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#3 – Fanny Mendelssohn, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virtuosity

#3 – Fanny Mendelssohn, Edgar Allan Poe, and Virtuosity

Aired 10/24/2018

In this episode we’ll continue to how chamber music (both on it’s own and in conjunction with literature and movement) can impart a specific feeling of a time and place to its listener.

Shawn Puller, Executive Director of the Garth Newel Music Center, Bath County Virginia: It’s awesome to get to sit down and talk with you again about my favorite subject in the whole world: Music!

Upcoming this weekend, we have some guest artists coming in: the cellist from the Daedalus Quartet, Thomas Kraines; and Melissa Reardon, who’s a violist. This is so that they can augment our very own piano quartet. That means we get to do these bigger works.

One of the pieces on Friday night is Tchaikovsky’s Souvenir de Florence and it is so satisfying, and so delightful, and so exquisite. It is for two violins, two violas, [and] two cellos. It’s this beautiful, beautiful work that always makes you just go “(breath in) Ahhhh,” just like being in Florence. Also that weekend – very, very cool – is that our own cellist, Isaac Melamed, arranged a Bach cello suite for two cellos.

Saturday, we continue with our fours seasons theme. One of the pieces being performed is being done by our own pianist Jeanette Fang. And it is a piece written by Fanny Mendelssohn. Now, if you’ve studied Classical music, at some point you’ve come across the name “Mendelssohn”  – usually, people know her brother, Felix Mendelssohn. He was the more famous of the two, but in terms of ability, Fanny (by all accounts) was much, much better. She could have had a world career…but didn’t. And she was also a really terrific composer…but nobody knew about it. and that was because, back in the early part of the 19th century, women really were not allowed to have careers in music. Her father absolutely forbade her from studying music. Like – you could study music just enough to be a good wife, but certainly not to have a performing career. Women who had performing careers were known often as loose women – it just was not proper for a respectable woman to be performing on the stage. And then in terms of composition – absolutely not! No way could a woman have a career composing.

Interesting story is that when she got married her husband agreed to marry her, but insisted, only if she continued composing. So every morning to encourage that, he would bring down some manuscript paper to encourage her to continue writing.

This Saturday, Jeanette is performing Fanny Mendelssohn’s Das Yar which means ‘The Year.’ There’s twelve movements, each one written for every month of the year, and her writing is just exquisite!

When we listen to music, sometimes you’ll come across a word: virtuosic. Or virtuosi – someone who is just amazingly talented and good at their craft. They’ve been studying for years and years and years, and they have mastery over their instrument, which allows them to do incredibly fast and fiery and difficult passages. In this piece, Jeanette will be playing ALL over that keyboard so fast, with leaps and bounds/ You’ll see her hands flying over it in a blur.  You can get excited listening to it, but when you combine that with actually being at the performance and you see the incredible physical dance of her entire body as she is interacting with this enormous, 9-foot, instrument – it is a stunning theatrical experience. It’s virtuosic. That’s the word.

To match the spookiness of the season, the Sunday Social will focus heavily on Edgar Allan Poe.

SP: Another one of those concerts that we are able to present because of the Bath County Arts Association! We have Chris Semtner from the Edgar Allan Poe Museum in Richmond [VA] coming to do a collaborative concert with Jeanette Fang, our pianist. The Bath County Public Library is helping us present (this weekend) some of his short stories and then a couple of pieces that have been inspired by his short stories.  We are incredibly excited to do a world premiere of a piece written for Jeanette – The Tell Tale Heart. and she will also be playing Alarum Bells by the same composer, Roger Zare. Alarum Bells is for prepared piano, so in this piece you’ll see Jeanette getting inside the piano and doing some really crazy things, rather than just sitting at the keyboard. One of the cool things about this piece is that it has SuperBalls on the piano strings just making this awesome sound!

For more information, www.garthnewel.org 

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