Thursday, December 1, 2011

The myriad projects of UB Cellist Jonathan Golove

University at Buffalo Professor Jonathan Golove has been injecting a high degree of dynamism into the music scene lately: he recently helped curate a chamber music concert at the Marine A Grain Elevator in downtown Buffalo, and has scheduled an upcoming midnight concert for CUBE, UB's Contemporary Music Ensemble, which he has been directing this year. Jonathan also enjoys frequent commissions as a composer, leads the cello studio at UB, and performs regularly on the theremin cello.

Jonathan Golove
The chamber music concert at Buffalo's grain elevators last October 21st was a very rare occasion. Normally the elevators are closed to the public, but for one day only they were opened by the National Preservation Conference to allow architects, engineers, preservationists, and scholars from around the country to get a close-up look. Jonathan was accompanied by UB percussionists Tom Kolor and Michelle Purdy in a lengthy performance of John Cage's Four6 as admirers toured the 120-foot-high silos. Jonathan remarks, “I've never given a performance of Cage that was so enthusiastically received, partly because of the 8-10 seconds of reverb in the acoustics of the grain elevator.” The full article on the event is available at the Buffalo News.

Aside from ferreting out interesting locales for chamber music performance, Jonathan is one of the very few cellists who regularly perform on the theremin cello, an instrument he helped resurrect from the early 20th century. He is currently collaborating with pianola player Robert Berkman, and the two have formed a duet comprised of these rare mechanical instruments from the beginning of the century. The group's title is Duo Shiddach, and their repertoire is comprised mainly of Klezmer music. Jonathan, however, is not new to the theremin cello, and has been playing it for almost ten years. He describes some of his history with the instrument, “In the period from June 2009 to April 2010, I traveled to Amsterdam, Paris, and London to perform as a theremin cello soloist in Edgar Varèse's Ecuatorial. The theremin cello, invented by the same man, Leon Theremin (Lev Termen), who created the space controlled instrument that has achieved a certain amount of fame, is an early electronic instrument which had gone extinct for approximately 60 years. The theremin cello was recreated in 2002 by Floyd Engels, a retired model builder for Fisher Price, and its debut came when the Department of Music's Slee Sinfonietta performed Varèse's Ecuatorial, the only work known to have been composed for the instrument.

“The performances in Europe took place at a number of important festivals/venues, such as the Holland Festival, Festival de l'Automne (Paris Autumn Festival), and the Southbank Centre, and with leading ensembles, including the Asko/Schönberg Ensemble (conducted by Peter Eötvös) and the London Sinfonietta (conducted by Daivd Atherton). Ecuatorial was presented as part of “ Varèse 360º,” a retrospective including the complete works of Varèse, one of the most fascinating and influential figures of the music of the twentieth century.”

Jonathan is very active in the recording studio as well, and just recently released an album of contemporary music from Mexico on Albany Records entitled Voces Internas. The CD features several pieces by renown composer Mario Lavista, as well as some more esoteric pieces, such as those by Nicandro Tamez, who specializes in graphically notated music and scores with a high degree of directed improvisation. UB Professor Emeritus of Piano Stephen Manes joins Jonathan on the CD, and the two have recently performed repertoire from the album at the dedication of the new concert hall at St. Lawrence University. The album has already received rave reviews, including an extensive interview, article, and front-page feature by Fanfare Magazine, “...the well-played CD should provide rewards to those interested in the avant-garde school of cello writing and playing. Jonathan Golove and his colleagues are up to the considerable technical and musical demands placed upon the performers of these works.” The complete article is available here.

Jonathan is a composer in his own right as well – earlier this year he was commissioned by A Musical Feast to write a piece to accompany an exhibit on synesthesia at the Burchfield Penney. The work, Kreisler's Coat, for cello and piano, takes its title from a character of E.T.A. Hoffman's, who Hoffman describes as being, “A little man wearing wearing a coat the color of C# minor with an E major collar.”   The piece was premiered earlier this year at Burchfield Penney as part of A Musical Feast's concert series.  

You can see Jonathan on Friday December 12th, at 11:59 p.m., when CUBE will present a unique concert of Night Music. The event will take place in Slee Hall and include Night Music by Robert Erickson, selections from Donald Martino 's Pulitzer Prize-winning Notturno, and a few other special surprises.

In the video below, you can listen to Jonathan performing Sergei Rachmaninoff's Vocalise on the theremin cello  – the perfect instrument to convey the haunting melancholia of Rachmaninoff. The video was taken at the Burchfield Penney as part of last year's A Musical Feast concert series and features pianist Claudia Hoca.

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