The Well-Tempered Ear

Classical music Q&A: Retiring UW-Madison violin professor Tyrone Greive discusses his long career, his research into Polish music and Szymanowski’s Violin Concerto No. 2 that he will perform twice this weekend. Plus there is FREE early music, percussion music and clarinet music at the UW this week. | April 29, 2013

ALERTS: The frenetic pace of semester-ending concerts continues over at the University of Wisconsin School of Music. ITEMS: On tomorrow night, Tuesday, April 30, 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall. the UW Early Music Ensemble, directed by John Chappell Stowe, will perform a FREE concert. Sorry, no word on the program. Then on Wednesday, May 1, at 7:30 p.m. in Mills Hall, the Western Percussion Ensemble (below), directed by Tom Ross will perform a FREE concert.  The program will feature David M. Gordon’s “Apocryphal Dances,” which is scored for percussion quartet and prepared piano and includes many unusual sounds including strummed mandolin and autoharp as well as melodica, side whistles, Indonesian gongs and toy piano.  The program will also include Franco Donatoni’s “Mari II” for marimba quartet and works by Michael Udow, Takayoshi Yoshioka and Louis Andriessen. Also on Wednesday, May 1, at 8:30 p.m., in Morphy Hall, the UW Student Clarinet Ensemble will perform a FREE concert. Performers include Emily Barley, Alex Charland, Danielle Anderson and Michelle Andrews on clarinet. Sorry, again no word on the program.

WesternPercussion Ensemble

By Jacob Stockinger

Today’s Q&A is by a guest blogger Kathy Esposito (below, in a self-portrait), the new concert manager and director of public relations for the University of Wisconsin School of Music.

Kathy Esposito

By Kathy Esposito

After 34 years as professor of violin at the University of Wisconsin-Madison School of Music, Tyrone Greive is retiring this spring.

But the indefatigable musician, well-known to Madison audiences as the former concertmaster of the Madison Symphony Orchestra, will still teach, perform and indulge his lifelong passion for Polish string literature.

That area of specialty has resulted in numerous discoveries of previously unknown music scores, multiple journal articles, several research grants and awards. In 1997, the Polish Music Center awarded him a research prize for one of his articles.

On Friday, May 3 at 8 p.m., in a farewell concert with the UW Symphony Orchestra in Mills Hall, Greive will perform the Concerto No. 2, Op. 61 by Karol Szymanowski. Also on the program are   Charles Ives’  Symphony No. 2 and “Symphonic Miniatures” by Erno Dohnanyi. (The concert will be repeated on Saturday, May 4, at 7 p.m. in a ticketed performance at the River Arts Center in Prairie du Sac. Purchase tickets through the website: www.riverartscenter.org)

Unlike many of the manuscripts he has discovered in Polish libraries over the years, the Szymanowski concerto is famous.

Greive (below, in a recent photo by Kathy Esposito of the UW School of Music) recently reflected on his choice of this concerto for his final performance, and on a few other aspects of his life’s work as well. 

Tyrone Greive 2013 by Kathy Esposito

How does it feel to discover or publicize a composition that no one else had been aware of? That must be an amazing sensation!

You are correct about the sensation, but this happens in varying degrees. Much of Polish violin music is virtually unknown or little known. Other pieces, like Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto, have been known by some of the finest performers and relatively small audiences for a long time. (Below is a photo of Karol Szymanowski.)

It is very satisfying to share this music, particularly with those audiences and players who don’t know it because while its worthiness is already proven but its performance practice is far from fixed. So the opportunity for creativity in this music is multiple: first, the idiom of the music is far from ordinary; and performers can be very creative in how they present it.

karol szymanowski

Is there any end to how much music exists in the violin repertoire?  Are you still unearthing compositions by Polish composers?

The repertoire seems boundless. Even within the Polish violin repertoire, I constantly discover new composers and music. I am also aware of specific Polish violin pieces that have yet to be published or are long out of print.

Given that the violin was the long favored instrument in Polish folk music and that there is a long, very large-scale national tradition centered around the violin in Poland, which was preceded by an extensive bowed folk instrument tradition, this is not surprising.

But, I also enjoy repertoire surprises relating to other countries as well. For example, in 2011 International Music of New York published my performance edition of Edouard Lalo’s hardly known but wonderful Sonata, Op. 12, for violin and piano.

A violinist could live six lifetimes and, yet, not play everything that is worthwhile. Hence, we have to choose. (Below is a photo of Tyrone Greive by Katrin Talbot for the Madison Symphony Orchestra.)

Tyrone Greive Talbot

Do you have a favorite Polish composer? I have heard pieces by Wieniawski and Lutosławski, and they are quite beautiful.

It is almost impossible to choose one favorite. Just to name a select few besides those whom you mention, I really enjoy the Baroque ensemble music of Adam Jarzębski, Marcin Mielczewski and Stanisław Sylwester Szarzyński (particularly his sonata for two violins and continuo), the classical solo and ensemble music by Feliks Janiewicz (especially the second of his five violin concertos), Jan Kleczyński and Franciszek Lessel, the romantic sonatas, miniatures and chamber music of Ignacy Jan Paderewski, Juliusz Zarębski and Mieczysław Karłowicz, and the varied 20th century styles represented by Poldowski (Irena Wieniawska/Lady Dean Paul), Artur Malawski, Grażyna Bacewicz (below), Henryk Mikołaj Górecki, and Romuld Twardowski.

The large number of truly effective transcriptions of Frédéric Chopin’s piano music constitutes a special category.

BACEWICZ

What made you decide to perform Szymanowski’s Second Violin Concerto with the UW Symphony Orchestra (below)? How did you choose that piece? 

This is one of the really major concertos in the Polish violin repertoire. I enjoyed playing it with the UW Symphony Orchestra when I last did it with David Becker and thought that it needed to be heard again. Also, the fact that the university orchestra’s proficiency continues to grow and that this concerto is as much a piece for the orchestra as the soloist makes it a good choice.

I just listened to it in a YouTube video (at the bottom). It is truly a beautiful work. Do you have any personal reflections on the piece?

This is not only the last major work by Szymanowski, but it also represents the culmination of a longtime collaboration between the composer and violinist Paul Kochański (below).

Paralleling the collaborations between Mendelssohn and Ferdinand David, Brahms and Joseph Joachim, Stravinsky and Samuel Dushkin, the Szymanowski-Kochański partnership not only resulted in a number of unique violin-piano and violin-orchestra works but also impacted a number of other composers such Ravel, Bartok, Prokofiev, Stravinsky, Bloch and de Falla. Also, this music reflects a largely unknown history and culture.

Paul Kochanski

What do you plan to do following retirement? Will you continue your research? 

Yes, I have several projects underway, the most important being work on a book manuscript with the working title “Polish Violin Repertoire, in Its Historical and Cultural Context.” While much of the writing and research has already been done, some large segments remain. The ability to focus on it in larger time blocks should help me to complete it.

Next year, on a volunteer basis, I will also work with six of my current students who are to complete their studio degree requirements during that academic year.

Of course, I will continue to play and perform – once a violinist, always a violinist. Music is more than a profession; it is a way of life.

My cellist wife Janet (below, with Tyrone) and I also hope to do some traveling, more reading and getting outside more. I also hope to devote a little more time to my model railroad, which has always been one of my great interests but to which I have been able to devote hardly any time in recent years.

Tyrone and Janet Greive

Do you keep in touch with former students?

I always enjoy hearing from former students and interacting with them. During this school year, I have been hearing from a large number of them from a wide geographic range. I don’t like mentioning specific students because, in doing, I will be leaving out other deserving students. Every student is important.

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