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 (1926), Ruth Crawford  (1901 – 53)

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 Arnold Schoenberg

Serenade, Op. 24 – (1874 – 1951) premiere of arrangement for violin and piano by Randa Kirshbaum

Airs du Rossignol and Marche Chinoise, Igor Stravinsky

from Le Rossignol (1882 – 1971)


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 Sonata for Violin and Piano 

Ruth Crawford 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.

It was before she left Chicago, after a stay at the MacDowell Colony in New Hampshire (1929), for New York to study “dissonant counterpoint” with the musicologist and composer Charles Seeger (who was to become her husband) whose ideas were crucial to her works of a “second style period” from 1930-33 during which she received a Guggenheim Fellowship to study in Berlin and Paris, that two thirds of her  ompositions were written. Examples of this period are Nine Piano Preludes, and the Violin Sonata which received an early performance at a League of Composers concert in New York titled “Music by Six Young Americans” which also 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 is put through gentler lyrical permutations before the themes of movements one and three 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 hardcover). In Carter’s 94th year, he continued to write music of impressive vitality, inspiration and freshness, having recently completed 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

Mnemosyné was composed on November 17, 2011, shortly before Carter’s 103rd birthday. I premiered it at a concert at the 92nd Street Y in New York City in his presence. It was written upon a dream he had 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. 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 with the Light Fantastic players, Daniel Schulman conducting on Nonesuch, the second on 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, and proceeded to create a beautiful arrangement, not an easy task considering the incorporation of guitar, mandolin, bass clarinet, and cello lines, while the violin part is almost entirely untouched.

—Note by Rolf Schulte

Igor Stravinsky Airs du Rossignol et Marche Chinoise

After writing the Violin Concerto and Duo Concertant in 1931-2 for the Polish/Russian violinist Samuel Dushkin, Stravinsky and Dushkin toured for two to three years with both of these pieces (the Concerto in piano reduction), and increasingly added transcriptions from other Stravinsky works to their programs, such as Suite Italienne (after Pulcinella), Divertimento (Le baiser de la fée), movements from Firebird and Petroushka, etc. Among those arrangements are two from the opera Le Rossignol

(1908-14) on a Hans Christian Andersen tale, the achingly wistful Airs du Rossignol (the chant with which the nightingale moves the Chinese emperor to tears) and the pomp and circumstance of the Marche Chinoise which, though pentatonic, is decidedly more Russian, especially its vigorous middle section in increasingly complex meters and virtuosity, 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 setting that the solo violin is encapsulating and paraphrasing. In order to create a stand-alone piece, I have expanded the cadenza and transformed the piece into a quixotic and capricious fantasy where the ideas have a chance to evolve, recur and connect internally.

—Note by John Peel

Béla Bartók Second Sonata

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

Both Violin Sonatas (1921 and ’22) were written for Jelly d’Arányi, a grand-niece of Joseph Joachim, whose improvising 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. If Schumann, upon the then recent discovery of Schubert’s two Piano Trios, Op. 99 and 100, called the first feminine in temperament, and the second masculine, the opposite can be said about these Sonatas: the first, in three sprawling movements, is as close to Schoenberg’s Expressionism, with its huge atonal intervallic leaps, as Bartók gets, while the second, in two idiomatic Hungarian folk-style movements (lassu-friss) is harmonically much more indebted to Debussy. Meticulously notated, the effect is nonetheless that of a free improvisation, with endless changes of color and tonal shadings in the melancholy opening movement. The two main themes of the second are presented first by the violin pizzicato, then the piano over biting violin ostinati, and are immediately put through variation processes that come at you in waves. When, 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, these are some of the most glorious moments of 20th century music.

—Note by Rolf Schulte


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


Event Poster [PDF]

The Artists:

  • Rolf Schulte, Violin
  • James Winn, Piano

About the artists