Jean Hatmaker and Michael Finlay
Michael Finlay, piano
June 16, 2021
Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts
David Schwan, host
Johannes Brahms; arr. P. Klengel – Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 78 (26′)
I. Vivace, ma non troppo
III. Allegro molto moderato
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – Variations in b minor for Cello and Piano (12′)
Ms. Hatmaker is a founding member of the Chicago-based Kontras Quartet, former WFMT artists-in-residence, and also performs as principal cellist of the Elmhurst Symphony Orchestra as well as continuo on the Bach Cantata Vespers series of Grace Lutheran Church, River Forest IL. She is on faculty at the Oak Park String Academy as well as Elmhurst University, where she founded the Elmhurst University Cello Choir, and frequently teaches as a guest clinician at schools across the country. She is a passionate advocate for mental health among teens and young adults, and holds a certification in Mental Health First Aid.
Ms. Hatmaker currently serves on the board of directors for Chicago’s Musicians Club of Women as Vice President, and Awards Officer. She received both Bachelor (with High Distinction) and Master of Music degrees in Cello Performance from Indiana University, in the studios of Helga Winold and Janos Starker, and plays on a European cello of unknown provenance circa 1880, using Hill and Bearden bows.
He maintains an active performing schedule with recent performances in Catania, Italy, Austin, San Antonio, Montreal, Toronto, Denver, and Atlanta. His performances have been broadcast on classical radio stations in Austin, Cleveland, Baltimore, and Montreal. An avid chamber musician, Finlay has performed with members of the Cleveland, Chicago, and Montreal Symphony orchestras as well as with members of the Catalyst, Kontras, and Koerner quartets.
Finlay began his piano studies at the age of 7 with Kathryn Mishell in Austin, TX. He left home at the age of 15 to study at the prestigious Interlochen Arts Academy on a full scholarship. He holds a Bachelor’s degree from the Cleveland Institute of Music where he worked with Paul Schenly, Antonio Pompa-Baldi, and Kathryn Brown; a Master’s from the Peabody Conservatory, where he studied with Yong Hi Moon; and a Doctorate from the University of Montreal, where he studied with Marc Durand.
Johannes Brahms (1833-1897);
arr. Paul Klengel
Cello Sonata in D Major, Op. 78 (1879)
It seems almost an act of gluttony to perform Johannes Brahms’ op. 78 sonata on cello, when there exist already two very fine sonatas written by him specifically for the instrument. Add to that the somewhat debatable provenance of the transcription itself, and it makes sense why it hasn’t gotten a lot of play, historically, although many celebrated cellists have featured it in recital. The exquisite value of the piece itself is not up for debate, however, for it certainly is among his most lyrical works for any instrument. Nicknamed the “Regensonate” (or “rain sonata”) due to the quoted material from his song “Regenlied” in the finale, the cyclical three-movement work features one tuneful moment after another, returning to themes from each movement to build quotes upon quotes. The cello version differs from the original for violin in many ways, some significant (as in the key: D major instead of G major), and most small (a change of register here and there); Janos Starker counts something like 200 differences, all the better to suit the instrument. Popular belief nowadays gives credit to Paul Klengel for making this transcription, which was published by Simrock (without crediting an arranger) in Brahms’ last year, 1897, and for which Brahms is documented as receiving payment. Brahms has a history of transcribing his works for other instruments, too, so whether these adjustments are mere hubris on the part of Klengel, or authorized modifications by Brahms himself, we may never truly know, but we can be sure: when it comes to the op. 78 sonata, there is no such thing as too much of a good thing.
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor (1875-1912)
Variations in b minor for Cello and Piano (1905)
Providing a surprisingly apt pairing to the Brahms is Samuel Coleridge-Taylor’s Variations for Cello and Piano in B minor, a piece without opus number nor a great deal of recognition. In fact, the manuscript was completely lost for several years between when it was written (1905) and its first publication in 1918. Indeed, the piece went overlooked for almost a century, and received its world premiere recording only in 2008. A combination of the current trend to search for hidden gems among marginalized composers, and a renewed appreciation for “salon” concert music has brought this piece out of hiding and into a well-deserved spotlight. A relatively straightforward, if cheeky, theme gives way to some surprising harmonies and treatments throughout each variation, all written remarkably idiomatically. After a short transition, which itself serves as a mini-variation, there are 4 full-length variation settings, with the following tempo markings: Allegro – a tempo (Allegro) – Larghetto – Vivace. The theme is thoroughly explored but does not wear out its welcome, and the piece ends with a satisfying, virtuosic flourish. Given Brahms’ fondness for the ‘theme and variations’ genre, it seems a fitting end to today’s program.
Don’t miss Yukie Ota and Yoko Yamada-Selvaggio
next week on the
Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts!
Wednesday June 23, 12:15pm