Tuesday, November 15, 2005

interview of soloists for Bach double violin concerto


The familiar opening phrase of Bach’s Concerto for Two Violins and Orchestra in D Minor stirs and excites memories for all violinists, and possibly for all classical music enthusiasts. Bach composed the piece around 1730 and many famous violinists have been attracted to the exuberance of the concerto over the years, including artists as varied as jazz violin greats, Stephane Grappelli and Django Reinhardt. Each movement is rich with repeated contrapuntal imitation, in which the orchestra and soloists interact as friends in an intimate, conversation-like style.
As violinists and Ithaca College Violin Professors Susan Waterbury and Rebecca Ansel coined it, the beloved concerto is “a friends’ piece.” The duo performed the Bach Double with Conductor Chris Kim and the Cornell Chamber Orchestra at the November 13th concert, and their communication both on and off the stage is indicative of why they’re so much fun to listen to and to watch play, as their shared love of music and their friendship becomes clear. When asked about their first exposure to the piece, both Waterbury and Ansel beamed with the chance to reminisce.
For Ansel, who has taught at Ithaca College since 2002, while this was the first time she had performed the Concerto in its entirety, she performed the first movement of the piece when she was about age twelve at Appel-Farm Music Camp in New Jersey. She remembers it as her first duo concerto ever played, and since then she has performed movements of the piece on various occasions. Waterbury, who has taught at Ithaca College since 2000, remembered her first time with the Bach Double as reading the piece through in middle-school in her living room with her best violin friend. As she recalled, “Violinists are an odd bunch, so it’s a special connection to find someone with whom you can share this appreciation for music, especially at that age. And, the Bach Double is perfect for that. The parts are equal, and it’s very much a friends’ piece.” As Ansel added, “If you asked any of the violinists in the orchestra, they would most likely have similar memories of the first time they played this piece and probably, it would have been with their best violin friend.”
Waterbury and Ansel’s choice words to describe the piece include “fun, effervescent, sweet, intimate, and conversational.” In addition to their delight in playing the concerto together as friends, they spoke fondly of the opportunity to play with Cornell students and with Conductor Chris Kim.
On a personal note, I remember playing the Bach Double as my first real public performance, or at least as the first time I felt like I was a real violinist. I was age eleven, close to the age when Waterbury and Ansel first found their love for the piece. In a crowded public middle-school holiday concert with an audience of nearly 400 near Houston, Texas, I performed the first movement of the concerto with a friend. I even had a special new dress, christened, “The Bach Double Dress.” It was a spiritual experience for me – I felt the violin gods had granted me the opportunity to share this piece with an audience who, for the most part, had probably never been exposed to Bach’s music, let alone a double concerto for violins. But, more than the obligation to fulfill this musical mission, I had fun, playing a piece that always makes me want to do a gigue, and that brings a smile as I pass and receive the melody line to a friend on the fiddle next to me.
[from the December 2005 Whole Notes by Brightin Schlumpf]

1 comment:

Lindsy said...
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