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Chamber Music Concert Features Einstein’s Favorites

SOCORRO, N.M. January 8, 2016 – Willy Sucre and Friends will meld music and science in a unique program featuring Albert Einstein’s favorite string quartets, at New Mexico Tech’s first Presidential Chamber Music Series concert of the year at 7:30 p.m. Monday, Jan. 18, at Macey Center Auditorium.

The four-concert series is sponsored by New Mexico Tech President Dr. Daniel H. López under the umbrella of the University’s Performing Art Series with free admission to all.  The final chamber music concert is scheduled for March.

In addition to string quartet selections from Mozart, Haydn, Beethoven and Schubert, the program will feature the actor Thomas Schuch, who has played the role of the famous physicist in the international tour of the one-man show, “Einstein: A Stage Portrait,” by Willard Simms.

 “Willy has arranged for an incredible evening featuring selections from the physicist’s favorite string quartets in a story-telling format,” said PAS Director Ronna Kalish. “Much has been written about the relationship between music and science, and this concert will bring that concept to life.”

Violist Sucre, the mastermind of the Willy and Friends concert programs, will be joined on stage by Krzysztof Zimowski on violin, violist Shanti Randall, Lisa Donald on cello and Schuch.

The seed of this production was sown in 2001 while Schuch was taking violin lessons from Sucre to prepare for his role as Einstein in the “Stage Portrait” production. They discussed the possibility of bringing together Sucre’s string quartet and Schuch as Albert Einstein to celebrate the physicist’s love for classical music.

Einstein once said that had he not been a scientist, he would have been a musician. “Life without playing music is inconceivable for me,” he said. “I live my daydreams in music. I see my life in terms of music. … I get most joy in life out of music.”  

After reconnecting in 2014, Sucre and Schuch made plans to bring this idea to the stage, which will premiere in Placitas the evening prior to the Socorro performance.

“We in Socorro are fortunate to have an opportunity to experience this unique production free of charge, thanks to the financial support of President López,” Kalish said. “I’m anticipating an enthusiastic response to this unique presentation.”

Accompanied by Sucre’s string quartet, Schuch as Einstein begins to repair his precious violin, “Lina,” while he talks to a soon-to-be-revealed muse about his love for music and its influence on his life and work.

The production combines Einstein’s words and the artful precision of a string quartet to celebrate the coming together of art, science and love.

Selections were chosen from string quartets composed by these four early giants of the form: Franz Joseph Haydn (1754-1824), Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (1756-1791), Ludwig van Beethoven (1770-1827), and Franz Schubert (1797-1828).

From program notes:

Haydn String Quartets, Op. 76. Haydn composed six string quartets in 1796-1797 commissioned by Prince Nicolaus Esterhazy II. Listed as his Opus 76, the compositions represent the last of the complete set of Haydn’s string quartets, which are among the most ambitious of his chamber music compositions, with strong thematic treatment. 

Portions of the first quartet have a hymn-like quality within its sonata form, often compared to Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony and Haydn’s 99th Symphony. The third quartet, “The Emperor,” includes the “Emperor’s Hymn” as its main theme. The final quartet is called the “Sunrise,” based on the violin solo called “the sunrise motif” that gives the work its name.

Mozart String Quartets – Kochel 464 and 458. Mozart’s “Haydn Quartets” comprise a set of six string quartets dedicated to Haydn. They were published in 1785 and are considered to be the quintessence of classical string quartet writing. These six string quartets contain some of Mozart’s most memorable melodic themes and most refined compositional structures.

The 464, the fifth of Mozart’s Haydn Quartets, is often called “The Drum” because of the cello’s drum-like staccato voice in one of the variations, and served as a model for Beethoven’s String Quartet in A Major, Opus 18 Number 5. The 458 is the fourth of Mozart’s Haydn Quartets, named “The Hunt” for its rollicking first movement in 6/8 time.

Beethoven String Quartets – Opus 18, Opus 95.  Opus 18 represents the first six of Beethoven’s quartets, composed between 1798 and 1800. They represent the culmination of the composer’s first period, and further mastery of the quartet form as developed by Haydn and Mozart. Beethoven copied Mozart’s K. 464 to fully understand his use of this form. The  No.1 of Opus 18, although heavily influenced by both Haydn and Mozart, starts with a unique six-note motif played in unison, then fragmented into the different voices of the quartet.  Opus 95, “Serioso,” is the last of the quartets Beethoven composed during his middle period, and is the shortest, most compact of his quartets.

Schubert – Quartet Op Post  and Quartettsatz.  This piece was Schubert’s final string quartet, composed in 1826 and not published until after his death. It includes an  Allegro that often moves at a dizzying pace, a dramatic Andante with a march cadence, a light Scherzo that foreshadows Mendelssohn, and an Allegro Assai with rapid exchanges of major and minor chordal structure. The Quartettsatz is the first movement of a quartet that was never finished, written in 1820, but also published posthumously. It is a glorious and complex piece that is a forerunner of his late quartets.

Let’s meet the performers:

Schuch, a native of Los Alamos, began his formal acting training at the University of Washington, a national leader in theater training.  After getting his B.A. in Drama, Schuch continued his studies at the Harvey Lembeck Comedy Improv Workshop in L.A.  He then returned to Albuquerque and helped found two regional performance troupes: Surely You Jest (comedy improv) and Shakespeare-On-The-Halfshell.

He has appeared in numerous films and television series, many national and regional commercials, and more than 60 plays.  A leader in the New Mexico performing arts community and a member of Actors Equity, Schuch is a founding member of Albuquerque’s innovative Mother Road Theatre Company. He is currently serving his fifth term as the President of the New Mexico Local of SAG-AFTRA.

Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Sucre has studied at institutions in La Paz, Maine, New York, and the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Maryland. He has been conductor and music director of several ensembles, and served as principal violist and guest conductor of the National Symphony of Bolivia, the Chamber Orchestra of La Paz, and the Albuquerque Chamber Orchestra.

Sucre spends most of his summers in South America looking for new works of chamber music by modern composers and encouraging composers to write new pieces, especially piano quartets.

Zimowski began his musical studies at age six, participating in various music camps and schools organized by La Federation International des Jeunesses Musicales. In 1976, Zimowski began performing with the L’Orchestre Mondial Des Jeunesses Musicales (The World Youth Orchestra) in Brussels and in Paris.

In 1977, in his birthplace (Warsaw, Poland) in the only National Competition of Music of Karol Szymanowski, he won third prize. Currently he is Concertmaster of the New Mexico Philharmonic and was appointed a Concertmaster of the Opera Southwest Orchestra. He lives in Albuquerque with his wife and son.

Randall, viola, has played frequently with both the Los Angeles Philharmonic and Los Angeles Opera, under such conductors as Zubin Mehta, Esa-Pekka Salonen, Mstislav Rostropovich, and Michael Tilson Thomas. As a first-call violist of the Hollywood Studio Symphony, Randall has recorded over 250 major motion picture scores.

He attended the New England Conservatory of Music under full scholarship and was admitted into the honorary Performance Diploma Program by Walter Trampler.

Cellist Donald is an Albuquerque native who has performed in the area for over 20 years. Her musical studies as a young adult took her all over the Southwest, to Miami, Florida, and Kansas City, Missouri.

After living and performing in New York City, she returned to Albuquerque to be near family and has been playing with regional orchestras and Opera Southwest, as well as producing and performing in smaller chamber and solo recitals. She teaches cello privately.

– NMT –

By Valerie Kimble/New Mexico Tech