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Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John has been described as “something of a phenomenon” by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by the New York Times.

Performing for us for the first time, and accompanied by pianist Martin Kennedy, Lara St. John has appeared in major concert halls, here and abroad. Los Angeles Times wrote “Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.” She also owns and runs her own label, Ancalagon, which she founded in 1999. For us she will perform a varied program including works by Debussy, Franck, Jessie Montgomery, Milica Paranosic, and Martin Kennedy.

Claude Debussy (1862–1918): Violin Sonata in G Minor, L. 140
Allegro vivo
Intermède: Fantasque et léger
Finale: Très animé

César Franck (1822 –1890): Sonata in A Major for Violin and Piano
Allegro ben moderato
Ben moderato: Recitativo-Fantasia
Allegretto poco mosso

— Intermission —

Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981): Rhapsody No. 2 (solo violin)

Milica Paranosic (b. 1968): Bubamara (solo violin)

Various Tunes violin/piano – Romanian, Klezmer, Hungarian, etc.

Martin Kennedy (b. 1978): Czardashian Rhapsody

Program is subject to change

Notes by Joe Gusmano

Claude Debussy (1862–1918): Sonata in G Minor

  1. Allegro vivo
  2. Intermède: Fantasque et léger
  3. Finale: Très animé

This sonata for violin and piano was Debussy’s final composition, written in 1917. At this time, Debussy was dying of cancer and most of Europe was experiencing food and coal shortages from the war. Debussy said that this piece would be “interesting from a documentary point of view as an example of what may be produced by a sick man in time of war.” The Sonata artfully combines Debussy’s inventive approaches to harmony with his dreamy melodic sensibility.

The first movement features a slow, haunting melody in the violin with a serene piano accompaniment. This mood shifts suddenly to more dissonant and frenzied figurations. The second movement, a scherzo, is full of humor, evoking the carefree world of a pre-war Paris. The final movement begins with a shimmering figure in the piano which is answered by a return to the theme from the first movement. But just as soon as this theme returns, Debussy sends the violin and the piano into an explosive flurry of notes, only to fall back once again into the serene tempo of the first movement. These dramatic shifts in color are a hallmark of the composer’s later works.

César Franck (1822–1890): Sonata in A Major

  1. Allegro ben moderato /li>
  2. Allegro/li>
  3. Ben moderato: Recitativo-Fantasia/li>
  4. Allegretto poco mosso

César Franck composed this work as a wedding present for the virtuoso Belgian violinist, Eugene Ysaÿe, who was once dubbed the “Tsar of the Violin.” Some believe that the piece was originally meant as a gift to Cosima von Bülow, who was the daughter of Franz Liszt, the wife of the conductor Hans von Bülow, and eventually the wife of Richard Wagner. Franck ended up putting the work aside until he gifted it to Ysaÿe, who kept the sonata in his repertoire for over 40 years. Ysaÿe’s promotion of the piece helped gain Franck international renown.

The first movement of the piece was originally meant to be slow, but when Ysaÿe premiered the piece he performed it much faster. Franck changed the tempo marking to reflect Ysaÿe’s choice. The piano and the violin are each assigned a contrasting theme throughout the first movement. The second movement, a scherzo, begins with a piano toccata, or fast-moving, continuous passage. The violin melody is full of asymmetrical rhythms. The third movement shows Wagner’s influence over Franck, as it is full of highly chromatic harmonic devices. The final movement features a canon in A major between the piano and the violin. A canon, from the Greek word for “rule” or “measuring standard,” is a musical device in which one instrument begins a melody and then another instrument plays that same melody starting at a later time.

Jessie Montgomery (b. 1981): Rhapsody No. 2 (solo violin)

Jesse Montgomery is an American composer and violinist from the Lower East Side of Manhattan. Founder of the PUBLIQuartet, Montgomery began her violin studies at the Third Street Music School Settlement. She also performs regularly with the Silkroad Ensemble and the Sphinx Virtuosi. She holds degrees from the Juilliard School and New York University. Montgomery works not only as a composer and violinist, but also as an educator and advocate for underserved communities. Her work was recently featured by the New York Philharmonic as part of their Project 19, which celebrates the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, which gave women the right to vote.

Rhapsody No. 2 comes from a set of six solo violin works, each dedicated to and written for a contemporary violinist. Each piece also draws influence from a different historically significant composer. This piece was commissioned by the violinist and composer Michi Wiancko. Inspired by Béla Bartók, the music is rapid and dissonant, maintaining a lyrical quality as it explores the full range of the violin. Rhapsody No. 2 appears on the album Planetary Candidate.

Milica Paranosic (b. 1968): Bubamara (solo violin)

Milica Paranosic is a composer, singer, and pianist from Belgrade, Yugoslavia (now Serbia). She is best known for her work as a composer of opera and dance music, which combines acoustic and electronic musical processes. One of her most recent projects, Penelope and the Geese, is a chamber opera that tells the story of the Odyssey from Penelope’s perspective. Paranosic holds degrees from the Belgrade Art University and the Juilliard School. She is also the co-founder and producer of Beyond the Machine, a yearly electronic and interactive music festival hosted at Juilliard.

Bubamara, which means ladybug, is a Romani folk tune that has been arranged for a wide variety of instruments. The tune features a combination of slow, dramatic melodies contrasted with energetic dance figurations. Even in her solo works, Paranosic is able to masterfully incorporate her experience as a dance composer. This is also one of the composer’s few pieces that does not include some form of electronics.

Various tunes for violin and piano – featuring Romanian, Klezmer, and Hungarian folk music, etc.

Martin Kennedy (b. 1978): Czardashian Rhapsody

Martin Kennedy is an American composer and pianist who has served on the composition faculty at Washington University in St. Louis and Central Washington University. Kennedy holds bachelor’s and master’s degrees from the Jacobs School of Music and a Doctoral degree in Composition and Piano Performance from Juilliard. He has composed for and toured with Lara St. John for many years. Some of his other collaborators include the counter tenor Ryland Angel, flutist Thomas Robertello, and the Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony. Kennedy has also won several ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, so many in fact, that he now serves as an adjudicator for the award.

Kennedy arranged this traditional folk tune for violin and piano. The piece is inspired by a Hungarian folk dance, the csárdás, which was used as an army recruitment dance in 18th century Hungary. The root of the word, csárda, means pub or tavern. Traditionally, the dance is performed by women wearing wide skirts which create a distinctive shape when they twirl.

Lara St. John

Canadian-born violinist Lara St. John has been described as “something of a phenomenon” by The Strad and a “high-powered soloist” by the New York Times.

She has performed as soloist with the orchestras of Cleveland, Philadelphia, San Francisco, Seattle, the Boston Pops, Toronto, Montreal, Vancouver, the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, NDR Symphony, Zurich Chamber Orchestra, Ensemble Orchestral de Paris, Strasbourg Philharmonic, Bournemouth Symphony, Camerata Ireland, Belgrade Symphony, Amsterdam Symphony, and the Akbank Chamber Orchestra in Turkey, among others.

Lara has also performed with the Queensland Orchestra, Adelaide Symphony, ACO², Auckland Philharmonia, Tokyo Symphony, Kyoto Symphony, Yomiuri Nippon Symphony, Hong Kong Philharmonic, China Philharmonic, Hangzhou Symphony and the Shanghai Symphony.

She has traveled to Latin America for appearances with the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, the Sao Paulo Symphony, Rio de Janeiro’s Orquestra Sinfonica Brasileira, Orquestra Filarmônica de Minas Gerais, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional del Ecuador, Orquesta Sinfónica Nacional de México, the SODRE in Montevideo and the Sociedad Filarmónica de Lima in Peru.

Recitals in major concert halls have included New York, Boston, San Francisco, Ravinia, Wolf Trap, Washington DC, Prague, Berlin, Toronto, Montreal, Bogotá, Lima, and in the Forbidden City.

Los Angeles Times wrote “Lara St. John happens to be a volcanic violinist with a huge, fabulous tone that pours out of her like molten lava. She has technique to burn and plays at a constant high heat.”

Lara owns and runs her own label, Ancalagon, which she founded in 1999. Bach: The Six Sonatas & Partitas for Violin Solo was the best-selling double album on iTunes in 2007. Her 2008 world premiere recording of Matthew Hindson’s Violin Concerto prompted Gramophone to write: “It’s the sort of work that should get audiences running, not walking, back to concert halls on new-music nights.”

In 2009, American Record Guide said of her Vivaldi/Piazzolla disc with the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela: “I can imagine no suaver, more atmospheric performance.” Her Mozart recording with The Knights won a Juno Award in 2011.

In 2014, her Schubert album with Berlin Philharmonic principal harpist Marie-Pierre Langlamet, principal cellist Ludwig Quandt and soprano Anna Prohaska was chosen as one of ‘The Best CDs of Spring’ by Der Tagsesspiegel and MDR Figaro recommended it for its “boundless enchantment.”

Her 2016 release of Shiksa, an album of re-imagined folk music with pianist Matt Herskowitz, received a five-star review from All About Jazz: “Music like this is beyond imagination and talent. It exists only in the loosely-held molecules found on the razor’s edge of Creation.” While her Key of A recording of Beethoven’s Kreutzer and Franck’s Sonatas prompted Audiophile Audition to write: “You will want this disc; you need this disc, and it provides an hour of exceptional pleasure and illuminating insight into the worlds of two very different composers.”

She has been featured in People, US News and World Report, on CNN’s Showbiz Today, NPR’s All Things Considered, CBC, BBC, a Bravo! Special: Live at the Rehearsal Hall and on the cover of Strings.

In 2021 Lara was invested with the Order of Canada by the Governor General of Canada on behalf of Queen Elizabeth for service to society and innovations which ignite the imagination.

Lara began playing the violin when she was two years old. She made her first appearance as soloist with orchestra at age four, and her European debut with the Gulbenkian Orchestra when she was 10. She toured Spain, France, Portugal and Hungary at ages 12 and 13 and entered the Curtis Institute at 13. Her teachers have included Felix Galimir and Joey Corpus.

Lara owns and performs on the 1779 Ex-Salabue by Giovanni Battista Guadagnini.

Martin Kennedy

Much sought after as a composer, Martin Kennedy has received commissions from such distinguished artists as countertenor Ryland Angel, Parthenia Viol Consort, flutist Thomas Robertello, The Trombones of the St. Louis Symphony, and violinist Lara St. John, with whom he has enjoyed a long collaboration, both as a composer and pianist.

Kennedy holds a Masters Degree in Composition from the Jacobs School of Music, where he also earned dual Bachelors degrees in Composition and Piano Performance. He went on to receive a Doctor of Musical Arts at The Juilliard School as a C.V. Starr Doctoral Fellow. His teachers in composition included Samuel Adler, Milton Babbitt, Claude Baker, David Dzubay, and Don Freund.

Kennedy also remains in demand as a pianist and collaborator, appearing on concert stages worldwide. He has toured with violinist Lara St. John and flutist Thomas Robertello, both of whom he has recorded with and composed for. Kennedy is committed to the performance of new works, having premiered numerous compositions as both a soloist and as a member of the Indiana University New Music Ensemble, New Juilliard Ensemble, and St. Louis Symphony’s Pulitzer New Music Concerts.

A passionate teacher and mentor, Kennedy is highly active in the development of young composers. He has served as an adjudicator for the ASCAP Morton Gould Awards, National Association for Music Education, as well as administrator for both the Washington State Music Teachers Association Composition Competition and the Washington State Young Composers Project.

Kennedy has served on the faculties of Washington University in St. Louis and Central Washington University. His music is published by Theodore Presser Company and G. Schirmer Inc. He lives in New York City.


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