Another day, another Utah Premiere

Photo Credit: Tanya Solomon

Photo Credit: Tanya Solomon

We are so lucky to be living in a time where there is so much great contemporary viola literature. We are especially lucky to be able to present what we believe to be two Utah premiers. White Roses for String Quintet by Christopher Burns, and a viola trio entitled “Capricious” by Scott Slapin.

Scott writes about the piece, “I studied with Emanuel Vardi from the age of 12 to 18. Mr. Vardi was the first person to record the 24 Paganini Caprices on viola (I was the 2nd.) Mr. Vardi was obsessed with the Caprices, and when the American Viola Society commissioned me to write a piece in his memory, of course I had to reference them in some way. Capricious is my own music, but there are short quotes here and there of half of the Caprices. Most recently, Capricious was performed on my 40th birthday in London, England. It has been performed by other groups around the U.S. at viola events and on the radio. Tanya Solomon (my wife), Ila Rondeau, and I premiered the piece at the Viola Congress in Rochester, NY a few years ago.”

I’ve never had the opportunity to meet Scott Slapin in real life, but I am familiar with his viola playing and composing from the internet. He plays a viola made by Hiroshi Iizuka, and when I was viola shopping and waiting, waiting, WAITING for my Iizuka viola to be finished, I watched many of his youtube videos hoping that my viola would sound as wonderful as his. He is a self-described “beer-drinking, Yiddish-speaking, bug-killing, vegan.” Not to mention a wonderful composer and violist. He and his wife Tanya are the Slapin-Solomon Duo and Studio.

Join us for the Utah premiere of Scott’s piece “Capricious” on Saturday, November 1, 3pm, Dumke Recital Hall at the University of Utah.

Another Day, Another Viola Trio



VlaTrio (4 of 15)

Meet Whittney, Joel, and Silu. They are Capricious.


One of my favorite parts of the Utah Viola Society’s Viola Day is our signature Viola Ensemble concert. Last year we featured a quartet of violists from the Utah Symphony performing the lovely York Bowen Fantasie for Four Violas. This year we are honored to present our three newest members of the Utah Symphony, performing a Utah premiere of Scott Slapin‘s viola trio “Capricious.” Joel Gibbs, Whittney Thomas, and Silu Fei will perform “Capricious” as part of Viola Day 2.0 on November 1, 2014 at the University of Utah.

Utah Viola Society members are certainly familiar with violist Joel Gibbs, as he made his stunning UVS debut last year performing Reger’s Suite #2 for Solo Viola. He’s from St. Louis, loves hiking, and has recently taken up rock climbing. (Beware those viola playing hands, Joel!)

Whittney joined the Utah Symphony viola section last fall. She’s originally from San Diego. I love her story about how she picked the viola. She says, “I played violin from the age of 8 years old and I grew up with a hardcore stage mom who attended my lessons, tape recorded and took notes during my lessons, and practiced with me. I absolutely hated that I had a lack of freedom and independence within my music. But one day I tried the viola and began viola lessons in addition to violin lessons. Much to my surprise, I noticed that whenever I practiced viola my mother would stay away and leave me to practice viola by myself. Later on I learned that my mother had a disdain for the viola and wanted me to solely pursue the violin, but I didn’t care because I loved my new independence and switched to viola permanently.” Viola as rebellion, who knew?!

Silu Fei is our newest member in the viola section, joining us just this September. Prior to joining us here in Utah he was a member of the Oregon Symphony. He’s an avid fly fisherman, he loves spicy food and sushi, and he’s married to violist NingNing Jin who plays in the Buffalo Philharmonic. When I asked him what animal he thought he most resembled he replied, “A pig ? My wife said I can sit on couch for whole day.”  Well, I don’t know about all that, but what I can say is that I’ve never heard a piggy sound that fabulous on the viola, so perhaps that is not the most accurate assessment!

Join us as this trio of violists present the Utah premier of Scott Slapin’s viola trio “Capricious” on Saturday, November 1 as part of the Utah Viola Society’s Viola Day 2.0!