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Chamber Music Unbound explores music of the heart

December 17, 2010

Violist Hillary Herndon joins the Felici Trio in concert this weekend for “Music of the Heart.”
The program features passion-filled works by Rebecca Clarke, Ernö Dohnányi and the great Romantic composer, Johannes Brahms.

The music
Ernö Dohnányi - Serenade for String Trio in C Major, opus 10. Dohnányi ranks next to Franz Liszt as the most versatile Hungarian musician and is generally considered credited with shaping Hungary’s musical culture in the 20th century.
The Serenade for String Trio, an early work written in 1902, commands respect for its well-balanced overall design, inspired melodic invention, unconventional harmonic turns and rhythmic quirks and its thoroughly contrapuntal textures.
Rebecca Clarke - Sonata for Viola and Piano. Clarke was born in England (1868) to a German mother and an American father. She began her collegiate studies on violin at the Royal Academy but was abruptly withdrawn from school by her father when he learned that her violin teacher had proposed marriage.
Shortly thereafter, Clarke enrolled as one of the first female composition students at the Royal College of music. After graduation, she supported herself by playing the viola professionally.
In 1916 Clarke moved to the United States and settled in New York where she lived until her death in 1979. Her neighbor in the states was the great patron of the arts, Elizabeth Sprague Coolidge. Coolidge sponsored an annual composition competition, and in 1919, the requirement was for a sonata for viola and piano. According to records, 72 sonatas were entered anonymously into the competition; the judges were deadlocked between two works and Coolidge’s vote was the tie-breaker. The winning work was Ernest Bloch’s 1919 Suite, while Rebecca Clarke’s sonata was the runner up.
Johannes Brahms - Piano Quartet in G Minor, opus 25. In 1859, the usually modest and highly self-critical Brahms reported to his beloved friend Clara Schumann, “….I am writing with ever more zest, and there are signs in me which suggest that in time I may produce heavenly things!”
One of those “heavenly things” already in the works was the Piano Quartet opus 25, begun in 1857 and first performed to immediate and lasting success in November 1861 in Hamburg.
The first movement Allegro is characterized by its explicitly dramatic quality; a solemn, almost chorale-like beginning is soon followed by passionate outbursts of emotion. The second movement owes its Intermezzo title to Clara who thought Brahms’ conventional Scherzo ill-fitting. The hushed Intermezzo moves along with a uniquely mysterious sonority as a result of the muting (dampening of the vibrations) of the violin.
The next movement, an expansive Andante, starts out with an impassioned and optimistic version of the opening first movement theme, but then seems to gradually ebb into a funeral march, when quite suddenly this march is injected with new life and turns to the optimistic key of C Major. The march theme anticipates some of the exuberance awaiting us in the Gypsy finale, whose appeal lies in its lively rhythmic character, evoking the Hungarian “verbunkos,” a hugely popular style of dance music at the time

The musicians
The Felici Trio, in residence in the Eastern Sierra since 1998, is the musical home of pianist Steven Vanhauwaert, violinist Rebecca Hang and cellist Brian Schuldt.
The trio met Hillary Herndon, professor of viola at University of Tennessee, in 2009 while touring in that state.
Herndon has an active career as a teacher and performer. She has been featured in live broadcasts on NPR, has been heard on PBS and collaborated with such notable artists as Itzhak Perlman, Charles Castleman and Felicia Moye. At the University of Tennessee she is the founder and director of the annual Viola Celebration, and holds summer positions at both the International Festival Institute at Roundtop and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival.
7:30 Saturday night, CErro Coso Community College

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