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Visiting Soprano Will Bring Cabaret Music to Museum Series

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Loralee Songer and Perry Mears from Iowa Will Perform

On Thursday, April 6 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Auditorium featuring soprano Loralee Songer with pianist Perry Mears. The duo will present a program of cabaret songs by Benjamin Britten, Arnold Schoenberg, and still-living composers William Bolcom and Dominick Argento.
A gift from an anonymous friends of the series has helped to make this concert possible.
Cabaret, from a French word for nightclub, is a form of musical entertainment that gained popularity throughout the 19th century in Europe and into the beginning of the 20th century in the United States. “We could think French, we could think New York,” said Songer, who is developing a repertoire of cabaret songs.
Though Songer said she is often called on to sing operatic roles, she loves the intimacy of performing art-song recitals. “I like to be able to see people and communicate that way,” she said, pointing out that cabaret is similar. She said it was meant to be sung in small rooms to an up-close audience. But unlike at most art-song concerts, cabaret’s listeners are usually dining or drinking.
Songer doesn’t consider herself a lifelong cabaret specialist, but rather came upon the genre organically. “I started collecting music and sort of stumbled on a theme,” she said. “It’s a really fun program.”
Composer William Bolcom won the Pulitzer Prize for music in 1988 and is famous for writing new cabaret songs. She said she met him at a training festival, and was able to work and even perform with him on his music.
Thursday, Songer and Mears will perform Bolcom’s “Over the Piano” and a set of songs called “Minicabs”. “Minicabs” lasts about five minutes and contains eleven very short songs. “They’re very humorous and clever,” said Songer. A big part of cabaret’s entertainment value is in the humor.
Though Songer said there are a lot of different kinds of humor in Bolcom’s music, the short format of the songs in “Minicabs” lends itself to a simple type. “It’s not hard to get the joke,” she said. “Over the Piano” leans perhaps more toward burlesque, she said, adding “It’s nightclub-appropriate.”
Arnold Schoenberg, who lived during cabaret’s turn-of-the-century golden age, was known for being a pioneer in serial music. Serial music is composed based on strict mathematical patterns and rules that were very different from what came before.
Songer said those who know Schoenberg’s serial works may get a little bit of a surprise when they hear his cabaret songs. She and Mears will perform three from his song cycle, “Brettl-Lieder”. Songer said she finds these enjoyable, melodic, and very much tonal. “I think you expect something different,” she said.
The duo will close the program with three songs from still-living composer Dominick Argento’s “Cabaret Songs”. Argento was also a Pulitzer prizewinner.
In 2014, Songer was a vocal fellow at the Tanglewood Music Center and was a 2013 Stern Fellow at SongFest. Roman & Littlefield recently published her book, “Songs of the Second Viennese School: A Performer’s Guide to Selected Vocal Works.” She is on the music faculty at Coe College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and can be found online at www.loraleesonger.com
Mears’ recent performances include recitals at the University of Alabama with Songer, at Sneed State College with the Poplar Wind Trio, and in Memphis with the Luna Nova ensemble. Previously on the faculty at Lee University, he has also been on the musical staff of the Schumann Liederfest in Zwickau, Germany, and Ash Lawn Festival Opera. He currently resides in Davenport, Iowa and serves as the music director for St. Peter’s Episcopal Church Bettendorf.

Pianist Perry Mears

Soprano Loralee Songer

Serebryany Will Perform Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata

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On Thursday, March 23 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Auditorium by pianist Vadim Serebryany. The concert will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s “Hammerklavier” Sonata (Op. 106) and music by Béla Bartók.

A gift by anonymous friends of the series is helping to make this concert possible.

Serebryany will open Thursday’s program with a short, four-movement suite by the Hungarian composer Béla Bartók. Typical of Bartók’s work, the piece draws its influence from the folk music of Eastern Europe.

But Bartok is only a warm up. The main event will be Beethoven’s famous Sonata in B-flat, Op. 106. “It’s just really notoriously hard for the pianist,” he said. At 40 minutes long, he added that it can even take some work from the listener.

Serebryany described the sonata, nicknamed “Hammerklavier,” as extremely complex, dense music. For instance, it includes a fugue section that he described as “relentlessly, densely contrapuntal all the way through for ten minutes.” And he said its slow movement is easily Beethoven’s longest, outside of the string quartets he wrote during the same later period of his life.

“His late music is unique as far as how deeply personal it is,” said Serebryany of Beethoven’s last ten years or so of compositions. “It’s not unfair to say that they are all uniquely strange pieces of music,” he added.

Beethoven is often painted as a tortured person. Some connect his complex and intense music with the struggles of his life. But Serebryany doesn’t see it that way.

Serebryany acknowledges Beethoven’s troubled life, especially during the last years. In addition to the composer’s famous loss of hearing which forced him to stop performing, Serebryany noted the extreme toll taken on him by turn-of-the-century European politics.

Beethoven took much hope for mankind from what was happening in France after its revolution, said Serebryany. He said the composer was a great believer in the steps Napoleon was taking, moving forward in the new democracy of the French Republic. But when Napoleon declared himself Emperor in 1804, Serebryany said Beethoven was crushed.

The subsequent Napoleonic Wars that included two campaigns through Austria put further stress on Beethoven, said Serebryany. Though a proponent of universal brotherhood, the composer’s closest friends were in the Viennese aristocracy. The wars forced them to flee the country.

Despite all of this, Serebryany sees Beethoven’s art as less affected by his troubles and more by his artistic temperament. Unlike Beethoven’s contemporary, composer Richard Strauss, who wrote his waltzes in his signature way until the end, Beethoven was always looking for solutions to musical problems, said Serebryany.

“He was the epitome of the idea of never being satisfied,” said Serebryany. “He pushed the boundaries of the harmony he inherited.”

In fact, the “Hammerklavier” sonata was the first piece Beethoven wrote after a ten-year period of producing nothing. Serebryany said Beethoven felt he had nowhere to go, so didn’t see any reason to write anything at all.

But even if Beethoven’s work, and especially his later work, seems at times dark and brooding, Serebryany said there is evidence of hope. He referenced Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony setting of Friedrich Schiller’s poem, “Ode to Joy,” as evidence of the composer’s persistent faith in people’s ability to come together for the sake of a better world.

Serebryany said Beethoven’s life and music support the idea that all was not gloomy for the composer. “Beethoven ultimately doesn’t have a pessimistic worldview,” he said, adding that there are always glimpses of Paradise, even in the intense and complex “Hammerklavier.”

Serebryany has performed in Europe, South America, Australia and throughout the US, Canada and Japan. He has been a guest soloist with the National Arts Center Orchestra, The Kingston Symphony, the Osaka Century Orchestra, and the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra.
In 2005, Serebryany founded Trio+ with violinst Yosuke Kawasaki and cellist Wolfram Koessel. The trio has performed to critical acclaim throughout North America and Japan.
Serebryany is a graduate of the Royal Conservatory of Music of Toronto, the Juilliard School and Yale University. From 2008 to 2016, he was professor of music at Huntingdon College in Montgomery, and in 2015 was named Huntingdon’s first ever Belcher-Cheek Artist in Residence. He joined the piano faculty at the Ithaca College School of Music in 2016.

Solo Cellist Will Feature Works Created to Pair with Bach Suite

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Former MSO Fellow Laura Usiskin Will Perform for Museum Series

On March 2 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by cellist Laura Usiskin. The concert will feature Johann Sebastian Bach’s third cello suite and two pieces commissioned by the performer to complement it.
A gift from Bill and Josie Walsh has helped to make this concert possible.
Composer Peter Susser is on faculty at Columbia University, and was there when Usiskin was earning her undergraduate degree. Composer Patrick Greene wrote “abstractEXTRACTION” a chamber piece Usiskin once played and really liked. Johann Sebastian Bach is arguably the most famous composer in all of western music. Now, the three composers have Usiskin in common.
Motivated by the desire to bring about more music for solo cello, Usiskin contacted Susser and Greene to commission a new piece from each of them. She asked them to use Bach’s third cello suite as inspiration, with the intent to use the new works as companion pieces to the suite. “I wanted to make a cohesive program,” said Usiskin.
Usiskin said it was really interesting how the two new composers were inspired by Bach’s music in similar ways. She said they both used ostinato, which is a note or short sequence of notes that is repeated while harmonic and melodic material change around it.
Also like Bach, Usiskin said the new composers used repeated rhythmic ideas and changed their rhythms, often suggesting a different basic pulse, or meter, from what came before. She said since the new pieces are modern concert pieces, the composers took more liberties with rhythm than Bach did. Bach’s suites were Baroque dance pieces, and so required a more consistent meter for people to dance to.
Usiskin said Susser somewhat paired his six short movements with the six dances in Bach’s third suite. The new composer pays homage in his own Prelude to the famous Prelude from Bach’s first cello suite. Greene’s four movements were less connected to the original structure of Bach’s suites.
Usiskin said she has recently recorded Bach’s third suite and will do the same with Susser and Greene’s pieces as part of a new CD to be released by the end of summer.
A regular performer for A Little Lunch Music since 2010, Usiskin has performed throughout North America and Europe in such venues as Alice Tully Hall, Weill Hall, Palazzo Chigi Saracini, Barge Music, and many others. Recent performances include concertos with the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and performances of the complete Bach Suites in Los Angeles and Connecticut. She has held orchestral positions with the New Haven Symphony, Jacksonville Symphony, and is currently Principal Cello of the Orchestra Iowa.
From 2011-2013, Usiskin served as Founder and Executive Director of the Montgomery Music Project, a program that provides intensive string-music instruction to underserved children in Montgomery. Based in Birmingham, She is on faculty at the University of Alabama-Birmingham, Birmingham Southern College, and STEP Birmingham. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Neuroscience and Behavior from Columbia University, Master of Music from The Juilliard School, and Doctor of Musical Arts from the Yale School of Music.

Pianist Brings Beethoven’s “New” Music to Museum Series

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Lawrence Quinnett Returns to A Little Lunch Music

On February 23 from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the Grand Gallery by pianist Lawrence Quinnett. The concert will feature Ludwig van Beethoven’s first three piano sonatas. Thanks to Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton for helping to make this concert possible.

Gifts from Bob Ekelund & Mark Thornton have helped to make this concert possible.

When Beethoven wrote his first sonatas, committing full piano concerts to memory was well on its way to becoming standard practice for pianists. But the music Beethoven wrote was so new and different that many performers refused to do it, said Quinnett. The idea was that no wrong note would be played, honoring the genius of the composer.

Quinnett said even the renowned composer Clara Schumann, who championed Beethoven’s works in her late career, was disparaged by critics for playing his music from memory.

Musicians had good reason to put Beethoven on a pedestal, said Quinnett. Many things about these pieces were markedly different from what came before, challenging music conventions of the time.

And Quinnett said he enjoys challenging himself with the pieces. “All these sonatas are new to me,” he said.

Quinnett said Beethoven had a brilliant mind, and was known for his ability to play difficult music at high tempos. He said Beethoven’s compositions showcased these abilities and that the sonatas display this technique clearly. “They tend to land better at slightly quicker tempos,” said Quinnett.

Beethoven also used a new approach to tempo, said Quinnett. He said though the composer included conventional tempo markings in his music, he didn’t use them in the same way. Not only did Beethoven usually intend the music to be played a bit faster than the tempo markings instructed, he also took liberties with the tempo. When he performed, he made tempo adjustments even during the course of a short musical phrase.

“Contemporaries of Beethoven would say than he rarely played a couple bars the same tempo,” said Quinnett. “He had a sense of freedom with his performances.”

Beethoven’s music is complex, said Quinnett. It makes use of harmonic shifts that hadn’t been heard before and cadenzas, or extended virtuosic passages. Quinnett said Beethoven had a penchant for playing impressive improvised solos, and that the cadenzas he wrote sounded like the music he improvised. Though cadenzas are mostly found in his concertos, Beethoven included one in his third sonata.

Quinnett said in Beethoven’s time, it was commonplace for classical performers to improvise. “There was a culture of improvisation,” he said, adding that it was found not only with Beethoven, but in earlier music as well.

Born in Montserrat, Quinnett has played solo and chamber music in the Caribbean, United Kingdom, and United States. He has judged competitions, given masterclasses, and been featured as performer and pedagogue in festivals including the 2015 Montserrat Music Festival, the Colour of Music Festival, the 2013 Ligeti Symposium, and the Fayetteville Piano Festival. He holds a doctorate from Florida State University and teaches as professor at Livingstone College in Salisbury, NC.

Visiting International Pianists Featured on Two Upcoming Recitals

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Visiting International Pianists Featured on Two Upcoming Recitals

On Thursday, February 9, from noon to 1:00 pm, the Jule Collins Smith Museum of Fine Art, Auburn University, will present a free concert in the auditorium by pianist Dino Mulić, violinist Kay Lee, and pianist Sangmi Lim. Mulić will perform solo piano music by Domenico Scarlatti, Joseph Haydn, Alban Berg, and Boris Papandopulo. Lee and Lim will perform a sonata by Sergei Prokofiev.
The performance is part of the museum’s weekly series, A Little Lunch Music. Gifts from George Kent and anonymous friends of the series have helped to make this concert possible.
Drs. Mulić and Lim will also perform a piano four-hands recital on Wednesday, February 8, at 7:30 pm at Goodwin Recital Hall. Wednesday night’s concert, hosted by the Auburn University Music Department, is a ticketed event and will feature music by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Schubert and Astor Piazzolla.
When violinist Kyungha Kay Lee first performed with pianist Sangmi Lim, they were in middle school in South Korea. Lee said they were close friends, and continued to perform throughout high school and college. Both moved to the US to do graduate work in music, though at different schools.
Now, both having performed throughout the world, Lee is based in Auburn as a teacher and performer, and Lim is on faculty at Texas A&M University. The two will come together again at the museum to share a concert with Lim’s husband who is also a pianist. It will be the first time the two friends have performed in public together since 2006.
On Thursday, the duo will perform Prokofiev’s “Violin Sonata No. 2 in D Major, Op. 94,” which Lee said is dramatic and lyrical. She said violin virtuoso David Oistrakh was a good friend of Prokofiev and loved the piece, which was originally written for flute. So Prokofiev arranged the sonata for Oistrakh.

Pianists Sangmi Lim

Kyungha Kay Lee, violinist

Lee said she loves to travel and to get out in nature. “When I travel somewhere, I always think of some music to blend with that scenery,” she said. The reverse is also true. She said the Prokofiev piece reminds her of beautiful scenery, which she visualizes as she plays, especially during the lyrical moments.
Lee said the sonata is one of her favorites and has a nice balance between lyricism and technical fireworks. She said the piano parts are very hard, but are no match for Lim’s talent.
“We have a very good synergy,” said Lee of her pianist colleague and friend, whose playing she described as energetic and dramatic. “When I play with her, she gives me energy to play very powerfully.”
Lim’s husband Dino Mulić is from Bosnia and Herzegovina. They met in 2009 at Michigan State University where she was a graduate student and he was a part of the US State Department’s Visiting Scholar program. He will perform the other half of Thursday’s program on solo piano. The two will perform together at Goodwin Hall the night before.
“When we met, our English was poor,” said Mulić, who said he fell in love with her immediately. Though it was hard to communicate, he said they had the language of music. Over time, they developed a repertoire of music for piano four-hands. “For me it is very special to play with Sangmi,” he said. “It’s wonderful.”
Mulić was born in Yugoslavia before the Bosnian War. He was very young when it started, and wasn’t able to go to school. He credits his mother’s encouragement to continue with his education by reading and studying. “She told me, ‘Don’t worry, when this is over, if we survive, we will start over,’” he said. And they did.
One of Mulić’s solo pieces on Thursday will be a one-movement sonata by Alban Berg. Mulić said the piece is extremely moving for him and connects him to the war. “At one point it’s so tragic. It’s devastating,” he said, still feeling that it is one of the most romantic pieces he’s ever played.
Berg was from the Second Viennese School, which is what scholars call a group of composers in the 20th century. They broke traditional rules of music, experimenting with new ways to present harmony, melody, and musical form. Mulić said Berg’s sonata doesn’t even establish a key until the very end, a tragic b-minor.
“It’s tragic, but proud,” said Mulić. He said it reminds him of what his family endured during the war, and how they came through it.
During the war Mulić moved to Sarajevo with his family into his grandfather’s apartment that had formerly been the residence of composer Boris Papandopulo. Papandopulo was opera conductor and teacher in Sarajevo from 1948-1953. Mulić said Papandopulo was called “Mozart from the Balkans,” because of his cheerful friendly character which Mozart was famous for.
Mulić said he loves Papandopulo’s music as well as his life story. When Russia took control of the composer’s home country Croatia after World War II, officials ordered him to abandon music, and he took a job as truck driver. Mulić said while doing that, Papandopulo, the son of a Croatian nobleman, got to know and love the common people of his country. Later, he was able to re-enter the world of music and became well known and loved.
Music by Mozart will open Wednesday night’s program, followed by what Mulić said is probably the most famous piano four-hands piece, Franz Schubert’s “Fantasy in F Minor.”
Still-living Serbian composer and friend of Mulić’s family Vladimir Đenader wrote his “Three Pieces” for piano four-hands one morning after dreaming it the night before. Kyoko Yamamoto arranged the famous “History of the Tango” by Astor Piazzolla which Lim and Mulić will also play Wednesday at Goodwin Hall.

Pianists Dino Mulić

Tian Xu

Lunch Music will present music by Xu and Lin

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Tian Xu and Beibei Lin Will Present music for Violin and Piano

On February 2, from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the auditorium featuring violinist Tian Xu with pianist Beibei Lin. The program will feature music by Maurice Ravel, Sergei Prokofiev, Bright Sheng, and Johannes Brahms.
Click here for more about the performers on the event page.
Support from Lorna Wood and Donald Wehrs and from anonymous friends of the series is helping to make this performance possible.
Prokofiev is known for the music he wrote for children, but Xu said he used simplicity in his other works as well. “Although he lived in the modern period, he always had the idea that he wanted to go back to composers like Mozart,” said Xu.
Tian Xu
Prokofiev’s solo violin sonata was originally written for a group of violinists to play together in unison. Xu said this leads to a lot of different ideas about how it should be performed. She said it is a piece with dark, heavy aspects along with sweet and lyrical moments.
Bright Sheng’s piece “The Stream Flows” is a love song sung from the streams below to a lover up in the mountains. Xu said it basically depicts the scenery of the countryside, reminiscent of an ancient, primitive lifestyle. The first movement is based on a folk song very familiar in China. “I heard it a lot when I was little,” said Xu, who grew up there.
Though she doesn’t get the chance to play music by composers from her home country very often, she loves to do it. She said the music often uses sounds from Chinese folk music and culture. “Whenever I hear the Chinese elements, it’s kind of nostalgic to me,” said Xu.
For the third week in a row, the program for A Little Lunch Music will include chamber music by Johannes Brahms. Listeners will hear Xu and Lin’s version of Brahms’s Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major performed in January by Guy Harrison and Jeremy Samolesky.
In writing the work, Brahms was inspired by a relationship that could never be, said Xu. She said when she first starts to learn a piece of music, she tries to be inspired by its story. “It’s a love song,” said Xu, “I would think of how he would feel.” Later, the more technical aspects enter in, such as phrasing and trading melodies with the piano.
But Xu said she holds on to the feelings throughout the process. “Love has its own sound, its voice,” she said. “You won’t forget about it.”
The duo will also perform Brahms’s “Scherzo” movement from the F-A-E Sonata. In 1853, Brahms, Robert Schumann, and Schumann’s pupil Albert Dietrich wrote the piece as a gift for violin virtuoso Joseph Joachim.
Xu said playing the music of Brahms makes her want to play it again and again. “In general, he always has a very warm sound, and he is very good at writing beautiful melodies,” she said.
Having won top prizes in national competitions in China, and high honors in others, Xu is a member of The Columbus Symphony Orchestra. She recently joined the violin faculty of The William Pu Academy in Atlanta, The LaGrange Symphony Orchestra’s Educational Initiative, and The Schwob School of Music Preparatory Division as an instructor of violin. She is a graduate of The Eastman School of Music.
On Thursday, Lin will open the program with two movements from Maurice Ravel’s solo piano suite titled “Miroirs.” Also born in China, Lin debuted as a soloist with the MasterWorks Festival Orchestra at age seventeen. She recently appeared as a guest artist soloist in Florida, Virginia, and Kansas and in 2016 served as collaborative pianist for the International Double Reed Society Conference. A doctoral candidate at Florida State University, she has been appointed Lecturer of Keyboard at the Schwob School of Music at Columbus State University and Instructor of Piano for the school’s Preparatory Division.
Headshot of musician Yinzi Kong

Yinzi Kong and William Ransom Will Perform for A Little Lunch Music

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Emory Duo Will Feature Music for the Viola

On January 26, from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the auditorium featuring violist Yinzi Kong with pianist William Ransom. The duo will perform Max Reger’s Suite No. 1 for Solo Viola and Johannes Brahms’s Sonata in F Minor, Op. 120, No. 1. Thanks to Nick & Pat Giordano and Anonymous Friends of the Series for helping to make this performance possible.
Click here for more about the performers on the event page. 
The concert is made possible in part by Nick & Pat Giordano and anonymous friends of the series.
Kong and Ransom have been playing together for 15 years. Ransom is head of the piano program at Emory University in Atlanta. Kong is on faculty there, too. She is also a founding member of the Vega String Quartet which recently became a permanent artist-in-residence group at Emory.
This Thursday’s concert at the museum is a preview of some of the talent that will be showcased in Auburn next month. The Vega Quartet, along with Ransom, will perform on February 15 at Goodwin Hall as part of a concert hosted by the Auburn Chamber Music Society.
On Thursday, Kong will play Reger’s “Suite No. 1 for Solo Viola.” A German composer, Reger was a student in the tradition of Bach, said Ransom. Ransom said that like Bach over 100 years before, Reger lived, worked at a church, and died in Leipzig, Germany.
Ransom said composer Max Reger’s work is fairly obscure. But he said Reger’s viola pieces are often programmed by violists because not much, relatively speaking, has been written for solo viola.
“For me, this piece is a monologue of growing pain,” said Kong. She said the music makes her think of a person’s journey to maturity, starting at a point of frustration at being different and misunderstood. From there, she said the music moves to making peace, then finally embraces and celebrates what she called “the being.” “The expressiveness of the viola as an instrument is fully explored,” she added.
“Reger used counterpoint and wrote a lot of fugue and variation,” said Ransom, further making the connection from Bach to Reger. The solo piece’s suite form is reminiscent of Bach’s six famous cello suites. But as part of the end of Western music’s Romantic Period, Reger used a more modern tonality, said Ransom. “It’s very easy to listen to.”
Kong studied at the Shanghai Conservatory and the Manhattan School of Music. She enjoys an award-winning career in both solo and chamber music performance and teaching. She performs in the world’s concert halls including Carnegie Hall, and her live performances have been internationally broadcast. She collaborates with musicians including Elliot Fisk, Richard Stoltzman, Charles Wadsworth and Sarah Chang.
“I am often provoked by the music to feel a certain way,” said Kong. She said music is a like a mirror that reflects who we are or at least a part of some experience of our lives. “I don’t want my audience to be limited by my story,” she said, adding, “but dare to look into this mirror themselves.
Ransom collaborates with musicians including Yo-Yo Ma, Richard Stoltzman, and members of the Tokyo, Cleveland, and Juilliard String Quartets. In addition to his faculty position, he is founder and Artistic Director of the Emory Chamber Music Society of Atlanta. A graduate of Juilliard and of the University of Michigan, he is Artistic Director of both the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival in North Carolina and the Juneau Jazz & Classics Festival in Alaska.
Audience members at last week’s A Little Lunch Music would have heard clarinetist David Odom perform with pianist Jeremy Samolesky. The two performed Johannes Brahms’s clarinet sonata Op. 120, no. 2. This week, Kong and Ransom will perform no. 1, transcribed for viola.
Ransom said the two Brahms sonatas are very different. Where no. 2 is more reflective, no. 1 is very dramatic and passionate. “It rekindled his youth,” said Ransom, noting that the piece was written near the end of the composer’s life.
Brahms was known for writing very long, substantial works for piano, for orchestra, and for chamber groups. Near the end of his life, he was mainly writing short pieces for piano and organ. “He had pretty much given up what he called professional composing,” said Ransom.
Hearing a performance by clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld inspired Brahms to write serious pieces again, said Ransom. He wrote these two sonatas, a trio, and a quintet, all which featured the clarinet. These were the last four of Brahms’s works that had the substance and length of his earlier signature pieces.
Compared to the Reger sonata, Kong said the Brahms piece is much more subtle and abstract. “For me it is more a mood, some thoughts here and there,” she said.
Ransom said the last movement of the sonata is brilliant and validictory. “It’s a very positive movement that ends in a bright, sunny mood,” he said.

AU Faculty Will Perform for A Little Lunch Music

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Museum Series Will Feature Brahms Chamber Music

On January 19, from noon to 1:00 pm, the series will present a free concert in the auditorium featuring pianist Jeremy Samolesky, baritone Matthew Hoch, soprano Anne Duraski, violinist Guy Harrison, and clarinetist David Odom. The program will feature chamber music by Johannes Brahms. Thanks to anonymous friends of the series for helping to make this performance possible.
Thursday’s program will include three pieces by Johannes Brahms, one of the defining composers of western music’s Romantic Period. Brahms lived from 1833 to 1897. Samolesky said he began playing Brahms’ music in undergraduate school. He said he was struck by the melodies, how expressive and singable they are.
“It’s incredibly satisfying to play, physically as well as emotionally,” said Samolesky. He said he has experienced everything from extreme fragile intimacy to full-blown passionate drama in Brahms’ music.
Samolesky has played all of Brahms’ solo piano music and much of his chamber music. Thursday’s program will highlight the composer’s chamber music. Featured will be a set of vocal duets, a violin sonata and a clarinet sonata.
“All of these pieces are extremely difficult,” said Samolesky, adding that everyone’s part is equally hard to perform. He said this is true not only in a technical sense, but also in communicating the musical essence. But he said with Brahms, the virtuosity always serves a musical purpose, and doesn’t exist only to show off a performer’s talent.

Pictured: Jeremy Samolesky

“All of his chamber music is musical conversations between all the instruments,” said Samolesky. He contrasted this with earlier works by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, whose trios are melodically dominated by the piano and whose string quartets showcase the first violin. In Brahms’ music, Samolesky said each voice carries the same importance.
The conversational aspect of the music is most evident in Brahms’ “Vier Duette (Four Duets), Op. 28,” for soprano, baritone and piano. In this set of four pieces, each scene is a conversation between two characters. And Samolesky said even in this relatively short piece, the emotions range from bright and joyful to tragic despair.
Samolesky said Brahms wrote three very different violin sonatas and two very different clarinet sonatas. But he said the violin and clarinet sonatas they will perform Thursday happen to be very similar. He said that in a way, they represent Brahms’ later style of writing, which was more subdued and reflective. He said they are not without passion, however, including long, rich melodies that are singing and beautiful.
Samolesky said Brahms’ chamber music has left an indelible impression on him, and colleagues have expressed the same. “I do remember every single time I played Brahms chamber music,” he said. “I remember where I was and who I played it with.”

“A Little Lunch Music” Returns for Spring 2017

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Museum Series Opens with American Opera and Art Song, Jazz Returns After Hours

On January 12, from noon to 1:00 pm, A Little Lunch Music will present a free concert in the auditorium featuring soprano Stephanie Tingler with pianist Martha Thomas. The duo will present vocal music by 20th-century American composers including Florence Price, Richard Hageman, and Lori Laitman.
The concert is made possible by a grant from the SEC Academic Initiative.
In 2013, Tingler and Thomas put together a program of American vocal music to take to Kenya and then later Brazil. Tingler said the project was extremely well received, and not only by their audiences. She also discovered in herself a strong connection to American poetry, which is often the text American composers choose to set to music.
For centuries, the bulk of classical repertoire for singers, American or otherwise, has been from other countries. It is expected for performers to learn standard pieces in non-native languages. Only in recent decades has the United States established itself as a serious source for vocal repertoire. Tingler said it has now become a focus of her career.
“American music has become a big part of my life,” said Tingler. She said as an American, she is able to understand the subtle cultural references and idioms found in American opera and art song. “There are so many things at work in American music that make it more interesting,” she said. “As I’ve gotten older, I’ve found that the poetry that composers are setting has gotten more rich and full.”
Composer Libby Larsen’s piece, “Margaret Songs,” sets to music poems of Willa Cather, an American writer who lived at the turn of the 20th century. Though the text is from an earlier time, Tingler said she loves how Larsen uses her music to bring Cather’s ideas into the present.
“I’m a preacher’s kid,” said Tingler, adding that she always learned that the word was most important. “In the beginning was the Word,” she said, quoting the first verse from the Book of John in the New Testament. She said the verse was also one of the first things spoken to her by a vocal teacher in graduate school.
Tingler noted that the importance of text has been a theme of her life. She said what connects her most strongly to a piece of music is how the lyrics apply to life now.
“Beyond all price” by composer Lori Laitman is another example of that. The song is from Latiman’s opera, “The Scarlet Letter,” based on the 19th-century novel by Nathaniel Hawthorne. David Mason wrote the text. “He understands the woman’s point of view,” said Tingler, explaining he was able to bring ideas of women’s struggle for equality effectively into the 21st century.
Tingler has appeared in leading roles with opera companies throughout the US and in Brazil. She has been honored by her selection into top art song festivals and series, and has collaborated in chamber music with notable instrumental and vocal performers. She has won honors and awards at national and international performance competitions and has received grants and recognition as a teacher, scholar and author. She holds undergraduate degrees from East Carolina University and from Northern Kentucky University and graduate degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and Ohio State University. She was appointed to the School of Music faculty at the University of Georgia in 1992, where she is currently Associate Professor of Voice.
Thomas maintains an active career as recitalist and collaborative artist, giving concerts and appearing at festivals and conferences across the United States and in Canada, Australia, Europe, and Africa. She is now featured on eight compact disc recordings on the ACA Digital, Centaur, and Albany labels. Her CD of the solo piano music of George Rochberg garnered excellent reviews and a citation in the New York Times. A native Texan, she holds degrees through the doctoral level from the Universities of Texas and Wisconsin. She is currently the Despy Karlas Professor of Piano and Associate Director for Academic Programs at the Hugh Hodgson School of Music at the University of Georgia.
The duo has recorded a CD and has created a second program of American music, which is what they will perform in Auburn this week. In addition to Thursday’s noon concert at the museum, on Friday they will present a masterclass at Goodwin Recital Hall at 11:00 a.m. and a lecture recital at 3:00 p.m. All events are open to the public.
JCSM After Hours
On Thursday night from 5-8 p.m., the museum will be open for its weekly JCSM After Hours. The exhibitions are free to the public and the cafe and gift shop are open. Music is featured in the relaxed, club-like atmosphere. This week the house band Cullars Improvisational Rotation will return. It is a jazz trio made up of Dan Mackowski on guitar, Patrick McCurry on saxophone, and Jason DeBlanc on bass.

Museum Series Will Feature Flutist Alina Windell

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On October 27 from noon to 1:00 pm, “A Little Lunch Music Series” will present a free concert by flutist Alina Windell with oboist Sue Tomkiewicz and pianist Jeremy Samolesky. The program will feature music by Sergei Prokofieff, and still-living composers Martin Kennedy, and Dana Wilson. Anonymous friends of the series have helped make this possible.

Anonymous friends of the series are helping to support the concert.

Composer Martin Kennedy is now Director of Theory and Composition at Central Washington University. He was a grad student at Indiana University when Windell was there earning her Bachelors Degree. At that time, she heard his piece, “Four Songs,” and said since then she’s been waiting for a chance to play it.

Now, two degrees later and teaching at Auburn and Southern Union, Windell has been able to program the piece for A Little Lunch Music.

A piece of music often ebbs and flows, offering its climax at or near its end. Windell said the four-movement Kennedy piece is different. “Everything just really calms down as the piece goes on,” she said.

Windell said the first movement, “Ferocious,” is the most intense. It is the most dissonant, is louder, and has really complex textures, she said. “The last piece is the most relaxed, kind of like a loose, free feeling,” she added.

In between, Windell said Kennedy’s second movement is fun and playful and reminds her of Aaron Copland’s music at times. She said the third is a sweet love song with hints of Disney music. She said the composer is a pianist, and the piano part to “Four Songs” is really virtuosic.

They will perform “Sonata” by the Russian composer Sergei Prokofiev (1891-1953). Though Windell said it is a staple of the flute’s repertoire, this will be the first time she’s had the chance to play all of its four movements together. Windell said that though Prokofieff’s music can be fairly adventurous, this is one of his more consonant sounding pieces.

“I just like it,” said Windell.

Thursday’s program will also feature a trio by still-living composer Dana Wilson, “Gold Mosaic.” Oboist Tomkiewicz was involved in its commission, and frequently plays with Windell for the Springer Theatre orchestra in Columbus.

Windell said they will repeat the program at Columbus State University on Nov. 10.

Windell has performed throughout the USA and abroad and is a member of the LaGrange Symphony. In the summer of 2016, she performed at the National Flute Association Convention in San Diego, CA; at the Orfeo Music Festival, in Vipiteno, Italy; and at the International Double Reed Society conference at Columbus State University. In 2015, she was a soloist in a concert tour of Malaysia.

Tomkiewicz is the Associate Professor of Oboe at Columbus State University’s Schwob School of Music and the Director of Honors on the school’s RiverPark campus. She has commissioned, premiered and recorded new works for oboe and English horn by such composers as Brian Cherney, Brooke Joyce, Bruce Pennycook and Nancy Galbraith. She is currently the English hornist with the Columbus Symphony.

Samolesky serves as Associate Professor of Piano and Piano Area Coordinator at Auburn University. Recent concert tours and performances include China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Thailand, Colombia, and Ecuador, with regular appearances as performer and teacher throughout the US. His Kennedy Center recital was broadcast on National Public Radio’s “Performance Today.” Praised by critics as “brilliant,” “distinguished,” and “full of intensity and drama,” Samolesky’s debut solo CD was released by Centaur Records in 2015.

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