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September 9, 2008 : Alexei Romanenko

Join us for this free concert of 20th Century Music For Solo Cello featuring the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra's Principal Cellist

Tuesday, September 9, 2008
6:15 - 7:30 p.m.

Alexei Romanenko: 20th century music for solo cello

This exciting program includes the monumental Sonata for Solo Cello, Op. 8 (1915) by Zoltan Kodály

The times when music and musician and musical instrument combine to form an almost mystical union are rare. One such occasion came ... when Alexei Romanenko dazzled with his playing of Zoltan Kodaly's Sonata for solo cello.
-- Boston Herald, July 17, 2003

Where: Main Library
Hicks Auditorium (Conference Level)
303 North Laura Street
Jacksonville, FL 32202


Alexei Romanenko, Principal Cellist with the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra, was born in Vladivostok, Russia. He came to the U.S. in 1998 on scholarship to study at the New England Conservatory of Music, and in the process he renewed old family ties to this country: his great-great-grandmother was an American Indian and his Granddad Pit, taken to Russia in 1914 at age 6, was born in Seattle. By the time Alexei was 12 he had won First Prize in the Far-Eastern Competition for Strings, and among his numerous subsequent awards are the Presser Music Award, First Prize at the 8th International Music Competition in Vienna, First Prize at the 2nd Web Concert Hall International Auditions, and the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra Cello Fellowship.

Mr. Romanenko performed as principal cellist with the Boston Symphony Orchestra, and has been featured on Boston’s WGBH radio's "Classical Performances" and in national and international broadcasts from Chicago and San Francisco. He has performed solo and chamber music concerts for "Janus 21" and Chameleon Arts Ensemble in Boston, as well as "BargeMusic" in New York City, Chappaquidick Music Festival, and Bar Harbor Music Festival, among others. Local performances include an appearance on TV Channel 25, and he frequently appears in chamber music concerts with many of the First Coast's finest musicians, including an April 2007 performance of Ravel's Trio in A minor with UNF professors Simon Shaio and Gary Smart for the Library's Intermezzo Sunday Concert Series. His solo recitals may include virtuostic original works, such as his Fantasia on a theme by Handel, and Romanenko also devises astounding arrangements, such as his solo cello adaptation of J.S. Bach’s "Chaconne" from Partita No.2, originally for solo violin.

Mr. Romanenko's distinguished solo career takes him to leading cultural centers and concert halls, including a gala performance in 2000 at the Berlin Brandenburg Gates under the direction of the late Maestro Mistislav Rostropovich. Recent appearances as soloist with various orchestras include performances of Tchaikovsky’s Rococo-Variations as well as cello concertos by Dvorák, Boccherini, Schumann, and Shostakovich, for which Alexei often composes his own cadenzas. Mr. Romanenko, who joined the Jacksonville Symphony Orchestra during the 2005-2006 season, has taught at the San Francisco Institute of Music, Huntingdon College in Montgomery, Alabama, and at the University of Florida in Gainesville. He now also serves as the organist/pianist at Grace Episcopal Church in Orange Park, Florida.


Although his music is now much neglected, while he was alive Bavarian composer, conductor, educator and keyboard virtuoso Max Reger (1873-1916) was as highly regarded as Richard Strauss and Gustav Mahler, and his influence was at least as great: Paul Hindemith credited his own stylistic development chiefly to Reger, and it has been observed that Reger’s post-Wagnerian chromatic excursions paved the way for the atonal sound-world of Arnold Schoenberg, who, incidentally, considered Reger to be a genius. Following the examples of Beethoven and Brahms, Reger fashioned his works in the tradition of "absolute" music, and his complete mastery of the fugue and other contrapuntal techniques demonstrates his devotion to the music of J.S. Bach. In the span of only about 25 years, Reger, whose works for organ are especially noteworthy, produced over 1000 pieces encompassing virtually every genre with the exception of opera.

Along with Stravinsky, Bartók and Schoenberg, German composer, violist, teacher, and music theorist Paul Hindemith (1895-1963) is often cited by musicologists as a central figure in music of the first half of the 20th Century, so it is perhaps surprising that performances of his works have become relatively rare. Although some of his first works approached the expressionistic atonality of early Schoenberg, Hindemith’s mature style, while still highly chromatic, is decidedly tonal. And although Hindemith frequently used formal procedures of the Baroque and Classical periods, his music is nonetheless removed from the "Neoclassical" movement centered around Stravinsky — whereas Stravinsky parodied earlier styles in an often ironic reaction against the perceived excesses of 19th-Century composers, Hindemith built on tradition as a continuation of the Teutonic musical heritage that runs from the Bach family through Haydn, Beethoven, Schumann, Brahms and Reger.

Jacques Ibert (1890-1962) was not a member of Les Six, but his best-known pieces evoke the same cosmopolitan sophistication and breeziness that one might expect from French composers of their generation. A student of Fauré at the Conservatoire de Paris, Ibert won the coveted Prix de Rome in 1919. In addition to composing, he became director of the French Academy in Rome in 1937, and in the mid-1950s he directed the Paris Opéra. Although he is perhaps most remembered for the orchestral works Escales ("Ports of Call," 1924) and Divertissement (1930), his catalog includes compositions in all genres, including film music and opera. The somber Ghirlarzana, the second of two pieces Ibert wrote for unaccompanied cello, reflects his more serious side.

Just as Khachaturian’s oeuvre is infused with the folk music of Armenia, so the works of Soviet cellist, educator and composer Sulkhan Tsintsadze (1925-1991) echo the folklore of his Georgian homeland, and for this he was recognized as People's Artist of Georgia in 1961. Tsintsadze, whose many other awards include People's Artist of the USSR (1987) and the USSR Stalin Prize (1950), wrote prolifically in all genres including scores for numerous films, but he is most highly regarded for his works featuring strings, and especially for his 11 string quartets.

P.D.Q. Bach (1807-1742?), the 21st of J.S. Bach’s 20 children, is the hilarious fictional creation of Professor Peter Schickele (b.1935), the composer and Grammy® Award-winning comedian who originated the character in the mid-1960s, about the same time that he left his teaching position at the Juilliard School. The salient feature of any "P.D.Q." work is the satirical blending of recognizable classical pieces and styles (which Schickele calls "manic plagiarism") with elements of present-day pop culture. His many memorable titles include The Short-tempered Clavier, Hansel and Gretel and Ted and Alice (An Opera in One Unnatural Act), and Fanfare for the Common Cold. Despite its poking fun, the Suite No. 2 is a demanding piece that requires four different kinds of pizzicato and the frequent changing of the cellist’s hand positions.

Hungarian composer and educator Zoltán Kodály (1882-1967) was a pioneering ethnomusicologist who worked closely with his friend Béla Bartók to collect and codify the folk music of Eastern Europe in the early part of the 20th Century. Kodály gained international fame with his 1923 oratorio Psalmus hungaricus, and the orchestral suite from his 1926 opera Háry János continues to hold its place in the world’s concert halls. The influence of Kodály’s immersion in Hungarian folksong is evident in his Sonata for Cello Solo, op. 8 (1915), one of the most demanding pieces written for the instrument, and one which requires scordatura re-tunings of the two lower strings.

--Notes c2008 by Ed Lein, Music Librarian

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