Violinist Nicholas DiEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon release a recording representing three generations of composers, linked through the eminent Steven Stucky, whose recent passing in 2016 left the contemporary music community in a state of mourning. Alongside the world premiere recording of Stucky's violin sonata in which he responds personally to the historical lineage of the form, the recording includes the duo's elegant and sensitive performances of premieres by Stucky's teacher and mentor, Robert Palmer, and two of his most accomplished students, Tonia Ko and Jesse Jones.
|01||...in dulcet tones (2013)|
...in dulcet tones (2013)
Sonata for Violin and Piano (2013)Steven Stucky (1949-2016)
Plush Earth in Four Pieces for violin and piano (2014)Tonia Ko
Sonata for Violin and Piano (1956)Robert Palmer (1915-2010)
|09||I. Andante Sostenuto|
I. Andante Sostenuto
|10||II. Allegro e molto ritmico|
II. Allegro e molto ritmico
|12||IV. Allegro moderato—molto vivace e scherzando|
IV. Allegro moderato—molto vivace e scherzando
Musical ideas that are passed down through tutelage and mentorship also owe a debt to the shared geographical proximity that is the fruit of a community. This elegant recording by the duo of violinist Nicholas DiEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon is an hommage to the late composer Steven Stucky but also to his longtime home of Ithaca, NY, a center for the American compositional tradition for generations of composers. With this release, the duo honors Stucky’s memory through their warm and passionate premiere recording of his Sonata for Violin and Piano, but also through the premiere recording of his teacher and longtime Cornell University professor Robert Palmer’s sonata, and premieres of works by two of Stucky’s most successful students, Tonia Ko and Jesse Jones. Jones’ evocative ...in dulcet tones unfolds with crystalline arpeggiated passages that are contrasted with long lyrical melodies. Jones skillfully negotiates different stylistic traditions, toggling between romantic pathos and impressionistic sound painting as suits the organic unfolding of the music. Stucky’s sonata engages more self-consciously with the tradition, looking particularly towards Debussy’s famous work for this instrumentation, and its balance between composerly manipulation of material and episodes of fantasy. The inward, occasionally impassioned “Interlude” serves as a bridge before the final movement’s dance between con fuoco and wistful sections. Tonia Ko’s Plush Earth in Four Pieces is inspired by author Vladimir Nabokov’s impressions of Ithaca, his home for ten years. Ko’s work, is comprised of four character pieces, each exploring a different texture and affect. The first is alternatively annunciatory and insistent, the second is reminiscent of a toccata, though through a prism, the third is a study of glissandi on both instruments (slow, plaintive slides on the violin, and fast, inside the piano swipes), and the last a meditation on clusters, trills, and ethereal ascending lines. Palmer’s expansive mid- century sonata is symphonic in its scope, with searching, anxiety filled andante and adagio movements, and a rigorous and rhythmic allegro which displays shades of Shostakovich-esque mock militarism. The shifting meter opening of the final movement creates anticipation before a driving scherzando closes this substantial work. DiEugenio and Solomon give these works committed and virtuosic performances throughout, highlighting the colorful textures in the Ko and Jones with sensitivity and underscoring the large scale structure in the Palmer and Stucky with conviction and control. This wonderful collection captures the spirit of what might be seen as an Ithaca sound — a blend of east coast modernism with neo-romantic and neo-classical sensibilities, with a rich sense of color that underscores the music’s tendency towards thoughtful introspection.
Produced by Tom Chiu
Engineer: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio www.oktavenaudio.com
Editing, Mixing, and Mastering: Ryan Streber, Oktaven Audio
Recording Location and dates: Oktaven Audio, December 28, 2015 to December 30, 2015 (Tracks 1,9,10,11,12); May 31, 2015 to June 4, 2015 (Tracks 2-8)
Edited and Mixed at Oktaven Audio
Art and Design: Aestheticize Media
Liner Notes: Nicholas DiEugenio and Mimi Solomon
Praised by the New York Times for his “excellent” and “evocative” playing, violinist Nicholas DiEugenio leads a versatile life as chamber musician, leader, and soloist in music ranging from Biber to Carter and beyond. A core member of the Sebastians, a period group hailed as “top notch” by the New Yorker and “everywhere sharp-edged and engaging” by the New York Times, Nicholas also performs and records with pianist Mimi Solomon and has performed with mentors and colleagues such as Ani Kavafian, Laurie Smukler, Joel Krosnick, Peter Salaff, Joseph Lin, and Robert Mealy, and in venues ranging from Carnegie’s Weill Recital Hall and New York’s Trinity Wall Street to the Brooke Army Medical Center in San Antonio, TX and Rose Live Music in Brooklyn. Along with conductor Jeffery Meyer, Nicholas commissioned and premiered Loren Loiacono’s Concerto for Violin and Strings with the St. Petersburg Chamber Philharmonic in Glinka Hall, and has commissioned and premiered Nobody’s, a solo violin work by composer Ted Hearne. Nicholas has twice been a prize winner at the Fischoff Competition; his award-winning recording of the three Schumann violin sonatas with Chi-Chen Wu is available on the Musica Omnia label. Nicholas has also recorded for the innova, New Focus, and Naxos labels. Currently Assistant Professor of Violin at UNC Chapel Hill, Nicholas was previously violin professor at the Ithaca College School of Music. Nicholas teaches at the Kinhaven Music School during the summers, and holds BM and MM degrees from the Cleveland Institute of Music and an AD and DMA from the Yale School of Music.
American pianist Mimi Solomon enjoys a multi-faceted career as a chamber musician, soloist, and teacher. She has performed throughout the United States, China, Japan and Europe, has appeared as soloist with orchestras including Shanghai Symphony, Philharmonia Virtuosi, and Yale Symphony Orchestra, and has been featured on numerous radio and television broadcasts including the McGraw-Hill Young Artist’s Showcase, France 3, France Inter and National Public Radio. An avid chamber musician, Mimi regularly appears at music festivals on both sides of the Atlantic such as Santander, IMS Prussia Cove, Lockenhaus, Rencontres de Bel-Air, Ravinia, Taos, Norfolk, Yellow Barn, Charlottesville, La Loingtaine and Aspen. Mimi spends part of every year coaching and performing chamber music at Kinhaven Festival in Vermont, and has taught at Cornell University, East Carolina University, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and Ithaca College. Mimi graduated cum laude in East Asian Studies from Yale, went on to receive a Master of Music from Juilliard, and then studied and freelanced as a chamber musician and soloist in Paris for nearly a decade. Her main teachers were Peter Frankl and Robert McDonald, and she has also played regularly for Ferenc Rados and studied the pianoforte with Patrick Cohen. She currently lives in Chapel Hill, NC with her husband, violinist Nicholas DiEugenio.
The legacy of the late American composer, conductor and longtime Cornell University professor Steven Stucky (1949–2016) is memorialized in Into the Silence, an album of works for violin and piano released by the adventuresome independent label New Focus Recordings in 2017. The album includes performances by violinist Nicholas DiEugenio and pianist Mimi Solomon of sonatas by Stucky and his teacher (and Cornell predecessor) Robert Palmer as well as of shorter works by Stucky’s own former students Tonia Ko and Jesse Jones. Though three generations of composers are represented with music composed across a gap of almost six decades (Palmer’s sonata dates from 1956; the Stucky, Jones, and Ko works were all written within a year of one another from 2013–14), the album’s remarkable stylistic consistency speaks to Cornell’s central role in cultivating that particular aesthetic strand in American music to which various “Neo-” prefixes are so frequently appended: “Neoclassicism,” “Neoromanticism,” and the like.
But such taxonomies of style have only limited utility, and the disc’s featured composers distinguish themselves in diverse ways. Palmer’s Sonata for Violin and Piano, cast in a traditional and weighty four-movement plan prioritizing slow-to-moderate tempi over fast ones, exhibits much of the “grave lyricism” for which Stucky admired the composer in his 2010 tribute for New Music USA: the first movement finds a sinuous, chromatic monologue in the violin unfurling over darkly-chiming octaves in the piano, with the third continuing in much the same vein after an extensive second movement alternating stern, march-like figures with rhapsodic musings from both instruments. The finale opens with a sweetly melodic accompanied solo which becomes gradually more discursive and wide-ranging, eventually developing into a toccata with a whiff of the Ivesian hoedown (Ives was among Palmer’s favorites, as Stucky notes).
The most obvious precedent to Stucky’s Violin Sonata comes not in the form of any of Ives’s essays in that genre, nor in the Classical or Romantic models, but in the concise, mysterious Debussy sonata of 1917. Writing almost a century later, Stucky borrows that work’s three-part design (even as far as suggesting Debussy’s movement headings in the “Interlude” and “Scherzo-Finale”) and retains some of its elliptical expressive posture, but demonstrates a greater disposition toward the sparely lyric than toward the French composer’s glittering, fantastical textures. The work begins with the violin almost unaccompanied, spinning out into the upper register a widely-spaced melody which prominently features the open-fifth sonorities characteristic of the instrument. Triplet figurations passed between violin and piano form the main body of the first movement; a short closing section brings the violinist neatly back down to the solid ground of the open G string in a mirror-image of the introduction. This G serves as the starting point for the following “Interlude” (linking pitches connect all three movements of the work); Stucky referred to this introspective fantasia in his own notes as being “something like a sketch for a slow movement.” Far away, then, from the curiously fugitive world of Debussy’s “Intermède.” But Stucky does arrive at a fleet “Scherzo-Finale,” whose profusion of nervous triplets and repeated notes recall the first movement as well as the music of Witold Lutosławski, about whom Stucky’s 1981 biography remains one of the crucial texts on the Polish composer.
Such music also features prominently in the second movement of Tonia Ko’s Plush Earth in Four Pieces, providing a fitting link between the world of elder statesmen and that of a new guard. Ko is both a composer and visual artist, and her music exhibits something of the sculptor’s attitude in its frequent presentation of simple, unadorned materials in the manner of objets trouvés. In the first piece, staccato articulations and violin pizzicato sounds ricochet against piano arpeggiations with short glissandi to close; in “Jewel,” the aforementioned repeating figures are interposed with high twittering (or ‘glinting,’ to continue Ko’s own metaphor). The glissando is developed slightly further in the third movement, while the last, “Mud,” begins with obscure, low piano music as a basis for simple, climbing scalar formations in both instruments. Nothing is fussed over or elaborated at length (the whole thing is over in under 12 minutes), but the work gains from concision.
Jesse Jones’ …in dulcet tones is of a similar scale and scope to Plush Earth, and brings together in microcosm nearly all of the most prominent figurative elements of the other pieces on this album (though the Debussian filigrée which Stucky eschews is richly paraded here). Distant arpeggiations, bell-tones, rapid toccata-like music and a series of dramatic denouements give a cinematic sense. A single-movement concertpiece in one long (if frequently interruptive) arc, Jones’s is perhaps the most straightforward of all the works collected here, a fitting counterpoint to the more complex sonatas and mobile-like structures of Palmer, Stucky and Ko.
Into the Silence coheres well as a tribute album, and its inclusion of Ko and Jones’s music alongside the previously-unrecorded Palmer sonata leaves a favorable impression of homage both to Stucky’s roots and living memory. DiEugenio’s terse, spare approach bears noting, sometimes recalling the deliberately-astringent style of Paul Zukofsky—he seems particularly well-suited to the austere works of Stucky and Palmer, though this stance sometimes threatens thinness in the violin’s middle-high register. Mimi Solomon likewise plays commendably, with color and verve; together the two present a touching, committed testament to a unique presence in American music.
— Andrew Stock, 2.2.2018, I Care if You Listen