in: News & Features

August 28, 2018

Schepkin’s Glissando Series To Debut

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Sergey Schepkin (file photo)

A new concert series celebrating Bach’s 333rd birthday launches next month at First Church Boston (66 Marlborough St.). Running on eight Sundays at 4pm, the events comprise five chamber concerts, a vocal recital with piano, and two solo piano presentations, featuring a mix of beloved and recondite works. The opener, on September 23rd, promises transcendental chamber music of Debussy plus Bach’s Musical Offering. See complete list below.

The well-regarded pianist Sergey Schepkin, once deemed something of a Bach specialist but increasingly wider-ranging, is impresario and programmer for this new offering, entitled Glissando. We had to find out more.

BMInt: How did the idea come about? Why Bach?

SS: A few years ago I entertained the idea of performing most of Bach’s keyboard works in a series of concerts, spread over one season. Ultimately I decided to launch my own series, the first season of which would celebrate Bach, but the plan kept evolving and eventually changed to something quite different, although some of the original features remained. As you know, I have been labeled “a Bach pianist,” for better or worse; yet my interests encompass all of Western classical music, and are not limited to one particular era, to one particular composer—even Bach, the greatest of them all—or to one particular genre. I perform a lot of solo repertoire, but I also love playing chamber music and accompanying singers; and so the original idea grew to include not only Bach’s keyboard works but also his chamber and vocal music, combined with other composers’ works that have connections to Bach.

What really matters to me as a musician is the exploration of such issues as tradition vs innovation, historical memory, creation vs re-creation, stylistic continuity vs stylistic change, and whether the change is in fact rooted in some older tradition. Bach’s music is at once a summation of a long tradition that preceded him and the fountainhead for pretty much everything that happened after him. Bach turned 333 on March 21 of this year, and, considering the symbolism of that number and Bach’s interest in numerology, I thought it was a particularly appropriate birthday to celebrate. During the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, the subdivision of musical time into three groups of three equal rhythmic values was considered metrical perfection. Since Bach’s music is the embodiment of perfection—a most harmonious union of mind and spirit, the intellectual and the emotional­, the learned and the spontaneous, the sublime and the human—his 333rd birthday is a fantastic occasion to create a concert series that celebrates his universality. In this, I was fortunate to have support from John Carey, a prominent Boston patron of music, whose gift in memory of his wife, Harriet, and his continued help has made Glissando possible. The First Church in Boston, which will host all Glissando concerts this season, has been very welcoming. If this season goes well and the series goes on, the next season will focus on Beethoven, whose 250th birthday is in 2020.

Do we really need another series in Boston?

There is an insatiable interest in classical music in this city. Boston is the capital of American education, a place filled with intellectuals, artists, and scientists, for whom classical music is very much alive. This publication, for one, is a perfect embodiment of such interest. I think that it would be no exaggeration to compare today’s Boston with late 18th-century Vienna.

What’s in the name?

Ever since I was a kid, I loved the sound of the word glissando and the gesture it signifies. You won’t find any real glissandi in Bach apart from the quasi-glissando three-note upward slides (schleifer in German) and rapid scalar runs (the tirate of the French Overture style), but several other works in Glissando’s concerts feature them—the Stravinsky Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, for example.

I get the common denominator of Bach on the modern piano, but are all the additional composers related to Bach somehow?

What makes Glissando unique is that it does not limit itself to one particular facet of musicmaking. It is not just a chamber series or a piano series: there is chamber music, there is vocal music, and there are three piano concerts (two solo recitals and one concert of piano duos). Its programming features some warhorses as well as rarely performed masterpieces. For example, the opening concert, September 23, combines three often-heard chamber works of Debussy with Bach’s Musical Offering, a late masterwork that in its entirety is done seldom. This season, Glissando focuses on Bach and delves into the connections and interrelationships between his music and the music that was composed before and after him. It does so in often unexpected ways that are for the listeners to discover, and it offers the possibility to investigate the deep musical—and extramusical—associations that exist between and among often very different-sounding pieces. (I think that your reviewers might find it fascinating, too.)

For example, I have always wanted to perform, side by side, Bach’s Concerto for Two Solo Keyboards and the Stravinsky Concerto for Two Solo Pianos, a towering neo-Baroque masterwork for which the Bach may have served as a model (the correspondences between the two works are too numerous to be cited here). In the sixth concert (next February 17), those two pieces are combined with Rachmaninoff’s Second Suite for Two Pianos, a work featuring not only pianistic fireworks, exciting harmonic progressions, and gorgeous melodies, but also intricate counterpoint and a rock-solid structure, each of which has Bach at its source.

In a way, Glissando combines many things that other series in town do; it borrows some of their structural elements and rearranges them. Like the Boston Early Music Festival, Glissando includes a historical performance component. There is some Renaissance music, such as Dowland’s Pavana Lachrymae arranged for keyboard by Sweelinck, Byrd, and Farnaby (the seventh concert, next March 17), which will be played on the harpsichord (as will be most—if not all—of Bach’s Musical Offering in the opening concert). On the other hand, Bach’s Six Partitas (the second concert, October 21) and Goldberg Variations (the fifth concert, January 13) will be performed on the piano, as will be the complete Bach Sonatas for Violin and obbligato Keyboard (the fourth concert, December 16).

Like the Boston Chamber Music Society, Glissando commemorates the composers’ dates of birth and death—Debussy’s centennial is an example—yet it explores other, often not so obvious occasions, such as the 190th anniversary of Schubert’s death (the third concert, November 18) or the 39th birthday of Christopher Trapani, one of the most remarkable American composers of today (the seventh concert, March 17). Like Chameleon Arts Ensemble, Glissando features a diverse mix of styles and genres, unified by a specific idea within each program; yet while Chameleon increasingly centers its programs on contemporary repertoire, Glissando’s programming is somewhat more traditionalist, at least on the surface (for example, the closing concert, next May 5, comprises Bach, Beethoven, and Brahms).

Considering your interest in Bach on the piano, why no Bach-Busoni?

I wanted to spotlight Bach, rather than his arrangers, however brilliant. Of course, playing Bach on the modern piano implies a degree of translation, but you don’t have to change anything in the original text to make it work on the piano.

It’s an impressive group of players. Is there some special affinity?

Yes. Glissando represents a happy reunion with some of my oldest friends in Boston, as well as a celebration of several new creative ties. Some of our musical relationships go back many years and even decades. Jason Horowitz and I met in 1990, while studying at NEC, and made music together on numerous occasions. Owen Young and I have been playing chamber music since 1994. In 1998, I became a founding member of Deborah Boldin’s series, the Chameleon Arts Ensemble of Boston, where I played for several years (Deb and I had met at NEC in the early 1990s). Darren Chase, based in New York since 2000, got his MM in vocal performance from BU in the late 1990s; for the past 19 years we have collaborated on several projects, and recorded a Schumann lieder album in 2011. Rafael Popper-Keizer and I have been playing together in the Emmanuel Music series and for Chameleon since 2011. Ian Lindsey, whom I met at NEC in 1994, is one of Boston’s best-kept secrets—a stunning virtuoso who, being a perfectionist, performs only once or twice a year. He plays Liszt like no one else, and I thought that playing the dazzling Rachmaninoff Second Suite together would be really exciting. My musical friendship with Robyn Bollinger is relatively new. Both of us participated in the complete performance of Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos by Chameleon in December 2015, and I adored her playing. I thought it would be fantastic to perform all of Bach’s Sonatas for Violin and Keyboard with her. William Davidson is a former student of mine from Carnegie Mellon University. He is a brilliant pianist, and I thought that he would be an ideal partner for the Bach and Stravinsky Concertos.

The 2018-19 Season: BACH AT 333

Deborah Boldin, flute • Robyn Bollinger, violin
Darren Chase, baritone • William Davidson, piano
Jason Horowitz, violin • Ian Lindsey, piano
Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello • Owen Young, cello
Sergey Schepkin, piano and harpsichord

SUNDAYS AT 4
FIRST CHURCH IN BOSTON
66 Marlborough Street, Boston, MA 02116

Sunday, September 23, 2018, 4 PM
Concert I: Bach and Debussy
Bach: Prelude and Fugue in C from The Well-Tempered Clavier I
Debussy: Sonata for cello and piano
Debussy: Syrinx, for solo flute
Debussy: Sonata for violin and piano
Bach: The Musical Offering
Deborah Boldin, flute
Jason Horowitz, violin
Owen Young, cello
Sergey Schepkin, piano and harpsichord
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).
For reservations and subscriptions, please visit www.glissandoconcerts.com

Sunday, October 21, 2018, 4 PM
Concert II: Clavierübung I
Bach: The six Partitas for keyboard
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, November 18, 2018, 4 PM
Concert III: Bach and Schubert
Bach: Aria “Schlummert ein, ihr matten Augen” from Cantata BWV 82
Schubert: Die schöne Müllerin
Darren Chase, baritone
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, December 16, 2018, 4 PM
Concert IV: Bach and the Violin
Bach: The six Sonatas for violin and keyboard
Robyn Bollinger, violin
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, January 13, 2019, 4 PM
Concert V: Music of the Spheres
Bach: The Four Duets; the Goldberg Variations
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, February 17, 2019, 4 PM
Concert VI: Bach and Russia
Bach: Concerto for two solo keyboards
Stravinsky: Concerto for two solo pianos
Rachmaninoff: Suite No. 2 for two pianos
William Davidson, piano
Ian Lindsey, piano
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, March 17, 2019, 4 PM
Concert VII: Tempo di Pavana
Ravel: Pavane de la belle au bois dormant
Dowland/Sweelinck: Paduana Lachrymae
Dowland/Byrd: Pavana Lachrimae
Dowland/Farnaby: Lachrimae Pavan
Bach: Fantasia and Fugue in A minor, BWV 904
Trapani: Pavane (Standing Still) for violin and piano
Louis Couperin: Pavanne
Fauré: Pavane for violin and piano
Ravel: Pavane pour une infante défunte
Ravel: Sonata for violin and piano
Jason Horowitz, violin
Sergey Schepkin, piano and harpsichord
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please).

Sunday, May 5, 2019, 4 PM
Concert VIII: The Three Great B’s
Bach: Sonata No. 3 in G minor for viola da gamba (cello) and keyboard
Beethoven: Sonata No. 10 in G for violin and piano, Op. 96
Brahms: Piano Trio No. 2 in C, Op. 87
Jason Horowitz, violin
Rafael Popper-Keizer, cello
Sergey Schepkin, piano
First Church in Boston, 66 Marlborough St, Back Bay
For tickets, please click here.
$35 general admission; $30 seniors; $10 students
A limited number of tickets will be sold at the door (cash or check only, please)

 

2 Comments

  1. Glissando…lovely! This series looks to be a spectacular addition to the Boston music scene – thoughtful programming and wonderful musicians. Bravo in advance, Sergey – I’ll be there…

    Comment by nimitta — August 29, 2018 at 4:40 pm

  2. Thank you! I really appreciate your kind words, encouragement, and support!

    Comment by Sergey Schepkin — August 30, 2018 at 5:29 pm

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