July 13 Bargemusic “Here and Now”!

Hi Everyone,

New and recent violin music, coming up!  On Friday, July 13, I am going to perform a solo violin recital at NYC’s Bargemusic. I hope you’ll come and enjoy it! It is such a great pleasure to play at this unique venue by the Brooklyn Bridge and I particularly love it there in the summer. I’m playing on the “Here and Now” series, which features contemporary works. I’m pleased about the program I am presenting, as the pieces are all by composer friends (or family) with whom I’ve worked. In most cases, I have known them for some years and have given performances and made recordings of their solo and chamber works. This concert alternates three short works (3-5 min.) with longer ones.


Jeffrey Mumford  linear cycles vii (cambiamenti ii) (1979/rev 1993)
Kaija Saariaho  Nocturne (1994)
Oscar Bianchi  Semplice (2010) *US premiere*
Michael Hersch  Five Fragments (2004) *NY premiere*
Robert Cuckson  Rhapsody No. 1 (2003)
Mika Pelo  Sprites (2012)  *world premiere*
Anna Weesner  The Nearness of Things (2004, rev 2007) *world premiere*

Below are some program notes, some of them by the composers themselves. Hoping to see you on July 13! Tickets are $35/30/15


First, meanwhile, I’m going on vacation this week to Madrid, then I’ll be teaching and performing at the new and exciting Foulger International Festival at Kean University for a week in early July. I play a new violin/cello duo of Anna Weesner’s with Sophie Shao in Philly on July 7, then some Cage, Takemitsu and Varèse at the Guggenheim on July 10 for the “Art of Another Kind” show, then going to focus full-steam ahead on this recital.

Have a great few weeks,



Jeffrey Mumford  linear cycles VII (cambiamenti VII)

linear cycles VII  (cambiamenti II) for solo violin,  was originally written in 1979 for William Fitzpatrick, who at the the time was the first violinist of the New York String Quartet.  It was subsequently revised in the spring of 1993.

The work’s opening motive serves as a recurring entity, often introducing new material. There are two principal ideas which are developed throughout the course of the piece. This evolutionary scenario culminates in a recapitulation of earlier material, followed by two lyrical statements interrupted by three chords.  –Jeffrey Mumford


Kaija Saariaho:  Nocturne

Saariaho wrote her Nocturne for solo violin in 1994. She had just commenced work on a new violin concerto called Graal Theatre when the great Polish composer Witold Lutoslawski died. In her sadness, she immediately composed her Nocturne, which was performed in Helsinki. Returning to work on her violin concerto, she then decided to use the Nocturne as its opening material. The piece progresses slowly in languorous sighs and heaving waves. It utilizes resonant harmonies, the open strings of the violin, fluttering harmonic trills and crunchy, bow-pressure sounds – a color that she employs with an unusual delicacy.–M.C.


Oscar Bianchi:  Semplice

Perhaps as reaction towards an overwhelming practice within contemporary music of associating all sorts of notions of complexity with musical representation, I wrote Semplice. This is the Italian word for “simple” or “natural”. Despite being based, as one hears rather quickly, on clearly non-simple musical material, this work aims towards an ideal of an organically simple performance.
In a similar fashion, Gaudi found in nature an expression of simplicity made by highly articulated forms and complex phenomena. I wished to propose in Semplice a music in which gestures were constituted of subtle quarter-tonal inflections as well as minute, timbral definitions, compressed into quick, almost verbal (vocal) brilliance.
I’m extremely glad its US premiere will be presented by Miranda Cuckson, whose intellectual sophistication and musical finesse will serve this work’s ideals at their best.  –Oscar Bianchi


Michael Hersch:  Five Fragments

Michael Hersch’s music is very individual: highly recognizable as his own and difficult to associate closely with stylistic movements. He uses spare materials to grippingly visceral effect, packing the utmost expression into very simple bits of material. Using isolated clusters or chords, he employs the power of a single attack, or a precisely shaped crescendo, to express his aims. His markings are careful and concise, outlining gentle motions and violent contrasts across a huge dynamic and pitch range. Hersch’s works are often based on poetic texts. The Five Fragments for violin solo are, however, unlinked to any literary material. The piece concisely presents his compositional language and its emotional content in pure musical form. After the opening’s clashing double-stops and brusque pizzicatos, played “with great ferocity”, the expression in the three middle fragments turns inward, as a sequence of quietly lilting melodies passes like a series of mournful thoughts. At the piece’s end, the beginning material returns, accelerating into a few defiantly torn-off gestures before closing with a whisper.  Hersch wrote Five Fragments in 2004, soon after completing his violin/piano work the wreckage of flowers.  –M.C.


Robert Cuckson:  Rhapsody No 1. for Violin solo

From the ninth century onwards, the tomb of Santiago (St. James the Apostle) at Compostela in Spain was the third holiest site for pilgrimages after Rome and Jerusalem; pilgrims travelled there from as far away as Central Europe. Descriptions of the pilgrimage are full of references to the many languages spoken on the pilgrimage and to the songs of many different lands. Also notable is the degree to which the pilgrims experienced direct contact with nature: stony roads, swollen rivers, mountain passes, the constant accompaniment of bird-song. The final stage of the pilgrimage, reached after months of travelling, often under arduous conditions, was the arrival at The Mount of Joy, from which Compostela and its cathedral were visible in the plain below. Here it was traditional for the pilgrims to spring about and call out together in all their various languages.

The material on which the Rhapsody is based consists of sacred and pilgrim songs from many regions, among them a hymn of the Syrian Church, which may date back to the times of St. James himself; a 16th-century German pilgrim song, “The St. Jacob’s Hymn”; and the great conductus “Congaudeant catholici” from the Codex Calixtinus of Compostela, considered to be the first three-voice composition in Western music.   –Robert Cuckson


Mika Pelo: Sprites (2012)

Sprites was composed for a tribute concert for French composer Tristan Murail, who retired from teaching at Columbia University last year. The name of the composition is taken from the title of an early lecture and subsequent article by Tristan Murail, Spectra and Sprites, in which he discusses some of the thoughts behind so-called spectral music, of which Murail is considered to be one of the grandfathers. This article was my first contact with those thoughts and theories, and nudged my creative life in a completely new direction. Ultimately, it led me to study with Murail, and I remain forever grateful and indebted for the help I received from him. I am equally blessed to have a performer with such exceptional quality as Miranda perform this piece. The piece is dedicated to Miranda and Tristan with love.
— Mika Pelo


Anna Weesner: The Nearness of Things

This piece hinges on extreme shifts in musical character. It is perhaps comparable to a theatre piece in which an actor plays many different roles, a piece that is both expressively and technically virtuosic. I was thinking a lot about performance practice when I wrote this piece. That is, I was thinking about all the things that players do that are not represented specifically in notation on the page. I wondered what would happen if I simply marked a passage “play as if you’re playing Vivaldi”, or, “French”, or “toss off casually, like a country fiddler”.

From another angle, I am fascinated by the fact that we encounter and relate to so many different musical styles in our regular daily lives. I wanted this piece to be a single, overarching experience—to feel substantial, even symphonic, in the way that a Bach Partita can feel so—and at the same time to make use of some of those common currencies, to say something about the mix, about the nearness of things.
–Anna Weesner