Like many a budding violinist, I first learned the Chaconne when I was in my teens. Doing so is an important step in an instrumentalist’s development, but one can hardly do the piece true justice at that age. I revisited it years later and on a very different instrument. Here’s an excerpt.
Many composers have written homages to Johann Sebastian Bach. Penderecki’s brief piece touches upon many things – the dance known as Sarabande and its treatment in the Baroque era, Bach’s monumental solo works for string instruments, and last but not least, a lament for Bach the man. I love this piece’s unyielding clarity of thought and the sonorities Penderecki seeks out in it.
I had known of John’s excellent works for viola, such as his Concerto, but the existence of his unpublished and never recorded Sonata for Viola Alone came as a surprise. A colleague at the Metropolitan Opera told me about the piece and lent me a copy of the manuscript. I quickly fell in love with the music’s sincerity, deep lyricism and occasional forcefulness. Its mercurial second movement, heard here, is one of my favorites.