Friday, June 20, 2014

Tuesday Serenade : March 17 @ 7pm



Jorge Peña, viola & Bonita Sonsini Wyke, piano

George Enescu: Concertstück (1906)
"Concert Piece"

Robert Schumann: Märchenbilder, op. 113
"Fairy Tale Pictures"
1. Nicht schnell (Not Fast)
2. Lebhaft (Lively)
3. Rasch (Quick)
4. Langsam, mit melancholischem Ausdruck (Slowly, with Melancholic Expression)

Felix Mendelssohn: Viola Sonata in C Minor, MWV Q 14
1. Adagio - Allegro
2. Menuetto: Allegro molto
3. Andante con variazioni



Honduran-born violist Jorge Peña is a member of the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, and a former member of the Kennedy Center Opera House Orchestra. He has performed for Midwest Clinic, Grand Teton Music Festival, St. Augustine Music Festival and Island Concert Association, as well as at the National Gallery of Art, Tanglewood Music Center, University of North Florida and Jacksonville University. As a solo artist he has appeared throughout the Americas and Europe. With chamber music holding a special place in his career, Jorge and his wife, cellist Jin Kim-Peña, formed and perform with the Movado Quartet, and he often collaborates with a variety of ensembles, such as the Ritz Chamber Players, the Dover Quartet, the Diaz Trio, the Virginia Chamber Orchestra and the Atlanta Virtuosi. Mr. Peña is Founder and Artistic Director of the annual St. Augustine Music Festival, the largest free music festival in the United States. Mr. Peña was graduated from Columbus State University and the Peabody Conservatory of Music with degrees in performance and chamber music. He studied with Curtis Institute President Roberto Diaz, Baltimore Symphony Orchestra principal viola Richard Field, and Julliard quartet member Earl Carlys.

Bonita Sonsini Wyke has been an active part of the Jacksonville music community since 1985, and in working with many of the First Coast's leading vocalists, instrumentalists and musical ensembles has earned the reputation as a musician of unsurpassed sensitivity, technical skill and artistry. Originally from Los Angeles, California, she has performed for over four decades as a collaborative pianist and harpsichordist with singers, choral groups, instrumental soloists, and orchestral and instrumental ensembles, and especially enjoys four-hand piano literature. She has been the music director for a wide variety of stage productions, including opera, musical theater and ballet.  In addition to coaching seasoned performers, Ms. Sonsini Wyke has helped student musicians hone their craft at a number of area universities and music schools. While maintaining a busy recital schedule, Bonita also currently serves as Staff Choral Accompanist at Florida State College at Jacksonville.

PROGRAM NOTES. by Edward Lein, Music Librarian

       If you ask musicians to name a Romanian composer, unless they draw a complete blank they almost certainly will answer "George Enescu" (1881-1955), or, as the French say, "Georges Enesco." As fate would have it, Enescu was born the same year as the Kingdom of Roumania (the "u" was dropped later), and he became a national hero in his fledgling homeland. Enescu's compatriots have named an international airport after him, and changed the name of the village where he was born to "George Enescu." Among the greatest masters and teachers of the violin, Enescu also was so highly regarded as a conductor that he was considered as Toscanini's replacement for the New York Philharmonic, and he just as easily could have become a leading piano virtuoso.
      Young George's extraordinary musical gifts were recognized early. He earned the silver medal for his prodigious virtuosity when he graduated from the Vienna Conservatory at age 12, and entered the Paris Conservatoire at 14. He completed his studies in Paris in 1899, winning first-prize in violin among the graduates. From 1904-1910, Enesco returned to the Conservatoire as one of the examining jurors. It was in this capacity that Gabriel Fauré, the head of the Conservatoire, invited his former composition student to contribute competition pieces by which the students would be judged, among which the 1906 Concertstück for Viola and Piano has remained a favorite. As one would expect, Enesco's "Concert Piece" demands virtuosic skill, including subtly-varied repetitions of florid passages and rigorous tout l'archet (whole-length bow-strokes) contrasted with legato double-stopping.  But besides technical skill the work demands the utmost musicality, such that ultimately it is its evocative and impassioned beauty that preserves the Concertstück's place in the violist's repertoire--but the fireworks help, too!

       The hopes of the great German Romantic composer Robert Schumann (1810-1856) to become a concert pianist were dashed in his early twenties when he permanently damaged his hand, so he redirected his energies to both composing and music criticism. From childhood Schumann was torn between literature and music, and his keen literary sensibilities made him one of history’s greatest songwriters, such that his finest Lieder rival those of Schubert. Schumann also managed to combine these two loves in his instrumental music by using poetry and dramatic narrative to color and direct the musical discourse, and even pieces not inspired by the written word were "usually given a quasi-literary title or brought into relationship with some literary idea" (Encyclopaedia Britannica).
      Schumann's greatest loves, however, were his wife, virtuoso pianist and composer Clara Schumann, and five children. Unlike the typical, aloofly dictatorial pater familias of his generation, Schumann doted on his children and kept diaries of their shared exploits. Not surprisingly, some of his music reflects his fondness for his children and the innocence of childhood, such as Kinderszenen ("Scenes from Childhood," 1838), op. 15 and Album for the Young, op. 68 (1848), 43 pieces composed for the instruction of his three daughters. Grimm's Fairy Tales (1812) apparently provided source readings Schumann shared with his children, as well as the inspiration for both Märchenbilder ("Fairy Tale Pictures," 1851) for viola and piano, op. 113, and Märchenerzählungen ("Fairy Tales," 1853), for clarinet, viola and piano, op. 132.  The published score of Märchenbilder does not include which tales the composer meant to relay, but it's reported that Schumann's journals mention that the first and second movements depict scenes from Rapunzel, the third Rumpelstiltskin, and the fourth Sleeping Beauty.

       The prodigious musical talents of Felix Mendelssohn (1809-1847) rivaled those of Mozart, and like Mozart, Mendelssohn did not live to see his 40th birthday. But his affluent German family provided young Felix with an intellectually stimulating and stable environment, and protected him from the childhood exploitation that Mozart endured.  Mendelssohn benefited from an impressively well-rounded education, and in addition to studying piano, violin, viola and composition, he developed skills as a visual artist, evidenced in over 300 surviving paintings and drawings of remarkable quality. Referred to by Schumann as "a god among men," Mendelssohn grew into a superstar composer, pianist, organist and conductor, and also founded Germany's first conservatory in Leipzig.  But, in contrast to many of his flamboyant contemporaries, Mendelssohn neither overcame abject poverty, had a string of adulterous affairs nor suffered syphilitic insanity—consequently, after his death his reputation as a "Romantic" suffered among music critics until well into the 20th Century. But his music has never fallen out of favor with concertgoers, and his flawless Violin Concerto in E Minor, op. 64 remains among the most-frequently performed and recorded concertos ever written, and his Elijah (1846) likely has received more performances than any other large-scale oratorio with the exception of Handel’s Messiah.
       In terms of achieving his musical maturity, Mendelssohn surpassed even Mozart. Mendelssohn produced his first acknowledged masterwork at age 16, the Octet for Strings, op. 20, and the following year saw the completion of the brilliant A Midsummer Night’s Dream concert overture.   Predating these (but post-dating the often-performed and recorded 12 Symphonies for String Orchestra from 1821-1823), Mendelssohn's Viola Sonata was composed when he was barely 15 years old. Although it remained unpublished until 1966, the Sonata's 14 February 1824 completion date places it among the earliest solo works composed specifically for the modern viola (Berlioz's symphonic Harold in Italy would not appear for another decade).


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