Willy & Friends Perform String Quartets

SOCORRO, N.M. January 20, 2014 – Willy & Friends will perform string quartets by Felix Mendelssohn and Antonín Leopold Dvořák in the third of four concerts in the 2013-2014 Presidential Chamber Music Series at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 27, at New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center.

The series is sponsored by Tech President Dr. Daniel H. López and free to all.

Willy Sucre returns to Socorro on Monday, Jan. 27.

Sucre on viola will be joined by Kevin Connolly and Justin Pollack on violins, and cellist Sally Guenther.

Prior to the concert, Albuquerque artist Evelyn Rosenberg will sign copies of her new book, “Detonography: The Explosive Art of Evelyn Rosenberg,” in conjunction with her exhibition of “explosive art” which opened at Macey Center on January 17 (see related story).

“We’re very pleased to have Willy Sucre and his fellow string musicians open the calendar year performance schedule with string quartets by two diverse composers,” said Ronna Kalish, Director of New Mexico Tech’s Performing Arts Series (PAS).  “And we invite concert-goers to arrive early for Evelyn Rosenberg’s book signing and reception from 6 to 7pm.”

On the program are all four movements of Mendelssohn (1809 – 1847)’s String Quartet in A minor Op. 13, and the four movements of Dvořák’s (1841 – 1904) String Quartet No.10 in E flat Major Op.51. The German composer, pianist, organist and conductor of the early Romantic period wrote the quartet two years after Ludwig van Beethoven published his last quartets.

“The interesting thing about this piece is that Mendelssohn wrote it at the age of 18, and it was his first string quartet,” said Sucre. “The composition was a result of his dedication to learning Beethoven’s late quartets; in studying them, he decided to write this piece.”

Even though Mendelssohn was still in his teens at the time, “He had already achieved quite a bit,” Sucre continued. “He’s written a string quintet, an octet and piano quartets.”

The violist described the piece as very romantic and incredibly passionate, with its fugal sections, credenzas and gentle, melancholy melodies.

“It has everything,” Sucre said. “It was very well thought-out, and the result is one of the best string quartets ever written.”

Dvořák was a Czech composer who often employed features of the folk music of Moravia and his native Bohemia in his works. As with Mendelssohn, Dvořák’s musical talents were discovered at an early age.

According to accounts, the composer was commissioned in 1878 to write String Quartet in E flat Major by violinist Jean Becker, the leader of the Florentine Quartet, one of Europe’s best-known chamber ensembles at that time. The work was completed in 1879.

“Fifty-two years after Mendelssohn wrote his first string quartet, Dvořák wrote his tenth quartet,” Sucre said. Becker commissioned the piece with one condition – that it be written with a Slavonic spirit, as Dvořák had already written orchestral pieces incorporating Slavic elements.

The violist described the piece as flawless and imbued with the spirit of folk music with its eloquent melodies and moods. “It ranks among the best string quartets ever written,” he said.

Sucre is a member of the New Mexico Philharmonic and is the driving force behind the “Willy Sucre & Friends” concerts. Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Sucre studied at the Conservatorio Nacional de Música in La Paz; Colby College Chamber Music Institute in Waterville, Maine; Mannes School of Music in New York; and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland.

As a chamber musician, Sucre was the founder of the Cuarteto Boliviano, guest violist with various chamber music ensembles, and for 10 years the violist of the Helios String Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence of the PAS from 1987 until 1997. He enjoys playing with other musicians and ensembles of diverse instrumentation.

Violinist Connolly was exposed to music at an early age, playing with his father and brothers in a family string quartet in Albuquerque. His musical instruction continued under Jim Bonnell and Kathie Jarrett and later with Leonard Felberg at the University of New Mexico.

Connolly has played with numerous chamber orchestras, including San Diego’s Mainly Mozart Festival. He currently is a freelance, professional studio violinist living in Los Angeles, where he has recorded film scores, including “The Life of Pi” that received an Oscar for Best Original Score in 2013.

Violinist Justin Pollack, a native of Santa Fe, first studied the violin under Catherine Nichols. As a student at the University of New Mexico, he studied with Leonard Felberg and Bernard Zinck, as well as Kimberly Fredenburgh on the viola. From 2001 to 2011, he was a violinist with the New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, and is currently a member of the Santa Fe Symphony Orchestra and the New Mexico Philharmonic.

Pollack frequently performs with Chatter on both violin and viola. In the winter and spring of 2012, he played concerts with the Figueroa Project and Opera Southwest. When not playing music, he enjoys running, biking and hiking.

Cellist Guenther received her bachelor’s degree at Indiana University and master’s degree at The Juilliard School of Music. She also attended the Taos School of Music, Music Academy of the West, and International Congress of Strings. After engagements with several U.S. orchestras, she became solo cellist of the Bergen Philharmonic Orchestra in Norway, a position she held for 20 years.

Guenther currently devotes herself to chamber music, travelling widely in the Southwest and participating in chamber music festivals in Santa Fe, Taos, Abiquiu, Los Alamos, and Breckenridge, Colorado. She was recently appointed to the faculty of the new Santa Fe School for the Arts, and has played with Santa Fe Pro Musica, the Santa Fe Symphony, and the former New Mexico Symphony Orchestra.

“Willy & Friends have put together an incredible program, and we hope to fill Macey Center with an appreciative audience,” said Kalish. “He described the program selections as among the best in string quartet literature.”

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech