Ahead of their upcoming chamber music concert at the Philadelphia Ethical Society, I recently interviewed Solomiya Ivakhiv, Robert Durso, and Zsolt Bognár on the music they will play and their artistic connection to each other.
Venue: Philadelphia Ethical Society | 1906 South Rittenhouse Square | Philadelphia, PA
Date/Time: Sunday, April 28, 2013 | 3:00 PM
Violinist: Solomiya Ivakhiv
TICKETS: click here
J. Brahms – Sonata No. 1 in G Major, Op. 78
J. Brahms – Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Op. 100
J. Brahms – Sonatensatz in C minor
J. S. Bach (transcribed by G. Kurtág) – Gottes Zeit ist die allerbeste Zeit
F. Liszt – Après une Lecture de Dante: Fantasia quasi Sonata
– With SOLOMIYA –
Jonathan: Talk to us about the music. What made you choose these three Brahms’ sonatas for the recital? Describe your connection to Brahms.
Solomiya: Last year at Bob’s [Robert Durso] house, we decided to read through some sonatas together for our own enjoyment. When the turn came for Brahms’ sonatas and after just a few notes of playing them together, we felt an immediate mutual understanding and concept of the pieces. At that moment we decided to present Brahms’ violin sonatas in a concert.
May 7th will mark 180 years since Brahms was born. Brahms passed away on April 3rd, which happens to be my birthday. Besides the beautiful poetry and grand emotions in Brahms' music, one can find a strong connection to the folk songs. Many works have vivid references to Hungarian culture. The part of Ukraine where I grew up is near the Carpathian Mountains and borders Hungary. I personally have a lot of interest in the folk material from the Ukrainian Carpathian Mountains and its neighboring countries, Romania and Hungary.
Brahms’ music is very grand and passionate, but sophisticated; I feel very close to it.
Jonathan: Have you performed with Bob previously? If so, what is special about making music with him?
Solomiya: Bob invited me to perform at the Church of the Holy Trinity for the benefit of "End of Violence" project. We had never worked together prior to that, but I agreed to play the concert because I wanted to support the cause. We performed Beethoven’s first sonata and enjoyed our collaboration very much. Bob is a sensitive chamber music partner and responsive to my moments of creativity. I can count on him to catch and understand my ideas on the spot without discussing it ahead of time. I try to be a good partner as well and reply to his instant creative outbursts during the performance.
I’m very much looking forward to our concert together on April 28th at the Ethical Society!
Jonathan: Your Carnegie Hall debut is coming up this fall. What will you be playing? How did you secure this enormous engagement?
Solomiya: Two years ago I accepted the position of Artistic Director of Music at the Institute (MATI) Series in New York City. I had worked with musicians such as Joseph Silverstein, Philip Setzer, Gary Graffman, Gil Kalish, Amit Peled, and Valentina Lisitsa among others on the series.
Next Season will be the 25th season since it was established. The idea to present a “celebration” at such an important and beautiful venue as Carnegie Hall seemed logical. I am excited to program solo works, among which is a piece by the Ukrainian composer Yevhen Stankovych—Triptych “Na Verkhovyni” (In the Highlands)—and invite internationally renowned musicians to join me in the chamber music collaboration. By the way, Stankovych's piece has motives of music from the Carpathian Mountain region, too!
Jonathan: Do you like playing for Philadelphia audiences? What makes Philly's classical music audience different from other cities' audiences?
Solomiya: Philadelphia audiences have a lot of events from which to choose. However, this city’s audience is very receptive of emerging artists and supportive toward the arts. I see familiar faces at various events around town as the Philadelphians are loyal to many institutions and attend the performances of various groups. I tremendously enjoy performing in Philadelphia. It is a thrill to experience this audience's enthusiasm and warmth at the end of the concert!
Plus, Philadelphia is my home now. I came to study at the Curtis Institute of Music at the age of 17 and for the past 15 years I have made this city my base.
– With ROBERT –
Jonathan: What kind of musical chemistry do you feel when playing with Solomiya?
Robert: Collaborating with Solomiya is an exciting and unique experience. She at once compels me to listen and respond to the extraordinary nuance in her playing. She is a very thoughtful musician and impeccable chamber player, yet has a completely spontaneous performers spirit!
Jonathan: And performing with Zsolt?
Robert: I was drawn to Zsolt's playing by the profound nature of his solo playing. I felt that we shared similar musical objectives and sensed we would work well together as musicians and colleagues.
Jonathan: You're often traveling and performing with The Belmonte Trio. Tell us about your experience with them and your recent performances.
Robert: My experience with playing in The Belmonte Trio is exhilarating and challenging at the same time. We rehearse very seriously and I learn worlds about great string playing and collaborating together. My partners are wonderful musicians and the nicest people to work and travel with. We all love sushi so it makes after concert restaurant decisions very easy! We just finished a set of concerts in Florida and also performed at Maryland’s Frederick County Community College this April.
– With ZSOLT –
Jonathan: Tell us about the Bach/Kurtág work. What makes you enjoy playing it? Why did you select this? Have you played with Bob previously?
Zsolt: The Bach/Kurtág work is an astonishing realization of one of the Bach masterpieces in an arrangement for four hands. The late Kurtág brought his own experience as a highly esteemed composer to add a unique perspective, in some cases in harmonic terms. The work is a pleasure to play, and one that Bob and I selected after a lengthy period of investigation—it is one of the instances in a performer's life in which the music almost seems to select the performer, instead of the other way around. This will be my first performance with Bob, and I have been looking forward to this as we have followed each other’s performances for some time. I have always been drawn to his deep intuition and experienced insights both as a performer and otherwise.
Jonathan: Liszt is a challenge for many pianists. Do you find this work difficult to play? How so? What made you select this work? Are there any memorable performances of this previously?
Zsolt: The Liszt Dante Sonata is a piece I have been performing for ten years now. For a musician, this work is an intense pilgrimage to one of the most comprehensive and influential works in the piano repertoire. Orchestral and dramatic in scope, it drew from literary influences and Liszt's desire to create a new form—this was one of his earliest tone poems. He wrote the piece over many years, mostly working on it while vacationing at Lake Como and reading aloud from the works of Dante with friends. The work is gripping in its intensity, but is in fact an inner drama without external effect for its own sake. A performance of the piece that remains in my memory as a highlight of my musical life was in Austria’s Altenburg Castle, during the awards ceremony of the Allegro Vivo competition in summer 2004. The paintings on the Baroque ceiling depicted many of the scenes that Liszt was portraying musically and I felt I gave one of my most intense performances.