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Classically Speaking

Ladies first

Susan Yondt will present a program at the Unity Church on Sunday, November 19.

Yondt photo by Juliana Fälldin


Pianist Susan Yondt returns to the Friends of Vienna

While there have always been women composers, very few of them are well-known, even to dedicated classical music listeners, so every opportunity to hear their music is most welcome. Susan Yondt, professor of piano at the Royal Conservatory of Music in Stockholm, will present a program consisting entirely of music written by female Scandinavian composers in the Friends of Vienna series, at the Unity Church, 1243 Delaware Avenue on Sunday, November 19 at 3:30 p.m.  “I did a women’s program earlier for the Friends of Vienna in 2008, where I played Fanny Mendelssohn Hensel, Clara Wieck Schumann, Amy Cheney Beach, Maria Szymanowska and Cecile Chaminade,” says Yondt. “It was more of a challenge this time to narrow it down to women composers from the Nordic countries, and even required a bit of detective work to find the music. My program is called ‘Ladies First’, and it features music by Laura Netzell from Finland, Elfrida Andrée and Dorcas Norre from Sweden, and Agathe Backer Grøndahl from Norway.”


The best known and most frequently played of these women is Elfrida Andrée. Yondt explains, “She was Sweden’s first woman cathedral organist in Gothenburg. Agathe Backer Grøndahl, who wrote around four hundred pieces, is quite well-known in Norway. She was a good friend of Edvard Grieg, and her compositions are influenced by his music. Netzell and Norre are not too well-known.


“I discovered Elfrida Andrée when I played her piano trio a few years back and really enjoyed playing her music. I hadn’t played Grøndahl before, but absolutely fell in love with her pieces, especially after I learned that she studied piano with Franz Liszt,” Yondt continues. “I received Norre’s music from her sister in Uppsala, who I knew in the 1990s. Netzell is a completely new acquaintance for me, as I was looking for a Finnish woman composer from about the same period as Andrée and Grøndahl. Netzell wrote under the pseudonym ‘N. Lago’ and I actually missed her at first, because of the other name on the pieces!


“I have performed this program in Sweden on the island of Öland in August, and the audience was very interested in the music, because the quality was so high, considering that it was relatively unknown. It has been extremely interesting for me to explore these pieces, and learning them has been a real pleasure. During the process, I often thought, this sounds like Mendelssohn, or this could be Schubert. But, the music is unique in its own way. Composing music wasn’t even considered an occupation for women at that time, and they had great difficulties in having their music published. So, it almost feels like my duty as a pianist to make these women composers better known. I hope that more musicians are inspired to play their works.”


In addition to her superb musicianship, Yondt, through her charming, spoken introductions to the various pieces on her programs, always manages to convey a sense of intimacy, rare in the recital hall.


On Wednesday, November 8 performers at the June in Buffalo Festival will be joined by violinist Irvine Arditti for a Slee Hall concert


Music at the University at Buffalo

The Department of Music at the University at Buffalo wraps up a strong fall semester of concert offerings this month, under the leadership of the new department chairman, Jonathan Golove, and associate professor of piano Eric Huebner, chairman of the concert committee. The Miró Quartet will make a welcome return to UB for a residency at the beginning of the month, from their home at the University of Texas in Austin. Formed in 1995, the Miró Quartet took its name from Spanish artist Joan Miró, whose surrealist works feature subject matter drawn from the realm of memory and imaginative fantasy. They will begin with a free concert on Thursday November 2, at 7 p.m. at Williamsville North High 1595 Hopkins Road, where they will present collaborative performances of the music of Dvorák, Shostakovich, Elgar, and Vaughan Williams with string students from all three Williamsville High Schools whom they have coached for a full day. On Friday, November 3, at 7:30 p.m. in Slee Hall, the members of the Miró Quartet will be joined by violist Barry Shiffman for a program that includes a performance of selections from Dvorák’s Cypresses and Mozart’s String Quintet No. 4 in G minor. K. 516. A work commissioned by the Miró Quartet, Credo, by the contemporary American composer Kevin Puts, will have its area premiere on the same program.


On Wednesday, November 8, at 7:30 p.m., the Ensemble Linea, based in Strasbourg, France, frequent performers at the June in Buffalo Festival, will be joined by guest violinist Irvine Arditti for a Slee Hall concert featuring the world premiere of UB professor of composition David Felder’s violin concerto, Jeu du Tarot. Arditti, first violin and founder of the eponymous Arditti Quartet—which earned a worldwide reputation as the preeminent interpreter of contemporary music written for string quartet—also often appears at the June in Buffalo Festival, both with his quartet and in solo recital. His performances are not to be missed, as he proved once again this past June, when he gave a memorable solo recital. Arditti also previewed several movements from Felder’s new concerto as soloist with the Ensemble SIGNAL, in a performance that left many audience members anticipating the complete work. For the final nonstudent concert of the fall semester, organist Roland E. Martin will present a faculty recital, with a program TBA in Slee Hall on Friday November 10 at 7:30 p.m.


BPO Polish connection

On Saturday, November 4, at 8 p.m. and Sunday, November 5, at 3:30 p.m., Polish pianist Konrad Skolarski, who teaches at the Fryderyk Chopin University of Music in Warsaw, will make his BPO debut as soloist in Chopin’s beloved Piano Concerto No. 2. The program also features a performance that many classical music lovers consider their favorite symphony by Brahms, the often programmed but always welcome Symphony No. 1 in C minor, op. 68. Music director JoAnn Falletta will be on the podium for these concerts, which also include the first performance since 2000 of Richard Strauss’s irresistibly boisterous tone poem Til Eulenspiegel’s Merry Pranks. Lovers of Chopin’s music will also not want to miss the solo recital on Wednesday, November 1, at 8:00 by Skolarski featuring works by Chopin, Tchaikovsky, Liszt in the intimate Mary Seaton Room of Kleinhans. Although this event is free and open to the public, a ticket is required, and can be reserved by calling the Kleinhans Box Office: 885-5000.


Jan Jezioro is a longtime classical music writer.


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