The NOVA Chamber Music Series, which opens its new season Sunday, promises to stay true to its well established tradition of mixing standard repertoire with contemporary works. “Every concert is structured on a dichotomy of new and old,” said series artistic director Jason Hardink in a recent interview with Reichel Recommends. “It’s a balanced representation of truly great works of the past plus a cross representation of works by composers now alive or recently alive.”
This season, however, will be slightly different than previous ones, in that a Utah composer will be featured at all but two of the six concerts. “There’s definitely a theme running through the season,” Hardink said.
At this Sunday’s concert Michael Hicks, a member of the Brigham Young University music faculty, will be spotlighted with two works: Diode, written for husband and wife violinists Alex and Aubrey Woods, and which they premiered about two weeks ago at BYU, and the older Strategy of Looms, for string quartet.
In a phone interview Hicks discussed the story behind Diode.
“I was going to write a piece for Alex that he could play with his wife, since there aren’t many duos for two violins. I had been working on it for a month or so. I felt it was an OK piece but I wasn’t excited about it.”
While in the midst of composing, Alex Woods injured himself in a bike accident and couldn’t use his right hand. “All of a sudden I was excited about it [the piece], not because he injured himself, of course, but because of the possibilities it offered. It appealed to me because of what I’m interested in sonically.”
In Diode, Aubrey Woods plays her violin in the normal way, while her husband plucks his instrument in various ways. He also occasionally fingers his wife’s violin while she bows.
Aubrey and Alex Woods in BYU's Madsen Recital Hall
“It’s really a piece for two violins and three hands,” Hardink said. “It’s two independent voices trying to come together.”
“It’s a very serious kind of piece for two people who are very close,” Hicks said, adding that the work shows how they can adapt while one is temporarily injured. “Both Alex and Aubrey are so passionate and so attuned to the piece, they will make something fine out of it,” Hicks said.
While Diode is a brand new work, Strategy of Looms is over 20 years old, Hicks said. “It’s been performed three or four times and it’s also been recorded on my CD, Ritual Grounds.”
The work reflects the composer’s interest in textiles and fabrics. The title suggests that, Hicks said, and the work is woven in a manner that might imitate how an Oriental rug, for example, is constructed. “There are lots of melodic lines, which are woven together, then unraveled and reknitted again.” The melodies are short and terse, Hicks said, “but at the same time the work has a great deal of passion.”
And even though two decades separate the two, there are certain characteristics that connect them. “By the time I was writing Strategy of Looms I had found a certain combination of harmonic sounds that I really like and which can still be heard in Diode.”
“Strategy of Looms is a very strong piece and a really nice piece, too,” Hardink said.
Rounding out the program will be Mendelssohn’s well known and popular Octet for Strings in E flat major, and seven instrumental canons, BWV 1072-1078, by J.S. Bach, as well as his joyous cantata Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen, BWV 51, sung by Celena Shafer. “Celena is perfect for the Bach,” Hardink said. “She brings the kind of exuberance and agility that is just right for this work.”
Below is a listing of the complete season. Unless otherwise noted all concerts take place at 3 p.m. in Libby Gardner Concert Hall in David Gardner Hall. Tickets are $20 for general, $18 for seniors and $5 for students and can be purchased at the door or online at www.novaslc.org. University of Utah students are admitted free of charge with I.D.
Also listed are the two Gallery Series concerts, on Nov. 16 and on April 19, 2015, which take place at 3 p.m. in the Art Barn Finch Lane Gallery, 1325 E. 100 South. Tickets for these concerts are $25 and can also be purchased at the door or online at the series’ website.
- Oct. 26 – “A Celebratory Opening: Music from Leipzig and Provo.” Works by J.S. Bach, Mendelssohn and Michael Hicks.
- Nov. 16 – Gallery Series. “Beethoven Violin Sonatas: Part III.”
- Dec. 14 – “Russian Greats and Moldovan Musings.” Works by Rachmaninoff, Tcherepnin, Stravinsky and Igor Iachimciuc.
- Jan. 11, 2015 – “Contemplations of the Beyond.” Music by J.S. Bach, Messiaen, as well as Gregorian Chant.
- Feb. 3, 2015, 7:30 p.m. – “Late Beethoven and Post-Minimalism.” Music by Beethoven and Michael Gordon.
- March 1, 2015 – “An Afternoon of Serenades.” Music by Mozart, Brahms and Morris Rosenzweig.
- April 19, 2015 – Gallery Series. “Beethoven Violin Sonatas: Part IV.”
- May 10, 2015 – “Terry Tempest Williams @ NOVA.” Music by Schoenberg and John Costa.