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Five Songs for Kate and Vanessa ~ a world premiere

Center for New Music

Center for New Music Five Songs for Kate and Vanessa ~ a world premiere

This concert features two world premieres: Larry Polansky’s (composer/guitarist) ~ five songs for kate and Vanessa for violin and cello and Henry Cowell’s ~ At First for solo violin. Other works on the program will include Mark Applebaum’s Aphasia, Salina Fisher’s Komorebi for violin and vibraphone, Larry Polansky’s 34 Chords (Christian Wolff in Hanover and Royalton) and Terry Longshore’s Crash.

Performers: Larry Polansky guitar, Kate Stenberg violin, Vanessa Ruotolo cello, Amy Beal piano, Terry Longshore percussion.

five songs for kate and Vanessa… is a recent extended piece written especially for Kate Stenberg and Vanessa Ruotolo that includes piano in two of the songs (played here by Amy Beal). The five songs are based on works by Ruth Crawford Seeger, Froberger, and one of my own rounds.

The American composer Henry Dixon Cowell (1897-1965) was a very close personal friend of violinist Anahid Ajemian and her husband, renowned record producer George Avakian. Very often after performances in 1950s Manhattan, they would enjoy receptions for musicians at one or another’s home. So it was entirely natural that in 1953 when the famed violinist gave birth to a girl Maro, named after her pianist sister, that Anahid Ajemian Avakian would be pleasantly surprised by the gift of a musical manuscript from one of America’s most prolific composers.

The score of At First hung for decades framed behind glass in the Avakian household, and a copy was made for research purposes for Kate Stenberg. Although Ms. Ajemian did not think it suitable for public performance, the music fits into a category of occasional dedicatory pieces with a long history of later being published and played as an indication of respect for the composer’s facility and invention, condensed into the shortest possible unit. Examples are Printemps, by George Antheil, written for violinist Olga Rudge, and numerous short pieces published in periodicals in Europe as homages.

Cowell’s understanding of, and devotion to, folk tradition is evident in this miniature gem of fiddle music. — Charles Amirkhanian

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Larry Polansky


Terry Longshore