Brian Hong and Victor Asuncion 

Brian Hong, violin

Victor Asuncion, piano

February 10, 2021

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts

David Schwan, host

Program:

 

Florence Price – Fantasie No. 1 in G minor (4′)

Johann Sebastian Bach – Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016 (16′)

I. Adagio

II. Allegro

III. Adagio ma non tanto

IV. Allegro

Antonín Dvořák – Romance in F minor, Op. 11 (13′)

Florence Price – Fantasie No. 2 in F-sharp minor (4′)

With a growing reputation for passionate and powerful performances, Korean-American violinist Brian Hong is forging a career as a soloist and chamber musician. Known for his commanding stage presence and honest interpretations, Mr. Hong has performed as soloist with such orchestras as the Juilliard Orchestra, Fairfax Symphony, American Youth Philharmonic, Chesapeake Orchestra, US Army Orchestra, National Philharmonic, and the Springfield Symphony.  A dedicated chamber musician, Mr. Hong’s festival credits include Marlboro, Yellow Barn, Bowdoin International Music Festival, Music Academy of the West, the Taos School of Music, Kneisel Hall, and the Perlman Music Program

In addition to performing, Mr. Hong is co-founder and co-Artistic Director of NEXUS Chamber Music Chicago in Illinois, a collective of vibrant and dynamic musicians committed to providing classical music with the tools necessary to meet the demands of the 21st century by combining unique programming with high production value media content.

A native of Fairfax Station, Virginia, Mr. Hong is a graduate of Juilliard’s Artist Diploma program under the guidance of Laurie Smukler and Catherine Cho. As a Fellow of Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect (2018-2020), he performed in a variety of venues in New York City and abroad, as well as maintaining a two-year teaching-artist partnership with Celia Cruz High School for Music in the Bronx.  Mr. Hong also holds a Master’s degree from The Juilliard School, where he studied under Laurie Smukler and Li Lin and was awarded a prestigious Kovner Fellowship. Mr. Hong earned his Bachelor’s degree under Donald Weilerstein from the New England Conservatory of Music, where he was a member of three different honors ensembles and studied both classic and contemporary quartet repertoire with mentors including Laurence Lesser, Kim Kashkashian, Donald Weilerstein, and Lucy Chapman.

Hailed by The Washington Post for his “poised and imaginative playing,” pianist Victor Santiago Asuncion has appeared in concert halls in Brazil, Canada, Ecuador, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Mexico, the Philippines, Spain, Turkey and the USA, as a recitalist and concerto soloist.  He played his orchestral debut at the age of 18 with the Manila Chamber Orchestra, and his New York recital debut in Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall in 1999.

A chamber music enthusiast, he has performed with artists such as Lynn Harrell, Zuill Bailey, Andres Diaz, Antonio Meneses, Joshua Roman, Cho-Liang Lin, and many others. He was on the chamber music faculty of the Aspen Music Festival, and the Garth Newel Summer Music Festival.  He was also the pianist for the Garth Newel Piano Quartet for three seasons.  His recordings include the complete Sonatas of L. van Beethoven with cellist Tobias Werner, Sonatas by Shostakovich and Rachmaninoff with cellist Joseph Johnson, and the Rachmaninoff Sonata with the cellist Evan Drachman. He is also featured in the award winning recording “Songs My Father Taught Me” with Lynn Harrell, produced by Louise Frank and WFMT-Chicago.

He received his Doctor of Musical Arts Degree in 2007 from the University of Maryland at College Park under the tutelage of Rita Sloan. Victor Asuncion is a Steinway artist. www.victorasuncion.com

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A note from the performer: 

The music of Black American symphonist Florence B. Price (1887-1953) is characterized by a stirringly dramatic lyricism that at times seems to leap from the page, given life and breath by the swiftness of her pen.  No less can be said about the opening of her Fantasie No. 1 in G minor (1933) for violin and piano, which begins with an astoundingly dynamic introduction that jumps a span of 4 octaves within the first two bars.  This Fantasie, written three years after she settled in the city of Chicago, is best framed within several other works premiered during that time for which she achieved great renown: chiefly, the D-minor Piano Concerto and the First Symphony (the latter of which was the first work by a Black female composer to be premiered by the Chicago Symphony, during the same year as the first Fantasie’s composition).  

Price’s highly complex and contrapuntal style is unique in the way that it gives contextual flavor to the African-American songs and spirituals that permeate her oeuvre.  This style shines particularly in her short-form works such as these two Fantasies, where the dichotomy between dramatic fervor and lyrical intimacy is revealed in all its power and clarity.  Her Fantasy No. 2 in F-sharp minor (1940), published with a different spelling, is “based on a folk melody”, which subsequent research revealed is the tune entitled “I’m Workin’ on My Buildin’”. Price stated in an autograph that her setting of this song was “as sung to Fannie Carter Wood of Chicago / by her grandmother Malinda Carter / a former slave of Memphis Tennessee”, highlighting her commitment to ensuring through her art that the history and voices that make up the Black experience in America would not be lost to time.

Florence Price’s music, and thus, her life and history, are enjoying a deserved re-emergence in the classical repertoire.  Much has been said about her ability to synthesize traditional European compositional technique with a voice born to the songs of the American South, but I personally feel that this sentiment diminishes Price’s legacy by contextualizing her work through a compositional body largely dominated by European male composers. Price’s musical style explored a contrapuntal chromaticism that is entirely her own; it is a style that is immediately recognizable for its complexity, yet also for its familiarity, as if these were harmonies that were born within us. It is for this reason that I decided to place her Fantasies at each end of this program, surrounding two traditional favorites by Dvorak and Bach: not to provide context for her music, but rather to showcase the light that her voice shines upon other masterworks that we know so well, providing a different ear through which we can freshly approach the familiar. Dvořák’s lilting Romance in F Minor, and Bach’s effervescent Sonata in E Major, are thus lifted and renewed by the context of these two Fantasies, binding all four works together under a single concept: music of the heart.

Brian Hong

If you would like to learn more about Florence Price, I would highly recommend reading The Heart of a Woman: The Life and Music of Florence B. Price by the late Dr. Rae Linda Brown, published in June 2020.

Florence Price (1887-1953)

Fantasie No. 1 in G minor (1933) 

The music of Black American symphonist Florence B. Price (1887-1953) is characterized by a stirringly dramatic lyricism that at times seems to leap from the page, given life and breath by the swiftness of her pen.  No less can be said about the opening of her Fantasie No. 1 in G minor (1933) for violin and piano, which begins with an astoundingly dynamic introduction that jumps a span of 4 octaves within the first two bars.  This Fantasie, written three years after she settled in the city of Chicago, is best framed within several other works premiered during that time for which she achieved great renown: chiefly, the D-minor Piano Concerto and the First Symphony, the latter of which was the first work by a Black female composer to be premiered by the Chicago Symphony, during the same year as the first Fantasy’s composition

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)

Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016 (1720) 

Composed during the 1720’s the set that the Sonata in E Major, BWV 1016 derives from, is particularly famous and stands apart from other Baroque era compositions because Bach fully realized the keyboard parts, providing counterpoint and equal standing to the violin part. Composed while serving as the Kapellmeister at the court of Cöthen in Germany, this sonata is written in the Italian sonata da chiesa tradition, but bends that tradition to follow his own creative wills. Following the standard pattern of Corelli or Handel, the sonata consists of four movements, starting with an Adagio, followed by an Allegro, Adagio ma non tanto and concluding with another Allegro.

Antonín Dvořák (1770-1827)

Romance in F minor, Op. 11 (1873) 

Around 1877, Dvořák, taking stock of his life, was going through old manuscripts, working to make sure only his best music was presented to the public. Noticing that no one would play his F minor string quartet from 1873, he lifted the slow movement, reworking it for solo violin and piano, a delightful miniature perfect for a salon. Thus was born the Romance in F minor, Op. 11 which he later also made a version for violin and orchestra.

 

Florence Price 

Fantasie No. 2 in F-sharp minor (1940) 

Price’s highly complex and contrapuntal style is unique in the way that it gives contextual flavor to the African-American songs and spirituals that permeate her oeuvre.  This style shines particularly in her short-form works such as these two Fantasies, where the dichotomy between dramatic fervor and lyrical intimacy is revealed in all its power and clarity.  Her Fantasy No. 2 in F-sharp minor (1940), published with a different spelling, is “based on a folk melody”, which subsequent research revealed is the tune entitled “I’m Workin’ on My Buildin’”. Price stated in an autograph that her setting of this song was “as sung to Fannie Carter Wood of Chicago / by her grandmother Malinda Carter / a former slave of Memphis Tennessee”, highlighting her commitment to ensuring through her art that the history and voices that make up the Black experience in America would not be lost to time.

 

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are made possible through the generosity of the Paul M. Angell Family Foundation, the Ann and Gordon Getty Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the Illinois Arts Council and the Union League Club of Chicago.
Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts are presented in partnership with the City of Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs and Special Events and 98.7 WFMT

Don’t miss Cora Swenson Lee and Claire-Chung Lim

next week on the

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts!

Wednesday February 17, 12:15pm

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