The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Violinist Tasmin Little discusses her latest projects and extols the virtues of music by Gerald Finzi and Sergei Prokofiev, which she will perform this Friday night with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra.

February 20, 2013
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ALERT: This Friday at 8 p.m. in Mills Hall, the duo Sole Nero (below) of pianist Jessica Johnson and percussionist Anthony Di Sanza, will perform on the UW-Madison Faculty Concert Series. The duo will perform works by John Luther Adams, Philippe Hurel, UW composers Joseph Koykkar, Evan Hause and UW composer Les Thimmig. Guest artists will include video artist Daniel Zajicek and clarinetist Les Thimmig.

sole nero Jessica Johnson piano and Anthony Di Sanza percussion

By Jacob Stockinger

The concert this Friday night at 8 p.m. in the Overture Center’s Capitol Theater is pure Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra (below).

WCO lobby

Which is to say that it is pure Andrew Sewell.

Sewell (below) is the longtime music director and conductor of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra. He has become known over the past 12 seasons for his uncanny ability to mix tried-and-true classics with relatively obscure works and composers.

andrewsewell

This Friday’s night’s Masterworks concert is no exception. The theme is “Pastoral Gems” and it spotlights the young, critically acclaimed British violinist Tasmin Little (below in a photo by Melanie Winning).

Tasmin Little 3 Melanie Winning 

Tickets are $15-$65. Call the Overture Center box office at (608) 258-4141 or visit the orchestra’s website at  www.wcoconcerts.org for more information and purchasing tickets on-line.

The program features two well-known works: J.S. Bach’s Orchestral Suite No. 3, with the familiar Air on a G String movement; and Sergei Prokofiev’s sublime Violin Concerto No. 2.

But wedged in between come rarely performed works: “Introit” for violin and orchestra, Op. 6, by Gerald Finzi, a mid-20th century British composer for whom Sewell has such an affinity; and the rarely heard Symphony No. 2, by the French 19th-century composer of the very well-known opera “Faust.”

Tasmin Little (below) recently agreed to an email Q&A with The Ear:

Tasmin Little

What are your current and future plans in terms of concertizing, recordings and other major projects, especially for the English and contemporary works that seem to be a specialty of yours?

This year will be a lovely year for projects – two new CDs will be released imminently, one with Witold Lutoslawski’s Partita and Chain 2 for violin and orchestra, and later in the spring, my recording of the Violin Concerto by Benjamin Britten – his centennial is this year — will be released, both on Chandos Records.

I am also releasing a CD of British chamber music repertoire with Piers Lane later in the year – beautiful works by Britten (his early Suite), William Walton’s Sonata and the wonderful but totally unknown second violin sonata of Howard Ferguson (below bottom).

Benjamin Britten

Howard Ferguson 1

What can you tell us about the rarely heard  “Introit” by Gerald Finzi (below) and what you would like audiences to listen for?

It is a very beautiful and peaceful work, in some ways it feels similar to Ralph Vaughan Williams “The Lark Ascending” in that it is a work which follows a pastoral line and exudes heavenly tranquility. There isn’t anything in particular that I would suggest an audience to listen for – more, that I hope they will enjoy approximately 10 minutes of beautiful calm and bliss!

Gerald Finzi 1

What would you like to say about the more well–known Prokofiev Violin Concerto No. 2? Are there certain things you would like listeners especially to listen for? Are there other works by Prokofiev (below) or other composers you would compare it to?

Regarding Prokofiev’s Violin Concerto No. 2, I am sure that this will be familiar to many members of the audience, so I will talk about what I enjoy about the piece.

The first movement is a capricious mix of darkness and light – one moment, the music is dark and sinister and then, without warning, the mood can lighten to frothy bubbliness!

The second movement has such a glorious and romantic theme and yet the music is quite quirky, with the pizzicato accompaniment and an occasional woodwind interjection.  The middle section feels almost lighthearted but it isn’t long before the first idea returns, more embellished and fulsome.

The final movement is hilarious!  I love the wit and the rustic earthiness.  Prokofiev must have had a wonderful sense of humor.

Serge Prokofiev

How do you think the two violin words fit into the theme of “Pastoral Gems” with Bach’s Suite No. 3 and Gounod’s Symphony No. 2?

I must confess to being unfamiliar with the symphony by Gounod (below) – I’ll look forward to getting to know it during my visit!  Obviously the “Pastoral Gems” bit refers to the Finzi, and I look forward to being educated in the similarities between the Gounod and Prokofiev.

Charles Gounod

Do you have an impression of the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra, Madison audiences and the classical music scene in Madison, and what are they?

As this will be my very first visit to Madison, it’s hard to form an impression. I also like to keep an open mind about things, rather than try to build up an expectation or opinion that might be wrong.  However, I can see that the artistic planning of the orchestra is wonderfully rich and varied – so I’m guessing that this means that the audiences are not frightened of experiencing something new.  I like that!

When you were young, was there for you an Aha! Moment – perhaps a certain piece or performer – when you knew you wanted to become a professional musician and a violinist?

I remember vividly dancing to a recording of Itzhak Perlman playing Sarasate’s “Carmen Fantasy” and thinking how brilliant it would be, to be able to play such a piece of music. I also liked Locatelli’s violin concertos, so those are probably the moments when I realized I would like to learn the violin. (You can hear her most popular YouTube video at the bottom.)

tasmin little by melanie winning

Do you have your ideas about how music education should be done today and about how to attract younger audiences?

Through my “Naked Violin” project (which still exists as a free download of music on my website), I have attracted a great deal of audiences of all ages and I feel quite proud about that.  The project also takes music into the community, into hospitals, schools, prisons and other areas of the community where live music is not regularly available.

I feel that, if you can touch just one or two people by doing this, it is hugely worthwhile.  The joy, and sometimes the tears, of emotional release are what music is all about.

For more information visit my website at:

http://www.tasminlittle.com


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