Nexus Chamber Music

Brian Hong, violin 

Rannveig Marta Sarc, violin

Alexander Hersh, cello


September 1, 2020

Rush Hour Concerts

Robbie Ellis, host


Isabella Leonarda – Trio Sonata, Op. 16, No. 1

I. Allegro

II. Largo

III. Adagio

IV. Allegro

V. Soli violini

V. Vivace

Giovanni Battista Viotti – String Trio in G major, Op. 17, G. 104

I. Allegro vivace e risoluto

II. Andante con espressione

III. Presto

Zoltán Kodály – Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7

I. Allegro serioso, non troppo

II. Adagio-Andante

III. Maestoso e largamente, ma non troppo lento – Presto

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, palette of sonic colors, and honest interpretations, Mr. Hong has performed with such orchestras as the Springfield Symphony and the Juilliard Orchestra. A dedicated chamber musician, Mr. Hong’s festival credits include Marlboro, Yellow Barn, the Taos School of Music, Kneisel Hall, and the Perlman Music Program, as well as NEXUS Chamber Music Chicago, of which he is co-Artistic Director.

Mr. Hong is a graduate of The Juilliard School’s Artist Diploma program under the guidance of Laurie Smukler and Catherine Cho. Mr. Hong also served as a Fellow with Carnegie Hall’s Ensemble Connect from 2018-2020, performing in a variety of venues in NYC and abroad as well as maintaining a two-year teaching partnership with Celia Cruz High School of Music in the Bronx.  When he is not teaching or performing, Mr. Hong can often be found in a specialty coffee shop or brewing his own single origin coffee beans at home in Fairfax Station, VA.

Icelandic-Slovenian violinist, Rannveig Marta Sarc, was born into a musical family.  A passionate traveler, she has performed throughout Europe, North America and Asia.  She has appeared as soloist with the Iceland Symphony, Slovene Philharmonic and Iceland Youth Symphony Orchestras, among others.  As a chamber musician, she has performed with Jupiter Symphony Chamber Players and been invited to festivals including Ravinia’s Steans Music Institute, Taos School of Music, Prussia Cove and Kneisel Hall.  Rannveig is a recipient of numerous awards, including the Rotary Scholarship and the American Scandinavian Society Cultural Grant. She is an avid performer of contemporary music and she recently commissioned and premiered six Icelandic duos for violin and viola with her mother, Svava Bernharðsdóttir. Rannveig holds Bachelor and Master of Music degrees from The Juilliard School, where she was a proud recipient of a Kovner Fellowship.  Her teachers were Catherine Cho, Laurie Smukler and Donald Weilerstein, as well as Robert Mealy on baroque violin.
Having already performed as soloist with the Houston Symphony and the Boston Pops, cellist Alexander Hersh has quickly established himself as one of the most exciting and versatile talents of his generation. He has received top prizes at competitions worldwide including the: 2019 Astral Artists National Auditions, National Federation of Music Clubs Biennial Young Artists Competition, New York International Artists Association Competition, Friends of the Minnesota Orchestra, Ima Hogg, Schadt, Luminarts, Hellam, Boston Pops/New England Conservatory Competition, Jefferson Symphony International Young Artists Competition, Society of American Musicians, and the Fischoff National Chamber Music competition.

A passionate chamber musician, Hersh has performed at music festivals worldwide including: Marlboro, Caramoor, Ravinia Steans Music Institute, Music@Menlo, I-M-S Prussia Cove, Perlman Music Program Chamber Music Workshop, Amsterdam Cello Biennial, Kneisel Hall, Lucerne, and the New York String Orchestra Seminar,

Raised in Chicago, Alexander Hersh began playing the cello at the age of 5. He received his B.M. and M.M. from New England Conservatory where he graduated with academic honors. Hersh was a recipient of the Frank Huntington Beebe fund for studies in Berlin during the 2017 – 2018 academic year where he studied with Nicolas Altstaedt at the Hanns Eisler Hochschule for Musik Berlin. His previous teachers have included Laurence Lesser, Hans Jørgen Jensen, Kim Kashkashian, and Paul Katz. He plays a G.B. Rogeri cello on generous loan from a sponsor through Darnton & Hersh Fine Violins in Chicago, IL.

Program Notes:

Performed tonight, Sonata, Op. 16, is historic for being the first published instrumental sonata written by a woman composer. This “concerted sonata” gives every player their time to shine, providing large solo passages for each player at least once. 

We begin with the Allegro, complete with fugal passages, which quickly leads us to the peaceful Largo showcasing both violins in beautiful melodic lines. The following Adagio almost feels like an opera recitative in how the violins and cello interact and play off of each other, while telling a story of loss and confusion. Next we have an Aria, allegro which is sure to lighten the spirits and hearts before hearing the first violin cadenzas, which still being in major keys, add to the story. Then we get the second violin cadenzas which tells a much different story, one of pain, remorse and loss. We then get to hear the cello shine and bridge the story of loss and light, uniting and leading us into the final Vivace. It is not difficult to imagine a court dancing along to this infectious dance which ends as gracefully as it started.

Notes by Ashley Ertz

Isabella Leonarda (1620-1704)

Trio Sonata, Op. 16, No. 1 (1683)

Italian born Isabella Leonarda came from a prominent family in the Italian province of Novara. She entered the Collegio di Sant’Orsola, a convent, at the age of 16. Though she would stay at the convent the rest of her life, she would compose a wide variety of music, while also ascending to the rank of mother superior at the age of 56. She lived to the age of 83 and, over the course of her lifetime, wrote over two hundred works including masses, vespers, motets, sacred concertos and chamber music. Though some of her compositions date back to her twenties, the bulk of her catalogue was written later in life, marking her as one of the most prolific convent composers of the Baroque era. In addition to composing, it’s believed she taught the other nuns music, so to have a captive musician base to perform her works.

Deeply devoted and organized, Leonarda worked only during her allocated rest time, so as to not let her convent administrative duties falter. Part of these administrative duties may have included fundraising, for which she cleverly would double-dedicate all of her works, one dedication to the Virgin Mary and another one to someone she hoped could financially support the convent.

Fast Facts:

  • Starting in the medieval times, convents were typically creative sanctuaries, where talented women could practice their craft freely.
  • While it wasn’t unheard of for women to compose at this time, they typically stuck to vocal works. Leonarda did compose much for vocals but is most notable for being the first woman to compose instrumental sonatas in westen music, which is being heard tonight.

Giovanni Battista Viotti (1755-1824)

String Trio in G Major, Op. 17, G. 104 (1808)

Italian-born composer and violinist, Giovanni Battista Viotti, is also known as the founder of the 19th-century school of violin playing. Viotti composed 29 violin concerti, 10 piano concerti, string quartets and more. The son of a blacksmith, Viotti started playing the violin with little tutoring, astonishing musicians when he was eleven years-old with his ability to sight read difficult music. Viotti would gain the Marchea di Voghera and her son Alfonso Dal Pozzo as his patrons after this display, who funded his education. He studied and traveled with famed virtuoso violinist, Gaetano Pugnani and would establish himself as a court musician in the court of Marie-Antoinette. Viotti was said to be the most influential violinist until Paganini to follow Tartini, representing the tradition of Corelli.  Joseph Joachim revived Viotti’s Violin Concerto No. 22 in the 1870s, giving Viotti renewed acclaim.

Program Notes:

The first movement begins with a nice light theme very much in the classical style, showcasing his control and command of the violin. The development gives us a hint of darkness without ever straying too far from the mood of the opening theme. The second movement, Andante con espressione, still houses the classical style but with the darker mood foreshadowed in the previous movement at the forefront. While half the length of the previous movement, this movement packs a hint of light, encircled with the feeling of hopelessness. The third movement, Presto, begins but stalls multiple times, leaving the listener thinking their recording paused. The composer is cheekily seeing if he has your attention, much like Haydn’s String Quartet nicknamed “The Joke”. The joke continues on into a lovely melody reminiscent of the hopelessness of the previous movement while also tying back to the lighter style of the opening movement.

Notes by Ashley Ertz

Fast Facts:

  • Viotti’s composition career was overshadowed by his virtuoso violin playing
  • Brahms would praise his Violin Concerto No. 22 and use its form as a model for his own violin concerto
  • Teacher of famous violin pedagogue and composer Rodolphe Kreutzer

Fast Facts:

  • Zoltan’s father worked for the Hungarian Railway System, leading his family to transfer a lot. He would instigate his love of folk music, having learned about music in many different parts of Hungary. 
  • His new way of teaching known as the Kodály Method is still used and taught around the world today.

Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967)

Duo for Violin and Cello, Op. 7 (1914)

Composer, educator and perhaps, most prominently, ethnomusicologist, Kodály is one of the most well-regarded Hungarian composers of all time. Kodály was also a fierce advocate and collector of folk music, weaving these songs into his music, thereby expanding the limits of western classical music. He also created a new approach to music education, titled the Kodály Method, providing this subject for the first time to much of Hungary. Kodály traveled to remote villages throughout Hungary with his phonograph to record and catalogue these songs. He would take Bela Bartok under his wing, the two dedicated to the preservation of these folk songs and also to championing each other’s music.

Program Notes:

Written at the height of his interest in Hungarian folk music, this duo relies heavily on Magyar folk idioms, peasant dances and children’s songs. One of the very few pieces written for this instrumentation, this duo presents a unique set of challenges for the composer. Both being linear, melodic instruments of the string family, the composer must think outside of the box to maintain interest, and Kodály definitely did so while composing this monumental piece. 

The first movement follows a standard sonata form, starting with a declamatory cello line, punctuated by violin chords before the violin takes over the theme. When the theme returns at the end of the movement, the roles are reversed. The second movement, Adagio, begins with a melancholy despairing cello line, reflective and quiet. The music builds with mounting tension until it dies down back to a state of despair, confusion and desperation. The last movement opens with a rather rhapsodic violin solo, which breaks into a presto dance with the entrance of the cello.

Notes by Ashley Ertz

The Rush Hour Concerts series is supported in part by awards from the National Endowment for the Arts

and the Illinois Arts Council Agency.

Don’t miss Avalon String Quartet

next week on

Rush Hour Concerts!

Tuesday September 8, 5:45pm

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