Jean Hatmaker and Michael Finlay

Jean Hatmaker, cello

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

II. Adagio

III. Allegro molto moderato

Samuel Coleridge-Taylor – Variations in b minor for Cello and Piano (12′)

Jean Hatmaker is one of the most versatile and passionate cellists in the Chicago area, with a diverse portfolio of solo and collaborative projects across a wide range of musical and interdisciplinary styles. Recent projects include a two-part livestream performance series of all 6 Bach solo cello suites, and a studio album of contemporary music for soprano and cello with vocalist Josefien Stoppelenburg, Modern Muses, set for release in spring of 2021. Included on Modern Muses is Ms. Hatmaker’s second composition for solo cello, a 6 minute work titled ahimsa. 

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.


Michael Finlay is a highly acclaimed solo pianist and chamber musician based in Chicago.  Upcoming projects include live-streamed performances of the complete Beethoven violin sonata cycle with Denver-based violinist Byron Hitchcock and an all-Chopin album featuring the second and third piano sonatas and assorted shorter works, for release in 2022.

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.


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 Yukie Ota and Yoko Yamada-Selvaggio

next week on the

Dame Myra Hess Memorial Concerts!

Wednesday June 23, 12:15pm

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