The UCSB Department of Music will present UCSB Professor of Horn Steven Gross with American Double members violinist Philip Ficsor and pianist Constantine Finehouse in the West Coast premiere of William Bolcom’s Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano on Sunday, October 14, 2018 at 3 pm at Hahn Hall at the Music Academy of the West. The recital will also include performances of Václav Nelhýbel’s Scherzo Concertante, an excerpt from Jiří Havlík’s Concerto for Horn, and selections from Bolcom’s Second Suite for Solo Violin.
American Double was founded in 2001 by two Yale graduates with a vision of enriching their performances with works by composers of American heritage. They specialize in the music of Pulitzer Prize-winning composer William Bolcom, with whom they coached in preparation for their CD release “The Bolcom Project," which remains the only recording of his complete works for violin and piano and Bolcom has praised it as “great benchmarks for other performers, but also great performances on their own merits." Fanfare magazine “strongly recommended” the recording (May/June 2008).
Philip Ficsor, whose playing was described as “luminous” by the Santa Barbara Independent, has released a recording with composer/pianist Emma Lou Diemer entitled “Summer Day,” featuring her complete works for violin and piano. An enthusiastic advocate for contemporary American composers, he also recorded William Bolcom’s complete works for violin and piano as part of the ensemble American Double.
Fanfare “strongly recommended” the recording and The Strad described Ficsor’s playing of the Suite for Solo Violin “beautifully managed and well-prepared”. He received his DMA in violin performance from Boston University where his dissertation analyzed performance aspects of William Bolcom’s works for violin and piano. Ficsor received his Master of Music from Yale University, where he studied with Erick Friedman, and earned his BM and an MM in Violin from the University of Michigan, studying with Stephen Shipps. He is an editorial advisor for publication through E. B. Marks/Hal Leonard Corporation. He has participated in numerous festivals across Europe and the U.S., including The Meadowmount School of Music, Holland Music Festival (Netherlands), as well as the Semmering Festival in Austria. Pre-college, Mr. Ficsor attended the Hans Richter Conservatory of Music in Györ, Hungary, where he was enrolled as a violin student and learned to speak Hungarian fluently. From 2006-2013 he was a tenured Associate Professor of Music at Westmont College, and is currently a performing artist based in the Denver area.
Constantine Finehouse was born in St. Petersburg, Russia, and attended New England Conservatory, Juilliard and Yale. His principal teachers included Fredrik Wanger, Natalia Harlap, Herbert Stessin, Jerome Lowenthal, Boris Berman and Bruce Brubaker. Praised by Rhein Main Presse - Allgemeine Zeitung for his "interpretations of depth and maturity,” Finehouse has performed extensively abroad, including in Lausanne, London, Odessa, St. Petersburg and Trieste, and in the U.S. in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Georgia, Massachusetts, New York, Rhode Island and Washington. His newest album with cellist Sebastian Bäverstam features the Brahms Sonata, Op. 38 for piano and cello, as well as several new works in the romantic style by Boston composer Tony Schemmer. His 2009 solo recording, Backwards Glance [Spice Rack Records 101-01], interweaves music of Brahms and Richard Beaudoin.
The Bolcom Project, made in collaboration with his American Double partner, violinist Philip Ficsor, encompassed a double-CD [Albany Troy 959/960] and a national tour. Fanfare praised the recording as “indispensable to any serious collector with an interest in later 20th-century duo repertoire for violin and piano.” As part of American Double, Finehouse also toured Hungary, performing sonatas by Brahms, Bolcom and Ravel. More recently, he collaborated with violinist Olga Caceànova at the Lausanne Conservatoire and on a 5-concert tour of North Carolina and Georgia, as well as with cellist Sebastian Bäverstam at Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall, and in Merkin Recital Hall. In partnership with pianists Ursula Oppens and Christopher Taylor, Finehouse is currently recording Bolcom’s complete piano solo works for Naxos Records.
Finehouse was awarded the Vladimir Horowitz Scholarship from Juilliard, a 2004 St. Botolph Club Foundation grant and a 2006 Classics Abroad Project Award. He serves on the faculty of New England Conservatory Preparatory and Extension Divisions in Boston, and as Visiting Artist/Faculty at Westmont College, Santa Barbara.
William Bolcom: Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano (2017)
"The Trio for Horn, Violin, and Piano was commissioned by Steven Gross, with American Double (Philip Ficsor, violin and Constantine Finehouse, piano), and completed in 2017. It is occasioned—I don’t want to write 'inspired'—by the era we’re living in. So many of us feel desperation from the constant endangering of our country and the world; I wrote the Trio to express this, hoping listeners might possibly feel less alone. The heavy plodding rhythms of the first movement are supplanted by a hectic second, a portrait of our misfortune’s principal agent. The following slow movement contains a short moment of respite toward its end—a brief breakthrough of tonal sunshine in C major—and the finale is a resolute march of resistance."
William Bolcom: Selections from Second Suite for Solo Violin (2011)
Perhaps there is no more personal writing for violin than a solo piece. Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach wrote of his father’s compelling violin playing, evidenced by the transcendent J.S. Bach solo sonatas and partitas. I’d wished to learn the violin when young, but for several reasons (including the theft of my grandfather’s Sears “Stradivarius” from the family car) I never got to learn to play; I still wish I had. I had to settle for learning how to write for the violin by working with violinists from a young age—in fact a principal joy for me as a composer has been to write for others what I might have been delighted to be able to perform myself—but the added dividend is that writing for someone else can then become a portrait of the performer. Which makes it actually more gratifying for me than writing for myself to play, a thing I rarely do nowadays.
My first solo violin suite was written at the request of Sergiu Luca, who died two years ago—a flamboyant and mercurial piece, it exists in a recording by Philip Ficsor. I owe him the birth of my most-often-played violin sonata and a violin concerto, both inspired by Serge’s relationship with the great jazzman Joe Venuti and brilliantly recorded by Luca. A few seasons ago the violin concerto was executed by Gil Shaham and the Toronto Symphony under Leonard Slatkin; his almost opposite approach from Luca’s also worked extremely well, proving the possible success of performing a piece more than one way.
The solo suite I wrote for Gil is very different in mood from the first suite, lyrical and playful by turns. Distantly referring to the Baroque dance-suite form, Suite No. 2 is in nine movements. Morning Music, a short rhapsodic prelude, leads to the lively Dancing in Place, featuring “fingerboard notes” executed by drumming the left-hand fingers onto the string and board. Northern Nigun is a gentle lament, and Lenny in Spats is a fanciful image of Leonard Bernstein dressed like Fred Astaire or Jack Buchanan in tuxedo, white spats covering his patent-leather uppers, and dancing with a cane.
Tempo di Gavotte is however not in the Baroque gavotte form; Barcarolle, in 12/8 and 6/8 time, portrays a leisurely afternoon on the water. A two-voiced Fuga malinconica provides a tragic mood to the Suite, while the following Tarantella’s frenzy recalls the legendary centuries-old belief that wild dancing would neutralize a tarantula’s poisonous bite. The concluding Evening Music recalls the opening phrase of the suite and ends with “duettini” in double stops, pairing different sets of strings for a peaceful close.
Jiří Havlík: Concerto for Horn (1976)
The Concerto for Horn was written during my composition studies at the Prague Conservatory. I wanted to create a concert piece for my instrument, the horn, which I also could use for my own horn performances. The piece has the form of a classical three-movement concerto, flowing from the rich Czech tradition of wind instrument concertos. Several influences went into the composition of the work. These include studies of Czech horn works from the 18th century (Jan Václav Stich-Punto, Antonio Rosetti, etc.) until the 20th century (for example, pieces by Oldrich Flosman, but especially the Horn Concerto by Jiří Pauer). Additionally, there was the experience of a creative and freshly discovered atmosphere for wind composition, shared with my friends (literature for trumpet, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, and trombone). Last, I had my own imagination of horn melodic lines and enriched harmony.
The slow movement brings a legato melodic line for the solo instrument. The cadenza uses the full range of horn registers, and a nostalgically sounding long coda in 5/8 rhythm. This passage is played by muted horn with a sound imagination of “little bells from another world,” based on 2 octaves of parallel unison in the accompaniment.
In 1978, the Concerto was awarded the Special Award of the Czech Ministry of Culture for Composition and Performance.
Václav Nelhýbel: Scherzo Concertante (1966)
The composer of Scherzo Concertante for Horn, Václav Nelhýbel, was born in 1919 in what is now the Czech Republic. He was educated at Charles University and the Prague Conservatory. Nelhýbel moved to Switzerland in 1942, studying at the University of Fribourg. After World War II, he was a composer and conductor for Swiss National Radio, and then the first Music Director of Radio Free Europe in Munich. Nelhýbel emigrated to the United States in 1957, spending most of his career in New York City. Prior to his passing in 1996, he was Composer in Residence at the University of Scranton, and a recipient of many awards.
Václav Nelhýbel has a large output of about 600 compositions, writing for symphony, opera, ballet, band, keyboard, solo instruments, and chorus. However, he is especially known for his wind compositions, which are characterized by high energy and vigorous rhythm, emphasized by interlocking melodies.