Pianist David Roderick is at it again. He and violinist Cesar Atzic Marquez will present Spring Forward Concert, a musically varied recital, on Sunday, March 24, at 3 pm at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury (FCCWT).
Rhoderick, one of the Island’s busy classical musicians, has been music director at both FCCWT and Union Chapel in Oak Bluffs. Recently retired from a job in tech which kept him traveling the world, his lifelong love of listening and playing music has happily taken prime place in his time management choices. Marquez, an 18-year wash-ashore who originally hails from Mexico, says, “We first played together a few years ago, and I knew right away this was a musician I wanted to build a relationship with. David’s playing helps me to inhabit the music I want to make.”
Rhoderick, a longtime supporter of the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber Music Society, is as much a historian as a musician. He recently organized a well-attended lecture series this winter at the West Tisbury library, called Classical Music Is for You! and can often be heard playing at venues around the Island. Marquez has been an orchestral violinist all of his life, and is a life member of the Mexico City Philharmonic and the United Nations Symphony orchestras.
Spring Forward’s centerpiece is Johannes Brahms’ “Violin Sonata No. 1 in G major,” Opus 78, which Rhoderick and Marquez have been working on all winter. This soulful work is based on two of Brahm’s earlier compositions, “Regenlied” and “Nachklang,” songs that use similar musical ingredients with lyrics that evoke tears, rain, and dreams. In the sonata, the composer weaves the poetry into a pure instrumental duet.
Another Brahms piece will be played by Rhoderick, the solo “Rhapsody in G minor,” Opus 79, which has the musical marking (typically written in Italian, regardless of the nationality of the composer) “Molto passionato ma non troppo allegro.” This translates into the beguiling, if not succinct, “very passionate but not too cheerful.” Not particularly optimistic, frankly, but good material for luscious music.
“Brahms was a perfectionist,” says Rhoderick. “It may sound obvious, but every note is important and needs particular attention. Each hand is relevant, and the playing cannot be rushed or smoothed over. It’s very fulfilling to play.”
As a complete contrast, the program offers Johann Sebastian Bach’s “Violin Concerto in A minor,” BWV 1041, in an arrangement by the famous Russian violinist Jascha Heifetz. Written approximately 150 years before the Brahms sonata, the Bach was originally a “concerto,” meaning it is accompanied by orchestra. In the Heifetz arrangement, the pianist is the orchestra, becoming a collaborative musical partner.
Continuing the variety, music from “Schindler’s List” will be offered up. Originally recorded by Itzhak Perlman for the film, the music was created by the ubiquitous Hollywood composer John Williams. Another selection from this side of the pond is Mexican composer Manuel Ponce’s 1912 “Estrellita,” another work based on a song. The Mexican folk tune “Estrellita,” which means “little star,” isn’t thought of as a standard love ballad, but rather a “nostalgia viva,” which translates into the intriguing “live nostalgia.” Reminds me of Brahms’ song-inspired works we were talking about earlier, notwithstanding the geographic, cultural, and time-frame differences. Wistful reveries.
Wrapping things up is the sublime “Romanza Andaluza,” Opus 22, the third of the Spanish Dances, by the Spanish composer Pablo de Sarasate. He was a virtuoso and world-famous violinist of the late 19th century, and many of his compositions showcase his astonishing technique, and as such are often used as encores. Appropriately, the romanza will act as the encore for Spring Forward.
Both Marquez and Rhoderick speak about the intricacies and delights of playing chamber music, believing the best chamber music is a conversation without words. Rhoderick says, “Playing solo, as opposed to chamber music, in some ways holds the same challenges. One of the enjoyable differences is the nonverbal communication which happens when the chemistry within the ensemble is simpatico. Our collaboration is profoundly satisfying, as we are able to continually pick things up from each other, in a sense reading each other’s musical minds.”
The FCCWT is a charming venue to listen to music. The austere, graceful simplicity of the sanctuary lends itself to the pleasure of introspection classical instrumental music provides. And this concert is a perfect way to spend a part of a spring Sunday afternoon. In the best sense, it has a little something for everyone.
Spring Forward Concert takes place on Sunday, March 24, at 3 pm at the First Congregational Church of West Tisbury, 1051 State Rd., opposite the Town Hall. Ticket prices are $15 at the door, free for children, with a reception following the performance. Proceeds benefit the church.