The Chamber Music Society of Sacramento will honor the memory of two legendary violinists on Saturday, Feb. 1, at 7:30 p.m. at Congregation Bet Haverim in Davis by presenting music that they transcribed and performed in their own concerts.
The decision to present this music during the opening days of February was no accident.
“I love to take advantage of the incredible coincidence that the two greatest violinists of the 20th century have the same birthday — February 2,” said William Barbini, violinist and longtime artistic director of the Chamber Music Society.
Barbini is talking about Fritz Kreisler (1874-1962) and Jascha Heifetz (1901-1987). Kreisler was born in Austria, performed widely in Europe, eventually settled in the United States, and lived his final years in New York. He wrote a number of popular short pieces for the violin, which present-day violinists like Itzhak Perlman and Joshua Bell continue to record and perform.
Heifetz was born in what is now Lithuania, came to the United States as a teen, and became a star on the concert circuit as well as a prominent recording artist; in his later years he lived in Southern California, teaching at UCLA and USC after he retired as a performer.
Although Kreisler and Heifetz have gone down in history primarily as violinists, “they were, of course, also very talented composers and arrangers,” Barbini told The Enterprise. “Their pieces that we have on our program show great contrast of emotions — sentimental, noble, passionate, melancholy and spectacular.”
Violinist Kineko Okumura and pianist Dmitriy Coganwill perform Kreisler’s transcriptions of “Variations on a Theme by Corelli, in the style of Tartini,” a “Melodie” from “Orfeo and Euridici” by Gluck, and the “Danse Espagnole” from “La Vida Breve” by Manuel de Falla.
Barbini and Cogan will perform Kreisler’s arrangement of the Slavonic Dance No. 3 in G Major by Dvorák, as well as the Heifetz transcription of Gershwin’s Three Preludes for Piano.
Barbini, Cogan and cellist Victoria Ehrlich will perform the “Pavane for a Dead Planet” by Bay Area composer and musician Shinji Eshima, who trained at Stanford and Juilliard, and has long performed on double bass with the San Francisco Opera Orchestra and San Francisco Ballet Orchestra, in addition to teaching at the San Francisco Conservatory.
The title of Eshima’s piece is a reference to the popular “Pavane for a Dead Princess,” written by Ravel in 1899. “Eshima’s piece relates to our theme for the season, ‘Songs of the Earth,’ ” Barbini added.
Flutist Mathew Krejci will be featured in the Quintet in A Major for Flute and String Quartet, Op. 105, written in Paris in 1829.
And then Cogan will be featured in “The Creation of the World” by Darius Milhaud, a roughly 18-minute-long piece composed in 1923 as music for a ballet, incorporating several jazz elements that were quite novel at the time. The music has been arranged and adapted for a number of different ensembles — in this case, the Chamber Music Society will be performing the version for piano and string quartet.
Barbini predicted that the sound may surprise listeners: “It’s amazing, the rich orchestral texture that a great composer can achieve with string quartet and piano.”
Milhaud divided his time between teaching engagements at Mills College in Oakland and at the Paris Conservatoire from the late 1940s until 1971; in 1961, he was commissioned by UC Davis to write a symphony — Milhaud’s 12th, titled “Rurale” — which was premiered at the dedication of Freeborn Hall.
The Davis performance will be at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 1, at Congregation Bet Haverim, 1715 Anderson Road. The concert will be repeated at 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 2, in Capistrano Hall on the Sacramento State campus.