Eclectic Mix on Tap for James Piano Quartet Concert

| March 20, 2009

The James Piano Quartet, artists-in-residence at Sweet Briar, will perform in concert at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, March 26 in the College’s Memorial Chapel.

Members of the quartet are violinist Jana Ross, violist Joe Nigro and pianist Nick Ross, all Sweet Briar faculty members, and University of Tennessee-Knoxville professor and cellist Wesley Baldwin.

The program for the evening – the quartet’s last in a series of concerts held at Sweet Briar this academic year – will feature two additional Sweet Briar artists, dancer Mark Magruder and composer Jonathan Green.

Magruder, who directs the College’s dance program, will perform his own choreography to Sergey Rachmaninov’s “Variations on a Theme of Corelli.” Magruder titled the dance “Thoughts Exposed.” He said his choreography has to account for the restricted sight lines in the chapel, so there will be plenty of upright moves and leaps.

The dance also is composed with themes and variations to match the score, Magruder said. “Rachmaninov – he does a lot of wild stuff.”

Nick Ross will play the music, which he notes is one of Rachmaninov’s last solo piano works, written during the 1930s. “It is a virtuosic and colorful work, with more than a hint of melancholy underlying the bravur,” Ross wrote in an e-mail. “It is one of my favorite piano works.”

Green, a professor of music and dean of the College, was pleased to learn that Baldwin plans to play his solo for cello, “Sisyphean Summer.” Green wrote the piece in 2006 for cellist J.W. Turner. Turner has performed it several times, including at the 2007 national conference of the College Music Society, where the composition was selected to represent the mid-Atlantic region.

Also on the program is Arthur Honegger’s viola sonata, a follow up to the composer’s cello sonata performed during the quartet’s last Sweet Briar concert. Ross said it is “by turns lyrical and angular” and – in keeping with the James Piano Quartet’s mission to program overlooked works for its audiences – he noted it is a “remarkable and neglected viola masterpiece.”

The same might be said for Sergei Taneyev’s piano quartet, which rounds out the program. Taneyev, Rachmaninov’s teacher and a favorite student of Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky, wrote the quartet in 1906. “This is a great piece that is seldom performed, full of lush harmonies and great tunes,” Ross said.

Admission to the concert is free and the public is welcome. For more information please contact Ross at [email protected].

Jennifer McManamay

Category: Performing Arts