Solo piano and violin-piano duo programs will be free online
By Peter Alexander Oct. 13 at 11:30 p.m.
It has become a streaming world for musicians and audiences alike. As the summer of COVID turns into fall, pianist David Korevaar and violinist Charles Wetherbee from the CU Boulder College of Music are keeping the stream flowing.
Over the summer the duo did a series of four concerts under the auspices of the Snake River Music Festival, and Korevaar did a celebrated series of streamed performances from his home of all 32 piano sonatas and other works by Beethoven. And now they will add new chapters, both Korevaar individually and the two together.
Korevaar will play a solo recital at 6 p.m. Thursday, Oct 15, which will be livestreamed from Schmitt Music in Denver. The program will be all works by Black composers from the early 20th century, starting with Cameos by the English composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor. Korevaar will also play three works by African-American composers: In the Bottoms Suite by R. Nathaniel Dett, the Piano Sonata in E minor by Florence Price, and the Spiritual Suite by Margaret Bonds.
The streamed concert by Korevaar and Wetherbee has already been recorded and will be available on Wetherbee’s YouTube channel starting at 7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16. The works on their joint program are all based on folk sources from different parts of the world, as organized into traditional Western concert forms: Three pieces from Ruralia Hungarica by Ernst von Dohnányi, the Violin Sonata No 3 by George Enescu, Sueños de Chambi by Gabriela Lena Frank, and the Romanian Folk Dances by Béla Bartók.
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Korevaar’s program comes entirely from outside the canonical European repertoire of concert pianists. “What we’re looking at [during the pandemic] is an opportunity—an opportunity to expand,” Korevaar says. “For me, it’s a beginning of something bigger in terms of my own explorations of repertoire that I don’t know.”
Korevaar finds unique qualities in each of the composers and works on the program. “The Coleridge-Taylor miniatures represent something that’s typical of English music of the period. The pieces are called ‘Cameos,’ and the title gives you a sense of the atmosphere. He wrote a lot of shorter piano pieces, and these are typical of that. They are charming,”
Dett was a Canadian-born composer who immigrated to the U.S. “He ends up settling in the South and absorbing the culture, as an outsider,” Korevaar says. “He’s a good composer and a person of amazing curiosity. I’m excited because it’s new to me. I knew his name, I didn’t know his music.
“In the Bottoms Suite is probably his best known piano work. The last movement, the ‘Juba Dance,’ was one of his great hits and was arranged for every possible combination.”
As a composer Price was strongly influenced by Dvořák and his visit to America, although her musical roots were in the Black community where she grew up. “The Sonata [uses] spirituals and the music of the Black church that she was very familiar with, putting that into this very European container, the sonata,” Korevaar says. “It’s really interesting.
“Margaret Bonds was a protege of Price [who] ended up being very much associated with the Harlem Renaissance. The piece I’m playing, Spiritual Suite, is a set of fantasy variations on three different spirituals or traditional songs, which she does a beautiful job with.”
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Friday’s duo recital is a continuation of a series of performances that started over the summer as part of the Snake River Festival. In all of their performances this year, Korevaar says, “we’re really trying to work with composers from underrepresented groups.”
In this case the composers are slightly better known than in Korevaar’s solo program, although most of the works are not. In fact, all but one—the Bartók Romanian Folk Dances—were new to Wetherbee.
“The program was built around two pieces that I wanted to learn, the Enesco Third Violin Sonata and Sueños de Chambi by Gabriela Lena Frank,” he explains. “Although they are different in many ways, they are both built firmly on the foundation of folk music.
“In the case of the Enescu, [it’s] this Romanian Gypsy style that Enescu grew up playing himself. The musical language, the gestures, the harmony and the mannerisms are drawn from Romanian folk traditions.”
Wetherbee and Korevaar both find the sonata to be a serious challenge, reflecting the fact that Enesco himself was a virtuoso pianist and violinist.
Frank grew up in Berkeley, Calif., but she often draws on the music of her mother’s native Peru. Her Sueños de Chambi (Dreams of Chambi), subtitled “an Andean photo album,” was inspired by the work of photographer Martín Chambi who documented the customs and festivals of 20th-century Peru.
“What’s very interesting is that [Frank] often has the violin imitate indigenous instruments, including the flutes,” Wetherbee says. “You get some really unusual and beautiful sounds.”
To frame the two major works of the program, Wetherbee and Korevaar selected two collections of shorter pieces that take eastern European folk music—Hungarian in the case of Dohnányi and Romanian in the case of Bartók—and create easily accessible concert music.
“I do hope that people will not be scared off by works that are all unfamiliar,” Wetherbee says. “ It’s a really beautiful and compelling program.
“These are works that I’d like to play many, many times.”
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6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 15
David Korevaar, piano
Livestream from Schmitt Music, Denver
Samuel Coleridge-Taylor: Cameos
R. Nathaniel Dett: In the Bottoms Suite
Florence Price: Sonata in E Minor
Margaret Bonds: Spiritual Suite
Livestream available at no cost.
7 p.m. Friday, Oct. 16
David Korevaar, piano, and Charles Wetherbee, violin
Hosted by David Ginder of Colorado Public Radio
Streamed on Wetherbee’s YouTube channel
Ernst von Dohnányi: Three Pieces from Ruralia Hungarica
George Enescu: Violin Sonata No. 3
Gabriela Lena Frank: Sueños de Chambi (Dreams of Chambi)
Bartók: Rumanian Folk Dances
Stream available at no cost.