground house concerts, which were often intense experiences for both artists and audience. Venues included “a countryside villa in Wassenaar, a surgeon’s home in Gouda, an Amsterdam mansion, and the home of a leather manufacturer in Waalwijk.” The Bosmans became victims of persecution in the spring of 1944, when mother Bosmans, at the age of 83, was arrested and deported to Westerbork. Henriette immediately pleaded her mother’s case with the authorities, and even went to the notorious Gestapo headquarters in the Euterpestraat in Amsterdam. As a last resort, she asked Willem Mengelberg to intervene, which resulted in her mother’s release along with other mixed-married Dutch Jews.

In the autumn of 1944 trains stopped operating and Bosmans could no longer perform outside Amsterdam. Mother and daughter scraped through the harsh winter months, with the western part of the Netherlands hit by famine. In these difficult circumstances she began composing, which she hadn’t done since the death in 1935 of her fiancé, violinist Francis Koene.

After the war, Bosmans welcomed a new creative period inspired by mezzo-soprano Noémie Perugia. Of the twenty-five songs she wrote, influenced among others by Debussy, Ravel and Poulenc, she dedicated eleven songs to Perugia. On June 16, 1951, Henriette Bosmans was knighted in the Royal Order of Orange Nassau. The following year, after her last recital with Noémie Perugia on April 30, 1952, she collapsed and died on July 2, 1952, at the age of 56, most likely of stomach cancer. Her considerable oeuvre includes orchestral works, chamber music and many songs. Nuit calme is one of the Trois Impressions from 1926 for cello and piano.

—Program note by Helen H Metzelaar, excerpts from article on the website Forbidden Music Regained

Trois Pièces pour violoncelle et piano (1911-13)

Nadia Boulanger (1887-1979)

trans. Alphonse Leduc Éditions Musicales

Descended from a long line of musicians, Nadia Boulanger very early on received plaudits from her father, composer Ernest Boulanger, Grand Prix de Rome, and from her teachers at the Conservatoire de Paris, Charles-Marie Widor and Gabriel Fauré. Her work as a composer, now being rediscovered, long remained hidden behind her gifts as a virtuoso at the piano and organ, her skill as a conductor (of vocal ensemble and orchestras) and most of all, her incredible charisma as a teacher. For close to sixty years, “Mademoiselle” made the most of her famous Wednesdays, bringing passion and high expectations to the training of several generations of musicians: among many others, Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein, Igor Markevitch, Michel Legrand, Witold Lutoslawski, Astor Piazzolla, Quincy Jones and John-Eliot Gardiner have all kept unforgettable memories of these times. Boulanger became the director of the American Conservatoire in Fontainebleau after the war, and in the eyes of her contemporaries, personified music: Paul Valéry would immortalize her as “she who imposes enthusiasm and rigour”. Three Pieces, originally written for the cello, were composed just before World War I, before Boulanger decided to abandon composition and devote herself fully to teaching music. Her melodies happily take on nostalgic accents or explore the lively rhythms of Spanish dance. —Program note by Alphonse Leduc Éditions Musicales, Nadia Boulanger Three Pieces for viola and piano

Due to popular demand for Faculty Tuesdays concerts, we advise arriving early to secure a seat. These concerts are general admission on a first-come-first-served basis. House doors open 30 minutes before concert start.

Featuring

Margaret McDonald

Piano

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Read Bio for Margaret McDonald

Erika Eckert

Viola

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Read Bio for Erika Eckert

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