|About this Recording
9.70256 - Violin Recital: Bahn, Lina - ADLER, S. / CHAMBERS, E. / FELDER, D. / FITCH, K. / KELLOGG, D. / KERNIS, A.J. / MUMFORD, J. (Mean Fiddle Summer)
Mean Fiddle Summer
It’s difficult to pinpoint how and where collaboration starts. This project crystallized out of friendships, and out of my deep admiration for all the composers whose works I have recorded on this album. Like many artistic collaborations, ideas for these pieces were born over meals, drinks, and in living rooms. Some pieces were buried treasure, gems I found strewn in hidden places on the internet. Another work, written by a friend, was found in a box by the front door of a D.C. music store! All have one thing in common: they probe the depths of what the solo acoustic violin can do. This exploration is a feat inherited from composers such as J.P van Westhoff (1656–1705) and J.S. Bach, and each of these living American composers bounds effortlessly through the varied challenges of polyphony and violin technique. They do this while fully maintaining their intensely personal styles. This recording spans from Celtic fiddling to an homage to the great 20th-century Hungarian composer, Béla Bartók. Ghosts flutter, literary horrors jump to life, shards of glass fly, and camp fires conjure nostalgia. This is a collection of pieces, which I hope will sprinkle its magic on the audience as much as it did to its performer.
Since 1970, I have written a series of 24 ‘Concert Etudes’ for orchestral instruments. I have always thought that contemporary composers haven’t written enough solo works for various instruments to introduce audiences to the newer sounds of our time. Some are composed to show extended techniques—I have tried to rather show off the great strengths of the performers on the instrument without using too many extended techniques. Canto III was written for my good friend, Zvi Zeitlin. The work is in one continuous movement with four sections. It begins with a slow expressive recitative, followed by a fast wild contrast. The first section is repeated in the third section as an expanded variation within the same spirit. The fourth section demands great virtuosity and brings the work to a brilliant conclusion.
Dance of Life
Dance of Life (2012) is inspired by Edvard Munch’s vivid painting of the same name, and was written for Norweigian violinist Henning Kraggerud’s première performance in front of 15 Munch paintings. The ghostly drama and circular motion of the canvas fundamentally affected the whirling and ethereal tone in this brief work.
Aaron Jay Kernis
Another Face (1987), written for violinist János Négyesy, was commissioned by the National Endowment for the Arts. It is a musical response to the extraordinary novel, The Face of Another, by Japanese writer, Kobo Abe. Abe created circumstances which ask profound questions concerning identity; these questions prompted a composition which proposes small musical modules. Each module consists of a pair of two pitches and two distinct rhythmic values. Yet, the entire focus of the work is the emergence of an unnamed third force—something lyrical that is contained within the fiercely deterministic materials. The transformed reconciling materials appear very prominently at the end.
Lina’s Hornpipe, originally composed as a closing movement for The viol, the violet and the vine, is now a stand-alone concert piece, composed in a vigorous Irish fiddle folk style.
Mean Fiddle Summer
Many years ago, at the Manhattan Children’s Museum, I saw a board upon which a child had spelled the words “Mean Fiddle Summer” in magnetic letters. That evocative phrase stayed with me for years, until it came time to write a work for my dear friend, Lina Bahn. The work is cast in two movements. Twilight Airs is a lyric, aria-like movement which builds to a passionate climax before receding back into calm. Béla’s Blues is a virtuoso romp inspired by the fugue of the Bartók solo sonata. Mean Fiddle Summer was composed during the winter of 2010.
Aria-Lament was the source work from which flowed the cycle of war pieces I composed in the early-to-mid 1990s which includes Hymn, Colored Field, Still Movement with Hymn, and, closing the cycle, Lament and Prayer for violin and strings. Aria-Lament alternates between ideas essentially influenced by Hebraic cantillation and more angular shapes, and both are transformed through developing variations and intensification. It was written for New York violinist Kate Light in 1990.
Aaron Jay Kernis
an expanding distance of multiple voices
an expanding distance of multiple voices is a set of variations, celebrating the virtuosity and intelligence of Lina Bahn. It was commissioned by a Washington, D.C.-based consortium: Pamela Johnson, Kathryn Judd, Philip Berlin and Otho Eskin, to whom I am tremendously grateful. Cast in five movements, it displays many changes of mood, tempo and timbre. Much of the harmonic material is based on the letters of its dedicatee (in this case linA BAHn). The title for me suggests a layered space suspended and vast, in which many sources and gradations of light radiate from the continually shifting pockets of its interior.
Sizzle is a punctuated tour de force for solo violin built on riffs, trills, brazen arpeggios, and runs. The music borrows from both Bach and electric guitar solos, and the opening tempo mark encourages, “as fast as possible—with flash and passion”.
The viol, the violet and the vine
The viol, the violet and the vine, composed for Lina Bahn in 2005, was inspired by works of Ysaÿe and Bartók. The first movement, Music box, is a folksy tune marked by wild fluctuations in tempo and extreme use of multiple stopped notes. Sarabande is modelled on Ysaÿe’s fourth Sonata. Lively is mostly single-lined writing, with a jagged melody and strings plucked with the left hand.
Last Night at Yaddo
Parting moves us toward a greater sense of our connections to each other and to a specific place, toward a fullness of feeling we might normally keep at bay. Music can carry that flow, or give us some ritual so we don’t get swept away. I wrote this tune for a friend’s last night at the artist’s colony Yaddo. I had just met her, but she was kind to me, and she was having a hard time. The music is an offering; a small comfort, I hope, for all those times when we have to step out of our temporary retreats and face the hard world.
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