New Music at Willamette

Rolf Schulte, violin with James Winn, piano

Hudson Concert Hall | Willamette University

  • April 30, 2015
  • 7:30 p.m.
  • Suggested donation at the door: $8 Adults; $5 Students. Free to Willamette faculty, staff and students with I.D.


Sonata for Violin and Piano (1926) Ruth Crawford Seeger (1901-1953)

I. Vibrant, agitated
II. Buoyant
III. Mystic, intense
IV. Fast, with bold energy

Rhapsodic Musings (2000) Elliott Carter (1908-2012)

Mnemosyné (2011), Elliott Carter (1908 – 2012)

Lied (ohne Worte) from Serenade, Op. 24 Arnold Schoenberg (1874-1951)
premiere of arrangement for violin and piano by Randa Kirshbaum

Airs du Rossignol and Marche Chinoise from Le Rossignol (1914), Igor Stravinsky (1882-1971)

~ Intermission ~

Cadenza-Caprice from Violin Concerto (2000), John Peel (1946-)

Second Sonata in two movements (1922), Béla Bartók (1881 – 1945)

I. Molto moderato
II. Allegretto


Ruth Crawford Seeger Sonata for Violin and Piano

Ruth Crawford Seeger received her musical education in Chicago at the American Conservatory of Music (1921-24) and independently with Adolph Weidig (1923-29). She also took piano lessons with D. Lavoie Herz, a Canadian disciple of Skrjabin.

Seeger wrote two-thirds of her compositions in Chicago during the 1920s, prior to a 1929 stay at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire. She then began studying “dissonant counterpoint” in New York with musicologist and composer Charles Seeger, whom she eventually married. His ideas were crucial to her works of a second style period from 1930 to 1933, during which time she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Berlin and Paris. Examples of this period are Nine Piano Preludes and Violin Sonata, which received a performance at “Music by Six Young Americans,” a League of Composers concert in New York. The concert included works by Copland and Blitzstein in 1927, and the following year at the inaugural concert of the Chicago chapter of the ISCM.

The first movement of the Sonata for Violin and Piano opens with intense bell-like chords, immediately setting the tone for passionate ruminations, at times reminiscent of Berg’s song Op. 2 no. 1 “Schlafen” and later, one of Ravel’s Valses nobles et sentimentales. The second is a light scherzo in irregular rhythm and takes the place, if you want, of Mahler’s Andante con moto in his Second Symphony. The existential and somber, short slow movement segues into the energetic finale, not unlike the adagio of Mozart’s String Quartet in g-minor. Its concise material goes through gentler lyrical permutations before the themes of the first and third movements reappear briefly at the end.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

Elliott Carter Rhapsodic Musings

“Is there no end to this man’s creativity?” writes Robert Mann in the preface to the recent publication of Elliott Carter’s Five String Quartets. In Carter’s 94th year, he continued to write music of impressive vitality, inspiration and freshness, including his first (chamber) opera, What Next?, a cello concerto and a large orchestral work for the Boston Symphony.

Of Rhapsodic Musings the composer writes: “It is a present to Robert Mann on his 80th birthday and a small tribute to his extraordinarily devoted advocacy of contemporary music. As is well-known, with the other members of the Juilliard Quartet he gave such pioneering and commanding performances of string quartets by Bartók, Schoenberg and many others, including my own, that many of these works became part of the performers’ repertory. His teaching and other activities brought these scores to the attention of students and the public. Using his initials R.M. in the title of this short violin solo and in its main motive – re, mi (D, E) – this piece tries to suggest some of his remarkable human and artistic qualities. It was composed in June 2000 in Southbury, Connecticut.”

—Note by Rolf Schulte

Elliott Carter Mnemosyné

On November 17, 2011, shortly before his 103rd birthday, Carter composed Mnemosyné based on a dream about his late wife, Helen. In Greek mythology, Mnemosyne is the goddess of memory and the mother of the nine muses, presiding over song, poetry, the arts and sciences. I premiered the work at a concert at the 92nd Street Y in New York City in his presence. It is a quiet monody, in 4/4 meter.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

Arnold Schönberg “VI. Lied (ohne Worte)” from Serenade, Op. 24

It is rare that one gets to record a piece twice, as I did with Schoenberg’s Serenade, Op. 24. (The first time was with the Light Fantastic players, Daniel Schulman conducting on Nonesuch; the second was in Robert Craft’s series of the complete Schoenberg and Webern works on Naxos). Ever since, I have felt that the lovely, almost innocent “Lied (ohne Worte),” strategically placed between the raucous “Tanzscene” and the repeat of the opening “March,” would lend itself to a violin/piano transcription. When I mentioned it to my friend Randa Kirshbaum, an experienced arranger and composer, she was immediately enthusiastic. She created a beautiful arrangement -- no easy task considering the incorporation of guitar, mandolin, bass clarinet and cello lines, with the violin part almost entirely untouched.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

Igor Stravinsky Airs du Rossignol et Marche Chinoise

After Stravinsky wrote the Violin Concerto and Duo Concertant in 1931-32 for the Polish/Russian violinist Samuel Dushkin, the two musicians toured for two to three years with both of these pieces (the concerto in piano reduction). They increasingly added to their programs transcriptions from other Stravinsky works, such as Suite Italienne (after Pulcinella), Divertimento (Le baiser de la fée) and movements from Firebird and Petroushka. Those arrangements include two from the opera Le Rossignol (1908-14), based on a Hans Christian Andersen tale.

The achingly wistful Airs du Rossignol represents the nightingale chant that moves the Chinese emperor to tears. The pomp and circumstance of the Marche Chinoise, though pentatonic, is decidedly more Russian. The increasingly complex meters and virtuosity in its vigorous middle section are almost reminiscent of Tchaikovsky’s Violin Concerto. The piano writing compares in virtuosity with the piano arrangement of Petroushka.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

John Peel Cadenza-Caprice

The Cadenza-Caprice is an extract and reworking of the cadenza to my Concerto for Violin and Orchestra, premiered in 2000 by the Riverside Symphony with violinist Joseph Lin. In the concerto, this cadenza serves as both a recapitulation of the first movement and a transition into the following slow movement. Without the accompanying concerto, listening to the cadenza presents the challenge of not knowing the full orchestral setting that the solo violin encapsulates and paraphrases. In order to create a stand-alone piece, I have expanded the cadenza and transformed the piece into a quixotic and capricious fantasy in which the ideas evolve, recur and connect internally.

—Note by John Peel

Béla Bartók Second Sonata

Throughout his life, Béla Bartók created music inextricably linked with the important violinists of his time. He wrote his Violin Concerto No. 1 (Op. post.) for Stefi Geyer, the object of his youthful infatuation. Bartók dedicated the First Rhapsody and Contrasts to Josef Szigeti, with whom he made the legendary 1940 recording of the Second Sonata at the Library of Congress. The Violin Concerto No. 2 is dedicated to Zoltán Székely, the leader of the Hungarian Quartet, and Yehudi Menuhin, tireless interpreter of the First Sonata and the Concerto No. 2. Menuhin also commissioned the Solo Sonata (1944).

Both Violin Sonatas (1921 and 1922) were written for Jelly d’Arányi, a grand-niece of Joseph Joachim. D’Arányi’s improvisation at a reception after the premiere of the First Sonata in Paris so impressed Maurice Ravel that he wrote his concert rhapsody Tzigane for her; she was later instrumental in unearthing the Schumann Violin Concerto.

The two violin sonatas form an important part in Bartók’s evolution as a composer. Upon the discovery of Schubert’s two Piano Trios, Op. 99 and 100, Schumann called the first feminine in temperament, and the second masculine – but the opposite can be said about these sonatas. The first, in three sprawling movements with huge atonal intervallic leaps, is as close as Bartók gets to Schoenberg’s Expressionism. The second, in two idiomatic Hungarian folk-style movements (lassu-friss) is harmonically much more indebted to Debussy. Meticulously notated, it nonetheless gives the effect of a free improvisation, with endless changes of color and tonal shadings in the melancholic opening movement. Its two main themes are presented first by the violin pizzicato, then the piano over biting violin ostinati, followed by variation processes that come at you in waves. Before multiple codas, the piano bursts free in a majestic solo of the second theme; and after a furious cadenza of the violin, the opening movement’s main theme returns in ecstatic fashion – representing some of the most glorious moments of 20th century music.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

About The Artists

Rolf Schulte, whom The New Yorker has called “one of the most distinguished violinists of our day,” started playing the violin at age five under his father’s tutelage. He later studied with Kurt Schäffer at the Robert Schumann Conservatory in Düsseldorf, attended Yehudi Menuhin’s summer course in Gstaad, Switzerland, and studied with Franco Gulli at the Accademia Chigiana in Siena before moving to the United States to study with Ivan Galamian at The Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia. At age 14, he made his orchestral debut with the Philharmonia Hungarica in Cologne, playing Mendelssohn’s Violin Concerto.

He has since performed with the Berlin Philharmonic, the Frankfurt Museums Orchester, the Stuttgart Staatsorchester, the Bamberg Symphony, the Orchestra del Teatro La Fenice in Venice (in Stravinsky’s Concerto under Robert Craft), the RTE Irish National Symphony in Dublin, and the Radio Orchestras of Berlin (RSO), Cologne (WDR), and Stuttgart (SDR) under conductors Christoph von Dohnányi, György Lehel, Tamas Vásary, Dennis R. Davies, Daniel Nazareth, Alexander Lazarov, Guido Ajmone-Marsan and many others. In 1990 he performed Roger Sessions’ Violin Concerto with the Radio Orchestra of the USSR in Moscow under the direction of Lukas Foss and presented American music in recital.

Among the works Schulte has premiered are Donald Martino’s Violin Concerto, Tobias Picker’s Concerto with the American Composer’s Orchestra at Lincoln Center (recorded by CRI), Milton Babbitt’s The Joy of More Sextets at the Library of Congress (New World Records), Mario Davidovsky’s Synchronisms No. 9 at M.I.T. (Vergo), and Elliott Carter’s Fantasy at Harvard. American premieres include György Kurtág’s Kafka Fragments at Tanglewood, Poul Ruder’s Violin Concerto No. 1 (Bridge Records), and Elliott Carter’s Riconoscenza per Goffredo Petrassi.

Schulte has appeared with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and the 1990 Kuhmo Music Festival in Finland. His numerous recital performances include the cycle of ten Beethoven sonatas at Harvard, Dartmouth and Middlebury colleges, and the complete violin works of Igor Stravinsky at the 92nd St. Y and Berliner Festwochen, among other places. From 1999-2001 he held a residency at Harvard University during which he presented new works by Carter, Donald Martino (Romanza) and Milton Babbitt (Little Goes a Long Way).
His long and distinguished discography includes recordings of Arnold Schoenberg’s Violin Concerto with the Philharmonia Orchestra (Koch International, re-issued on Naxos), Robert Schumann’s Works for Violin and Piano (Centaur Records), and several pieces of Elliott Carter: Duo and Riconoscenza, the Violin Concerto (with the Odense Symphony) and Four Lands (all on Bridge Records). Recent recordings include the Schoenberg Phantasy, Op. 47 and String Trio Op. 45 (Naxos, nominated for a 2010 Grammy award).

In 2012, Schulte joined the faculty of the Graduate Center, City University of New York, where he teaches violin and chamber music. He performs on a 1780 violin made by Lorenzo Storioni, Cremona.

James Winn, piano and composition professor at the University of Nevada, Reno since 1997, made his professional debut with the Denver Symphony at the age of thirteen, and has been performing widely in North America, Europe and Asia ever since.

With his duo-piano partner, Cameron Grant, he was a recipient of the top prize given in the two-piano category of the 1980 Munich Competition (Musical America wrote about the team “Not since Josef and Rosina Lhevinne regaled us in the thirties have we heard such technical prowess paired with such genuine musical values”).
Winn has been a solo pianist with the New York City Ballet, a member of the New York New Music Ensemble, of Hexagon (woodwind quintet plus piano) and the pianist and resident composer of the Telluride Chamber Music Festival. He has been a frequent guest with the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center, Speculum Musicae, the Washington Square Contemporary Music Series, the Chamber Music Society of Sacramento, the Group for Contemporary Music, Cactus Pear Chamber Music Festival, La Musica International Chamber Music Festival and Bargemusic.

Well-known as a specialist in new music, Winn has been involved in numerous world premieres and premiere recordings by many renowned composers, among them 13 Pulitzer Prize winners. He is currently a member of Argenta, UNR’s resident piano trio. An active recording artist, he is featured in more than three dozen CDs as soloist, chamber musician and composer. He has received numerous career recognitions including an Artist Fellowship from the Nevada State Council of the Arts and, in 2009, the Governor’s Award for Excellence in the Arts.


New Music at Willamette concerts are certainly an ensemble effort. Thanks to Terra Hurdle for contracting and administration; Melissa Kreutz Gallardo, Mike Wright and Tina Owen for program and publicity; Mike Bergh for technical support; Susie Thompson-Drain and Diane Trevett for music office support.

New Music at Willamette

New Music at Willamette, under the direction of composer-in-residence John Peel, is a series of concerts, residencies and lectures dedicated to the music of our time. New Music at Willamette is funded by the Irene Gerlinger Swindells Chair in Music and by the College of Liberal Arts. For more information, please contact the Willamette University Department of Music at 503-370-6255.