The Dumka: Then and Now - May 5, 2013

Join us for an evening in celebration of the dumka - a form of Eastern European folk music which alternates between the melancholy and the exuberant - as it has inspired composers from Dvorak to Marek Harris!

We are honored to welcome Diane Walsh, the fabulous pianist who many of you may know from her past directorship of the Skaneateles Festival and her recent appearances as the pianist in Broadway’s “33 Variations.” Diane writes about her unique connection to one of tonight's composers:

I did indeed live with Rebecca Clarke (or Mrs. Friskin, as she was known to me then) from 1967-69 when she was between the ages of 81 and 83. Her husband, James Friskin (who was my teacher's teacher) had died the previous spring, and my teacher, Irwin Freundlich, had arranged for me to be the first of several students to live with her and help her out with a few things in her daily life. She lived in a large, six- room apartment with a Steinway piano in the livingroom of which I had unlimited use, and I slept in the second bedroom, i.e. "James's room," where her viola was locked in the spare closet. In return for a little taken off the rent each month, I brought her tea and raisin toast on a tray every morning, because her arthritis made it hard for her to move around first thing the morning. She stayed in bed for breakfast and read the Times until she felt ready to get up. She was a very tall, cheerful woman who walked with a cane (and later a walker) and rarely left the apartment. She sat with her feet up in a recliner chair in her room, read, listened to the radio and talked on the phone, and worked on her memoirs and answered letters at her desk. She had quite a few friends, decades younger, who would come visit her and confide in her. The trip to the kitchen for meals was a big effort twice a day. If she cooked, I did the dishes, or vice versa--she basically taught me to cook (a skill my mother had neglected to give me.) There are still dishes I make today that she gave me the recipes for, such as cheese souffle! She gave a bridesmaid luncheon for my bridesmaids when I married my first husband, and actually made it to the wedding ceremony.

We stayed in touch for the rest of her life, and I often went back to have tea with her-- in fact, that's where I got my penchant for tea-drinking. She told me wonderful stories about her Victorian childhood and her young adulthood in London in the 1910's and '20's, when she had been a freelance violist and composer and had known many famous musicians who were working at that time. She told Ravel's fortune with Tarot cards at a party, knew Bartok and Vaughan Williams and played chamber music with Arthur Rubinstein, Jacques Thibaut and Pablo Casals. My favorite story was one about her family's copy of Grove Dictionary of Music, which referred to Brahms as "one of the most talented of the young German composers." However she was so self-effacing that I didn't realize she had been a serious composer until the now-famous 90th birthday radio broadcast (which I heard) on WQXR-FM in New York, which re-introduced her piano trio, viola sonata and some of her songs to the musical public.

ANNOUNCING: The WORLD PREMIERE of the string trio Two Places in Eastern Europe by Marek Harris, inspired by the dumka! This composition was made possible through the generosity of Lew Ward-Baker and the Carolyn and Richard Wilson Concert Fund. Here's what the composer says about his inspiration:

The first part, Dumka, is based upon "scenes from a Russian village". The "village" depicted here is Pripyat', Ukraine, a city that was abandoned quite hastily by its 50,000 unfortunate citizens, who were destined never to return home, as it was within sight of Chernobyl and its ensuing nuclear disaster in 1986. The music is intended to reflect the lonely desolation of the city and the exiled population's longing for what they lost there. Pripyat' is a kind of "time capsule", only changing mostly by deterioration and decay after its abandonment.

The second part, which proceeds from the first without interruption, is a Friszka inspired by the city of Toruń, Poland, the birthplace of the astronomer Copernicus, who was most noted for realizing how the Earth revolves around the Sun. Dancers in traditional bright colorful costumes whirl around the historic city at a lively tempo, celebrating life. Toruń is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful cities in Europe; its Old Town district was recently named one of the "seven wonders of Poland".

$20 general / $5 student / $40 family max

First Unitarian Church - 220 Winton Road South - Rochester NY 14610

Stravinsky: Suite Italienne for Violin and Piano

Rebecca Clarke: Dumka for Violin, Viola, and Piano

Marek Harris: Two Places in Eastern Europe for String Trio (WORLD PREMIERE!)

Dvorak: "Dumky" Piano Trio

The Dumka: Then and Now - Sunday May 5, 2013 at 7:30 pm

Diane Walsh - piano

David Brickman - violin

Melissa Matson - viola

Stefan Reuss - cello