Sunday afternoon, Feb. 6, at 5 PM, I'll be doing a slightly-under-an-hour recital at Trinity Episcopal Cathedral in Columbia, just across Sumter Street from the State Capitol building. The interior of the sanctuary at Trinity has recently undergone a magnificent renovation and it's a great place both to listen to music and in which to play music. I'll be doing three pieces that all deal with the concept of "variations" in music, and are each almost exactly the same length, about 16-17 minutes in each case. I'll be opening with the famous D minor Chaconne from the 2nd Partita for solo violin by J.S. Bach, in the arrangement by Johannes Brahms for piano, left hand alone. (See Bach's manuscript original of the opening, above). The program closes with Beethoven's next-to-next-to-last piano sonata, in E Major, Op. 109. That sonata's final movement is one of the most sublime sets of "Theme and Variations" that Beethoven ever wrote, a real journey of the spirit made more poignant by LVB's hearkening back to a Baroque-and-earlier tradition of repeating the theme after all the variations have concluded.
In-between this Bach-and-Beethoven sandwich is a remarkable work by USC's own John Fitz Rogers, the "Blue River Variations," penned in 2003 for the virtuoso USC piano professor Marina Lomazov and later brilliantly recorded by her. I wrote the liner notes for that recording, which you can read here. It's a major work, also a powerful emotional journey, and superbly written for the instrument. I hope more pianists take up its cause. This has been a big year locally for Rogers: in November his Concerto for Two Pianos was premiered by the SC Philharmonic and the same week, at the same place where my recital will be taking place, the Trinity Choirs and the SC Phil under the direction of Jared Johnson premiered Rogers' 7-movement offering for the reopening of the Cathedral, Magna Mysteria, indeed Rogers' magnum opus to date.
Then, Monday evening at 7:30 PM at the USC School of Music, speaking of John Fitz Rogers, it's another evening of the superb series he curates, Southern Exposure. This installment is an all-Stravinsky affair, as a co-production with the school's Chamber Innovista series, so the concert will feature many of the stellar faculty we are lucky to have in this town. I'm particularly excited to hear the neoclassic Octet, written in 1923 and a shock in its own way to many listeners who were just beginning to try to come to grips with Stravinsky's revolutionary works of the 1910's, including Rite of Spring. Of the Octet, Aaron Copland said:
I can attest to the general feeling of mystification that followed the initial hearing. Here was Stravinsky . . . now suddenly, without any seeming explanation, making an about-face and presenting a piece to the public that bore no conceivable resemblance to the individual style with which he had hitherto been identified. . . . No one could possibly have foreseen . . . that the Octet was destined to influence composers all over the world.
After all that music on Sunday and Monday, time for some political activism on Tuesday. As mentioned in my last post, the South Carolina Arts Alliance is organizing an Arts Advocacy Day at the State House beginning at 11:30 AM. This is a chance for all of us to stand and be counted when it comes to the kind of South Carolina we envision for the future.