Viola Day!!! 2020 Saturday, March 21, 9am-5pm University of Utah
Happy New Year! Viola Day has migrated to the Spring this season, and we’re very excited to welcome guest artist Victoria Chiang from the Peabody Institute of Johns Hopkins University, along with the Aspen String Trio in recital. We’ll have a lot more information coming your way soon. For now, mark your calendar and we’ll look forward seeing you for our usual host of activities!
Utah Symphony Principal Violist Brant Bayless (our Viola Day guest artist last year!) will be performing two monumental works for the viola in coming weeks. On Friday, September 27 and Saturday, September 28, Mr. Bayless will be performing Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante with violinist Viviane Hagner and the Utah Symphony. Following that, he will be performing György Ligeti’s Sonata for Solo Viola on the NOVA Chamber Music Series on Sunday, October 13. We can’t wait for these concerts, and hope to see you all there!
This is great repertoire you are performing this fall – how do you prepare for performances like these?
It’s a real test, honestly. The Mozart is very familiar, and I’ve already played it in some pretty high-pressure situations…which is a comforting feeling for sure, but there’s always a risk that complacency might lead to trouble! So to prepare the Mozart, I’ve been biding my time keeping the trickier bits in my fingers while awaiting a marked part from my violinist partner for these performances. Now that I have her markings, I’ll spend the next few days getting them transferred to my part and getting comfortable with new-to-me bowing and articulations.
With the Ligeti, which I have heard neither live nor on record, I’m really trying to create something from the bottom up. The score is very detailed and has big technical challenges. A lot of work is going into discovering the best way to translate the printed page into sound. I may break down and listen to a recording before the performance, just to make sure I’m not wildly off-base, but it’s SO rare to experience a masterpiece like this without any preconceptions that I’m rather enjoying the feeling of being the first to perform this (even though that isn’t at all the case). Sure, I’d probably learn it quicker if certain things I could play more “by ear,” but things seem to be starting to coalesce…which is good, because there’s not much time left!!!
Have you performed the Mozart before?
This will be my 5th set of performances as a professional. Each has been with a different violinist.
What are Mozart’s instructions regarding tuning, and how are you approaching it?
Mozart asks for the viola to tune one half-tone higher, brightening the sound of the instrument and allowing one to play in D major while it sounds in Eb. I have never performed it this way, largely for two practical reasons: 1. I usually have to play something else on the program, either in the orchestra or an encore (potential spoiler alert). My viola does not deal well with changing all four strings that dramatically. 2. I break enough A-strings as it is. The extra tension could potentially bankrupt my family.
There’s another more minor factor involved, theoretical and as yet un-tested by me in real life. That’s the idea that a violinist playing in Eb and a violist fingering in D will have a more difficult time playing in-tune with each other. There probably won’t be time to test this theory this week, but in the future I’d like to see if it makes a difference.
How much time will you spend with your duo partner?
Viviane and I will rehearse on our own briefly on Thursday morning, then with the conductor during lunch, then with the orchestra that afternoon. Dress rehearsal on Friday. So, not a whole lot of time.
What do you love about this piece?
Everything. In a lot of aspects it is the viola’s finest concerto. Mozart knew the colors of the viola so well. So well that even though he conceived it with all those open strings, it’s still idiomatic playing it in Eb. There are soulful moments, virtuoso moments, and everything in-between. But honestly, my favorite aspect is the orchestration. The divided violas in the orchestra have a lot of important moments. The oboe parts are so poignant. Every note matters, and it truly is a near-perfect masterpiece.
Do you happen to have a favorite recording of this work?
I grew up listening to the classic Perlman/Zukerman recording with Mehta and the Israel Philharmonic. It’s hard to top. Playing like that will never go out of style, even if we sometimes don’t feel (sadly) like we’re allowed to play that way today.
Have you performed the Ligeti Solo Sonata before?
Nope. Bought the music a few years ago, and buried it in my library because it looked too scary.
How did the programming of this work come about?
The NOVA music directors (this year the Fry Street Quartet are running the series) have a track record of asking me to do some pretty daring projects. This one might be the most daring yet—even compared to Berio’s Chemins II which I had to learn in my early days of fatherhood.
What has your process been like in preparation of your first performance?
With music like this, you have to have a plan and you have to be very methodical. I originally planned to learn it movement by movement, memorizing as I went. But time slips away, and this piece is proving elusive in the memorization department…so much so that I’m planning on using the music for this first performance. Good practice techniques work for any music, and I try to combine a lot of different approaches in my practice sessions. Slow practice is of course the foundation of everything. But small sections at tempo even if you’re not quite ready for it has a valuable place. I’m always striving to sound better and add to my depth of understanding during a session. Mindless repetition is NOT the way to accomplish that goal, and it’s certainly not the way to learn difficult music quickly.
What are some if the distinctive or interesting features of this piece?
The most interesting thing to me is the fact that this six-movement Sonata was not originally conceived as a whole…the second and third movements came first (themselves separated by a few years). At first I really didn’t feel the interconnectedness of the whole. The more I dig in, though, the more impressed I am with Ligeti’s virtuosity in connecting the movements while allowing them their individual identities. It really is on-par with Bach’s skill in crafting his solo string Suites, Sonatas, and Partitas.
To illustrate a few examples:
The first movement uses microtones (based on the intonation of the natural overtone series). No other movement uses microtones, but by having this movement as an introduction, it sets the stage for experimentation rooted in folk-music idioms for the remainder of the piece.
Theme and variation—another folk idiom—plays an important role throughout, as it did in many works of Ligeti’s distinguished predecessor Bartok.
The uneven rhythms of folk music lie at the heart of this piece. Even in the last movement (which is in 3/4 time with exactly one bar of 4/4), syncopation and rhythmic play wins the day.
Any further thoughts you’d like to share about either or both of these upcoming performances?
It really is astonishing to me how these two composers use the viola so differently, yet they both have such a deep understanding of what our instrument is capable of. Music will always evolve, and new music will probably always challenge audience’s ears, but truly great sonic constructions such as these set themselves apart and will change your life…all you have to do is invite yourself in.
On June 4 at 7:30pm, violists Gavon Peck and Dr. Joelle Arnhold, along with pianist Bethany Pietroniro, will perform an eclectic program featuring works by both past and contemporary composers at the Russell/Wanlass Performance Hall at Utah State University. There will be a pre-recital lecture given by Dr. Arnhold beginning at 7:00pm.
We have a big viola week coming up! Renowned British violist Roger Chase will be returning to Utah for a series of concerts and classes, followed by one of our favorite events – the UVS Annual Recital!
We named ourselves after the stunning geography of the summer music festival that the three of us have in common. The Grand Teton Music Festival has happened every summer in Jackson, Wyoming, since 1962. The mountains of the Teton range, and the trails and scenery of Grand Teton National Park have been such an iconic backdrop to some truly life-changing performances for all three of us, and so by taking the name of this special place we hope to pay homage to and continue that tradition of beauty.
I first met Greg and Jason early in the 2000s. Met them separately, that is. Jason came to the Utah Symphony having mostly finished his Doctoral work at Rice University. I was lucky enough to be on his audition committee, and have since been continually in awe of his artistry. Greg and I met at a summer festival in Bellingham, Washington. The festival featured a small chamber orchestra (billed as the “All-Star Orchestra”), and I couldn’t help but notice Greg’s gorgeous clarinet sound.
Fast forward a few years to Greg’s living room at the Grand Teton Festival, hanging out after an orchestra concert. Plans were hatched to try to do some chamber music the following summer. That plan materialized in a recorded-live performance of Schumann’s “Fairy Tale Pieces,” hosted and eventually broadcast by Fred Child and his NPR program Performance Today. Never have I had so much fun in a concert, or been so proud of a broadcast. I felt excited to do it again.
Greg must have felt the same way, because he was able to secure funding from the Dallas Symphony Orchestra’s Principal Chair Grant Fund (through the O’Donnell Foundation) to make a recording. We brought Jason onboard, and spent the last precious days of our summer vacations recording in Teton Village’s Walk Festival Hall. In addition to the Schumann, we recorded trios by Mozart and Reinecke and transcriptions of Schubert and Massenet.
This will be our first real recital, and, since we’re just at the beginning we have no idea where this path might lead. But we do hope that everyone feels the joy we do and walks away humming a new favorite tune.
See you at Viola Day!
“A Legend, a Fairy Tale, and Other Stories in Music”
Mozart – Trio in Eb, K. 498 “Kegelstatt”
III. Rondeaux: Allegretto
Schubert – from “Die schöne Müllerin”
Der Müller und der Bach
Carl Reinecke – Trio in A, K. 264
II. Intermezzo: Moderato
III. Legend: Andate
IV. Finale: Allegro moderato
I first came to Utah in 1987 to attend the Violin Making School of America. I graduated in 1983, then taught at the school for four years before opening a shop near Liberty Park in 1988.
What services does your shop provide, and is there an area that you specialize in?
I focus on new making of violins, violas and cellos. Mainly violas and cellos. I am also available for repair work.
What do you love about the viola,anddo you have a particular sound or concept that you are aiming for when you make violas?
I grew up studying the violin but started playing the viola in college and loved its deep, rich sound. When I started making violas here in Utah I built a number of them for David Dalton’s students at BYU. I learned a lot from those instruments and from following the players through the years. What I focus on is building an instrument that is even across the register, speaks quickly, has a wide dynamic range, and colour to the voicing. Can you play pianissimo and still have clarity and be heard? A viola that is just loud, without colour to its voicing, is boring to me. A viola that can stand up to chamber music work must have character!
Are your violas influenced by particular historical models?
I want the instrument to be easy to play – I use an Amati pattern because I like the sloped shoulders, which makes higher position work easier.
Do you play music yourself, and do you have hobbies or interests away from music and instruments?
I Currently I play violin in the Salt Lake Symphony. Outside of my work I love hiking and mountain biking, and I just returned from Canada where I got to do both at Whistler Mountain!
Looking forward in seeing everyone at Viola Day !!
Carrie has recently finished two new violas and will be starting a large viola soon. This beauty will be available to try at Viola Day!
I have been in Utah for for 23 years, I moved here from Minneapolis in 1995. There were other many local makers to work alongside, and an environment of youthful, energetic creativity. The viola was the first instrument I made here in SLC!
What services does your shop provide, and is there an area that you specialize in?
I provide violins ,violas and cellos. I make new instruments, and give tonal adjustments , bow rehairs, and repairs.
I have been doing my trade for 30 years and continue to learn each day. I consider myself very lucky to have worked with some of the best.
I have been told by many that I have a knack for adjusting and setting up instruments to reach the personal preference of the musician. I am a player myself and grew up in a family of musicians, so my goal is to communicate with my clients about ideas and concepts of sound, and then find the right playablity for the individual.
Do you have a particular sound or concept that you are aiming for when you make violas? What do you love about the viola?
The sound and concept of my violas are to provide an instrument that is easy to play and have a character to the sound which both projects and has warmth.
I find the recent model I am making liberating in that I am playing with dimensions and wood choice. The basic model is that of an Amati. After I make my alterations it has deviated into my own personal model. So far it seems to be working quite well.
I love the viola because it can have so many variations in size sound and style.
Do you play music yourself?
I play steel guitar , guitar and fiddle. ( maybe I will switch to jazz viola ) . I have been lucky to know so many great musicians locally and nationally. I was once put on stage at Red Butte opening up for the Tedeschi Trucks Band . These days I just enjoy playing at home with the occasional gig out on the town.
Do you have hobbies or interests away from music and instruments?
I enjoy the mountains, snowboarding and the wild west. I feel like I need another century to scratch the surface of what this state has to offer. I really appreciate feeling a part of this community.
By Appointment: 801-949-6174
1609 S. Park Street
Salt Lake City , Utah 84105
New viola currently in progress, see it at Viola Day!