IMG_8532editedbnw_edited.jpg

Audio

Suite for Violin and Piano
Benjamin Britten

Written and edited over a span of several years, this early work from Britten feels in many ways like a collection of character pieces. Nearing the end of his time at the Royal College of Music in London, the young Britten wished to continue his composition studies with Alban Berg whom he idolized. In 1934, Britten and his mother traveled to Vienna to meet with Berg and although the studious partnership was not to be, the trip did have a distinct influence on Britten’s compositional interests.

The suite opens with a mechanical March demonstrating Britten's penchant for more contemporary styles, followed by a lamenting Lullaby foretelling Britten's skills as a composer for opera. Flavors of Johann Strauss and the traditional Viennese dance music colour the final Waltz movement, albeit modernized by Britten's distinct harmonic language.

1 Intro and MarchSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 03:08
2 LullabySarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 04:51
3 WaltzSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 05:34

Suite for Violin and Piano
William Grant Stilli

1 African DancerSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 05:23
2 Mother and ChildSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 07:26
3 GaminSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 02:10

Acclaimed African American composer William Grant Still was a key figure in the Harlem Renaissance of 1920s and 30s New York City. The Great Migration of southern blacks into industrial northern cities led to the creation of communities where black artists, poets, writers, and musicians could celebrate their own culture and begin to thrive. William Grant Still’s Suite for Violin and Piano demonstrates this artistic mingling through its use of the works of fellow Harlem Renaissance artists as inspirations.

African Dancer, by Richmond Barthé, is a sculpture that depicts a female dancer full of energy and vitality. Sargent Johnson’s painting Mother and Child is notable for the simple dignity and flowing lines it uses to display this parental embrace. The final movement, Gamin, is dedicated to a statue of a young boy by Augusta Savage which contrasts a look of aged wisdom on a youthful face. By incorporating blues harmonies and melodic idioms into a piece in the western classical tradition, Grant Still makes these works of visual art dance.

Selections from Porgy and Bess
George Gershwin arr.. Jascha Heifetz

Alongside his masterful performances of the standards of virtuosic violin repertoire, Jascha Heifetz was also known for his playful encore arrangements. This varied collection includes works by familiar romantic and modern composers such as Chopin, Rachmaninoff, and Debussy as well as works by composers working in more popular styles such as Kurt Weill, Stephen Foster, and George Gershwin. Gershwin and Heifetz, in fact, were personal friends and before his premature death, Gershwin had promised to write Heifetz a violin concerto.

 

The two selections recorded here are from a suite of arrangements Heifetz made of tunes from Gershwin’s opera Porgy and Bess. “Bess, You is My Woman Now,” the great love duet between Porgy and Bess, is the romantic high point of the opera while “It Ain’t Necessarily So” is a far cheekier number sung by the duplicitous character Sportin’ Life.

Bess, You is My Woman NowSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 05:42
It Ain't Necessarily SoSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 02:41

Pale Blue Dot
Aileen Sweeney

Pale Blue DotSarah Wagner, Neil Sutcliffe
00:00 / 04:54

Note:  The following notes were provided by the composer

2020 is the 30th anniversary of one of the most iconic photographs in recent history. On 14th February 1990, NASA’s Voyager mission was speeding out of our solar system, at a distance of 3.7 billion miles from the sun when it was instructed to turn around and take a photograph of our planet before zooming out into interstellar space.

The photo was orchestrated by Carl Sagan which became known as the “Pale Blue Dot.” Sagan remarked that “to me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and to cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we have ever known.”

2020 has been a very unique year but I like to try and remember to look at things in perspective every once and a while.