Join us for a free recital of music for unaccompanied cello performed by the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's principal cellist, Alexei Romanenko.
Music selections will include:
• Corigliano: Fancy on a Bach Air [on YouTube]
• Reger: Suite in D minor, Op. 131c, No. 2 [on YouTube I.; II. ; III. ; IV. ][Score]
• Grutzmacher: Etude in D major, Op.38/21 [on YouTube][Score (p.27)]
• Szewczyk: Convergence (2010, World Premiere)
• Bloch: Suite No. 2 (1956) [on YouTube]
Alexei Romanenko, principal cellist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra since the 2005-2006 season, has won numerous awards, including First Prize in the Far-Eastern Competition for Strings, the Presser Music Award, First Prize at the 8th International Music Competition in Vienna, First Prize at the 2nd Web Concert Hall International Auditions, and the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra Cello Fellowship. In addition to numerous solo engagements, Alexei has performed as principal cellist with the Boston Philharmonic, and has been featured on Boston’s WGBH radio's Classical Performances and in national and international broadcasts from Chicago and San Francisco. Mr. Romanenko has taught at the San Francisco Institute of Music, Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He is the organist/pianist at Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, Florida, and frequently concertizes with pianist Christine Yoshikawa.
PROGRAM NOTES, by Ed Lein, Music LibrarianAmerican composer John Corigliano (b.1938) more or less grew up with the New York Philharmonic providing the soundtrack for his formative years--his father, John, Sr., was the longtime Concertmaster, and John, Jr. worked on the production crew for Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts. At age 26, Corigliano achieved his first big success as a composer with his Sonata for Violin and Piano (1963), and he gained wide-spread recognition with the release of the 1980 film, Altered States, for which he composed the musical score. In addition to winning the 2001 Pulitzer Prize for his Symphony No. 2, and a 2009 Grammy Award for Mr. Tambourine Man, Corigliano won the 1999 Academy Award for Best Original Score for The Red Violin. Corigliano's Fancy on a Bach Air was composed in 1996, and at first was planned to celebrate the 25th wedding anniversary of Robert and Judy Goldberg, friends of the composer. Aptly, the theme from Bach's Goldberg Variations provided the inspiration for a group of composers who collaborated on a set of variations for cello and piano for the occasion. Sadly, the piece became instead a memorial to Robert Goldberg, who died from cancer before the collaborative variations were first performed in August 1997, by cellist Yo-Yo Ma and pianist Emanuel Ax. Of his contribution Corigliano writes:
My “Goldberg Variation,” Fancy on a Bach Air, is for unaccompanied cello. It transforms the gentle arches of Bach’s theme into slowly soaring arpeggi of almost unending phase-lengths. Its dual inspiration was the love of two extraordinary people and the solo cello suites of a great composer – both of them strong, long-lined, passionate, eternal, and for me, definitive of all that is beautiful in life.
Although his music is now much neglected, while he was alive Bavarian composer, conductor, educator and keyboard virtuoso Max Reger (1873-1916) was as highly regarded as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, and his influence was at least as great: Paul Hindemith credited his own stylistic development chiefly to Reger, and it has been observed that Reger’s post-Wagnerian chromatic excursions paved the way for the atonal sound-world of Arnold Schoenberg, who, incidentally, considered Reger to be a genius. Following the examples of Beethoven and Brahms, Reger fashioned his works in the tradition of "absolute" music, and his complete mastery of the fugue and other contrapuntal techniques demonstrates his devotion to the music of J.S. Bach. In the span of only about 25 years, Reger produced over 1000 pieces encompassing virtually every genre, with the exception of opera. He wrote abundant chamber music featuring the cello, including four sonatas for cello and piano, and five string quartets. Along with Six Preludes and Fugues for solo violin (Op. 131a), three Duos in Olden Style for two violins (Op. 131b), and three Suites for solo viola (Op. 131d), Reger composed three Suites for Solo Cello, Op. 131c, which he completed in the fall of 1914, against the expanding horror that was World War I.
German cellist and composer Friedrich Wilhelm Grützmacher (1832-1903) was well-known both as a chamber musician and soloist, and he was the principal cellist in the Court Orchestra in Dresden. He concertized widely throughout Europe and Russia, and, in 1898, he was the soloist in the first performance of Don Quixote, by Richard Strauss. Grützmacher also appears to have been the first to perform the solo suites of J.S. Bach in a public concert setting, and he deserves credit for rekindling interest in other important works for the cello from the Baroque and Classic periods, including those by Handel, C.P.E. Bach, Tartini, Geminiani, Haydn and Boccherini, and for preparing new editions of cello works by Beethoven, Chopin, Schumann, and Mendelssohn. Not surprisingly, most of Grützmacher's compositions feature his own instrument, including three concertos, and his cadenzas to cello concertos by Haydn and Boccherini are still performed, as is his adaptation of Boccherini's Cello Concerto in B-flat, G.482. A dedicated and gifted teacher, Grützmacher was a professor at both the Leipzig and Dresden conservatories, and he composed numerous technical exercises for his instrument. Among his 24 Etudes, Op. 38 (ca. 1894, also called "Technology of Violoncello Playing"), the second dozen (Nos. 13-24) are especially challenging, and "ascend to a difficulty level that puts them out of reach of all but the most highly-trained virtuosos" (Robert Battey, in Strings magazine, August/September 2007). Of these, Grützmacher's Etude No. 21 in D major has a higher concentration of continuous double stops, especially in the instrument's upper register, than you are likely to hear anywhere else.
Swiss-born composer Ernest Bloch (1880-1959) was educated and began his teaching career in Europe, but he moved to America in 1916 and became a U.S. citizen in 1924. His teaching posts included directorships at the Cleveland Institute of Music, which he helped found in 1920, and at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music; and his students included Roger Sessions, George Antheil, Douglas Moore, Quincy Porter, Randall Thompson, and Leon Kirchner. Although Bloch's diverse, but essentially Romantic output includes some works which adapt atonality and serialism into his own style, his most widely-known works are those which draw inspiration from his Jewish heritage, such as Schelomo, for cello and orchestra (1916), or from "olden times," such as his two Concerti Grossi (1925 and 1952). Bloch wrote the first two of his three Suites for Cello in 1956, finding inspiration in the cello suites of J.S. Bach.