Bargemusic recital November 17

I am excited to perform at Bargemusic this Thursday, November 17. As part of the “Here and Now” series, I am playing a contemporary music program: six pieces, all by living composers, three of whom will be present. The composers, four men and two women, are of several generations and come from the US, France, Israel, Germany, Austria and Cuba. They are all really terrific. Four of these pieces are for violin, one is violin with electronics, and one is for viola.

Below are program notes by the composers themselves, and two by me, which I wrote for previous performances of mine.

The concert is at 8pm on Nov. 17. Tickets are $35 ($30 for seniors, $15 for students).

I look forward to share the excitement of these recent artistic creations with you. It would be great to see you there!


Pierre Boulez:  Anthèmes 1 pour violon seul (1992)

Alexander Sigman:  the shining pillar of anti-beauty (int-0) version IIt(2011) for amplified viola

Shulamit Ran: Inscriptions for solo violin (1991)

Reiko Füting: tanz.tanz (Komposition für Geige allein) (2010)

Georg Friedrich Haas: de terrae fine, für Violine solo (2001)

Ileana Perez-Velasquez: un ser con unas alas enormes (1996) for violin and electronics



The title Anthèmes I refers to the ideas of “anthems” (hymns) and “themes” (or thematic development). Boulez took inspiration for the piece from his childhood experiences of Lent services, in which the Jeremiah Lamentations were read: the numbers of the verses were announced in Hebrew, then the verses read in Latin. Boulez took the form of this recitation, (though not the content) as something of a model for this piece, alternating brief passages of suspended harmonics and glissandos with longer, more animated sections of varying material. The piece is structured around the number 7: the opening flourish – a seven-note motif from Boulez’ earlier piece explosante-fixe – provides material for the rest of the piece, and the work as a whole is in seven sections. The material is also held together by a recurring focus on specific pitches, mainly D at the opening and close of the piece. The trill on this D is itself a unifying idea throughout, lending the music an elegantly fluttering, sighing grace amid much angularity. The seven verse sections progress from very brief to several minutes long at the last section, and each presents a contrasting character. Anthèmes I was commissioned for the 1991 Yehudi Menuhin Competition. Boulez later expanded Anthèmes I into Anthèmes II for violin and electronics. -MC


The experience of performing the shining pillar of anti-beauty (int-0) version II is disorienting by design. The microtonal scordatura (retuning of the instrument), application of a lead mute to the strings, and amplification (both literal and figurative) of sonic “by-products” isolate the viola from its usual expressive sphere, effectively transforming it into a rusty and cantankerous object.  As the performer navigates and integrates inherently incompatible, unstable, and charged material particles, their kernel identities undergo progressive erosion. As the first interjection/interruption/interception/interpretation/interpolation/intersection (or however one wishes to interpret “int-0”) in the context of Nominal/Noumenal, two interlocking cycles of ten pieces for soloists, chamber ensemble, electronics, and video, the first version of the shining pillar of anti-beauty (int-0) was scored for solo cello. The title otherwise leaves little to the imagination.  – Alex Sigman


Composing for a solo, essentially melody-line instrument, such as the violin, is a challenge I have found myself drawn back to time and again over the years. The challenge for me, all the more intriguing in the context of what is generally considered non-tonal language, seems to be in creating a sense of presence, concreteness, centeredness and direction, with just a horizontal line to work with.  (In the case of a string instrument, double notes and chords are, of course, possible, but within definite limits.)  Inscriptions, then, may be said to be an effort to carve out, with a relatively restricted textural palette, three distinct spaces in time, employing a fairly broad range of moods as well as violin playing techniques.  Perhaps the following informal subtitles will allow a glimpse into the three pieces’ respective “states”: Possessed by the Devil, Rondino (mostly tongue-in-cheek), Upsurge. Inscriptions was commissioned by and dedicated to Samuel Magad, co-concertmaster of the Chicago Symphony. – Shulamit Ran


The solo composition tanz.tanz was commissioned by Bulgarian violinist Alexandrina Boyanova.  The general form of the piece is based on an analysis of Bach’s Chaconne by German musicologist Helga Thoene, to whom the piece is dedicated.  The choral tunes that she discovered – which are woven into the texture of this unique closure of the D Minor Partita – form the original material.  Its representation aims to explore the register by the frequent use of harmonics; its evolution leads from sul ponticello-sonorities to less complex spectra, and from natural harmonics to more complex divisions of the strings of the violin.  Another reference, which is reflected in the title as well, is the novel “Dance Dance Dance” by Japanese writer Haruki Murakami. – Reiko Füting


Frustrated by the limitations of conventional equal temperament, Haas has probingly explored the sonic, harmonic, and expressive possibilities of microtonality. His work uses minute intervals like eighth‐, sixth‐, and quarter‐tones,and pitch relationships drawn from the overtone series, causing intense beating of frequencies. In addition to generating a radical focus on sound itself, Haas’ insistence on microtonality has created new wells of expressive meaning in these relatively unfamiliar sonic distances. Perpetuating the malaise and despair of much 20th century art, his music finds nuances of despondency and pain, but also surprising beauty, in the uncomfortable spaces between tones. Haas relates that, while composing de terrae fine on a sabbatical in Ireland, he was mired in a severe depression. The work’s title, meaning “about the end of the world”, evokes not just an apocalyptic vision but a devastating sense of isolation. The music’s single line of winding microtonal motions seems to trace the twinges in a person’s lonely, anguished train of thought. Long tones swell in heaving sighs. At times, the overwhelming feeling of desperation gives way to a sickly nostalgia, with startlingly sweet double‐stops and feather‐light, sliding arpeggios. About halfway through the work, the mood turns to anger, as pounding, massive chords burst out. The chords build in accelerating waves to a violent frenzy of raging despair‐ followed by a collapse into exhaustion, as a few wistful wisps disappear into silence. -MC


“Un ser con unas alas enormes”, which translates as “a being with enormous wings”, was inspired by the 17th Freeman Etude for violin by John Cage. Within the hectic gestures that are a major part of this etude are passages reminiscent of Cuban rhythms. An important idea for Cage is that human beings can be better themselves by overcoming their limitations. This piece translates that spirit; humans improve through the use of their imagination. The title is also related to the literary work by Gabriel Garcia Marquez, “un hombre muy viejo con unas alas muy grandes”. The tape part, as my departure of style, is fragmentary, and contains processed excerpts from the Freeman Etude. The piece also includes concepts of silence that are present in non-Western music. The use of silence as a conscious part of the piece yet again reflects back to Cage. -Ileana Perez-Velasquez




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