After two separate medical postponements last season, SOLI Chamber Ensemble is eager to offer the long-awaited recital of violinist Ertan Torgul, with the typically sensitive and stunning accompaniment of pianist Carolyn True. The program features works from what Torgul considers three generations of American composers: Copland, Corigliano, and San Antonio’s own David Heuser. Ranging from expansive, lyrical, and playful to somber and percussive, the repertoire reflects both the musical range and temperament of the gregarious Turk who came to San Antonio in 1995 as associate concertmaster, now concertmaster, of the San Antonio Symphony. “Torgulmania!!!” may seem like a strange title for a classical recital, but to those familiar with his energy, humor, and passion, it’s more than apt.
SOLI specializes in works of the 20th and 21st centuries, but when Artistic Director Stephanie Key decided two years ago to program one recital each season featuring the unique character of one of the four core members, there were no parameters placed on repertoire. Torgul says, “I think they all expected me to play at least one Romantic or Classical piece, because I love that stuff. But I really wanted to focus on more contemporary, SOLI-like repertoire for this one.”
The centerpiece of the program is Heuser’s Thin Green Traces, a 20-minute work composed in 2006 specifically for Torgul and True. Heuser says, “This is definitely a duet, and not just a solo with piano accompaniment.”
“It’s classic Heuser,” says Torgul, “very rhythmic, with elements that compound and get propelled forward, yet there are also some calmer, almost pastoral and Baroque moments in it. It’s a challenging piece in some ways, but it’s also composed so that it lays well on the instrument. And basically, we love doing brand-new works.”
The piece suggests the inevitable human trajectory, from the initial optimism of youthful potential to the realization and gradual acceptance of mortality. Heuser’s notes state simply: “Our lives are like thin green traces across the sky.” A bit enigmatic, perhaps, but the almost architectural structure of the five movements provide a good base for his typically poetic conceptions.
With Heuser at the core, Torgul opted for two of America’s best-known composers, but not necessarily their best-known works. Aaron Copland’s Sonata for Violin and Piano premiered in 1943, in the midst of World War II, and wasn’t particularly well received. But what was considered spare and characterless at a time when active, rallying nationalism was desired has since been recognized as a simple, clear expression of traditional American harmonies.
“I first came across the Copland score in my wife’s library a while back,” says Torgul. His wife Kimberly, a violinist with the Ft. Worth Symphony, played the piece in a recital several years ago. It comes from the composer’s populist phase, typified by sweeping
orchestral tunes reminiscent, in retrospect, of Hollywood westerns. Scored only for violin and piano, it makes for an interesting contrast. “When I first looked at it, I thought it would make a great opener. The first movement has this rich, big orchestral feel — sort of an open prairie, folk feeling. The second is more High Noon, a little static and stark, kind of like `Copland’s` ‘Billy the Kid.’ Then the third movement is really celebratory — technically quite difficult, actually. But the whole piece forms this beautiful tonal landscape, very pastoral, very American.”
John Corigliano’s Sonata for Violin and Piano is another matter all together. Completed in 1963, the work is harmonically complex with both non-tonal and polytonal sections within a context of rhythmic variation, meter shifts, and contrasting patterns between the two instruments. “It’s got a really nice structure. I think this piece is underappreciated, really. It just isn’t played as much as it should be,” says Torgul. Again, according to Corigliano’s notes on the score, the work was “originally entitled ‘Duo,’ and therefore obviously treats both instruments as co-partners. Virtuosity is of great importance in adding color and energy to the work …” With True and Torgul at the helm, that shouldn’t be a problem. •
$15; $7.50 students
2009 NW Military Hwy
Ruth Taylor Recital Hall Trinity University
One Trinity Place