Annual Nobel Conference Concert Set for Tuesday at Gustavus

Posted on October 1st, 2015 by

The Nobel Conference Concert, October 6, 2015, 8:00 p.m., Christ Chapel

The Nobel Conference Concert, October 6, 2015, 8:00 p.m., Christ Chapel

Music at Nobel, a tradition that began in the early years of the Nobel Conference, continues with the 51st conference October 6 & 7, 2015 at Gustavus Adolphus College. The Department of Music at Gustavus will be evident throughout the 2-day conference and will include performances by over 250 Gustavus students and faculty members. The Nobel Conference Concert in Christ Chapel at 8:00 p.m., October 6, is the brightest example of the contribution of music to the Nobel Conference.

This year’s Nobel Conference Concert will include works for piano and strings. Associate Professor of Music Yumiko Oshima-Ryan will open the concert with two works that are written for left hand only. Her first work is a Johannes Brahms’ arrangement for left hand only of the Chaconne from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita in D minor for Solo Violin. Brahms dedicated this arrangement to his friend, pianist and composer Clara Schumann after she injured her right hand and was unable to perform. Bach wrote the work after the death of his first wife but, as Oshima-Ryan notes, “the piece is not merely about grief or the powerlessness of our nature against the tragedy around us. Halfway through the piece, after a culmination of emotional turmoil, the music transcends to a divine chorale in the parallel key of D Major, where our souls seem to be totally embraced. Thereafter, the music keeps ascending with vigor until the opening theme jubilantly reappears.”

Following the Brahms, Yumiko will return to the piano to present Alexander Scriabin’s Nocturne in D-flat Major for the Left Hand. Unlike the opening work, the Nocturne was originally written for left hand only after the composer suffered a serious injury to his right hand during a piano competition. During his recovery, Scriabin continued to work on his left hand and found his technique became stronger than before the injury. Although his doctors told him the injury was “insurmountable,” Scriabin completely recovered the use of his hand and continued to perform and to compose. However, the event left an impression on the young composer/pianist. After his recovery he went on to publish this Nocturne and the Prelude and Nocturne, Op. 9 for Left Hand Only, works that continue to very popular today.

After a short intermission, members of the Department of Music will perform the String Quartet No. 8 in C minor by Dmitri Shostakovich. For this concert, guest violinist Emily Ondracek-Peterson, the director of string studies and professor of violin at the Metropolitan State University of Denver, will join the members of the Gustavus faculty –  violinist Jill Olson Moser, violist Justin Knoepfel and cellist Sharon Mautner-Rodgers – to present the string quartet in Christ Chapel.

Probably the best known string quartet by Dmitri Shostakovich, the C minor may also be the most intense. Shostakovich wrote the quartet shortly after after his decision to join the Communist Party in exchange for the prospect of a higher position in the newly formed Union of the Composers of the Russian Federation. This act caused the composer considerable despair and brought him to the brink of suicide. Five days after the quartet was written, Shostakovich wrote to a friend, “the pseudo-tragedy of the quartet is such that while composing it my tears flowed as abundantly as urine after downing half a dozen beers.” As described by Oshima-Ryan in the program notes “Although Shostakovich gave a dedicatory subtitle, ‘In memory of victims of fascism and war,’ it seems to be only the surface of his real intention. The music actually reveals the composer’s despair, cynicism, and fear of losing his own identity under political force.” Like many of his works, the quartet incorporated themes from Shostakovich’s earlier works along with Jewish and Slavic folk melodies. Provoking a mood of intense drama which may have been the turmoil of times or that of the composer’s life, the work’s five movements are performed attacca (without pause).

Admission to the Nobel Conference Concert is free and open to the public. Tickets are not required. The performance will begin at 8:00 p.m. in Christ Chapel on the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.



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