Originally hailing from Montana (Alice Yoo, cello) and Texas (Adam Golka, piano) the performers came to us from New York with many way stations of music awards along the way.
Yoo and Golka presented a rich and varied program for the October 2, 2013 Dame Myra Hess Concert, ranging from rapid fire pizzicato to soft and slow melodic conversations between piano and cello, and more.
The program included: Gabriel Fauré’s “Après un rêve”; Claude Debussy’s “Cello Sonata in D minor; Michael Brown’s “5 A.M. ‘After Allen Ginsburg’ for Cello and Piano”; and Beethoven’s “Sonata No.4 for Cello and Piano in C Major, Op. 102, No.1”.
From the first draw of her bow, those of us in Preston Bradley Hall saw Yoo’s intense concentration, expressive face and moving brow reflecting her deep involvement in the music. Before she began each piece her apparent inner contemplation of the music to come added to our anticipation.
Yoo says of the program she selected, “A lot of the music is quite evocative and I feel that each piece tells a different story.
“The Beethoven sonata is a piece I have a long history with and enjoy coming back to perform and explore. I love how condensed the music is but how it still manages to have so much space and nuance in every single note.”
Yoo continues, “It is incredible how much imagination and soul is in every note and phrase that Debussy wrote in his sonata. Like the Beethoven sonata, this work is very concentrated—about 12 minutes. But you never feel this because of the vividly rich world created in the music. For example, Debussy considered naming the second movement “Pierrot Angry at the Moon”. For me it conjures up images of a clown stumbling in the woods, ducking behind trees with moonlight shining between the branches. During rehearsals Adam and I have been exploring different possibilities of sound to bring out the humorous and sometimes grotesque character of this movement. Both the piano and cello parts are very detailed and intricate and it has been a lot of fun working on this with Adam.”
Yoo shares that the composer Michael Brown is a good friend of hers and says, “It is a great experience working directly with the composer and being able to ask questions about the piece. I have always wanted to include Michael’s music in one of my recital programs and am glad to have had this opportunity at the Dame Myra Hess concert.”
Yoo’s cello was made by Francisco Ruggieri. She refers to her cello as her “constant companion” and comments that her cello is not only dark and rich in hue but also in tone, as well as sweet.
This was Yoo’s first Dame Myra Hess performance but Adam Golka’s third, with the two prior ones as a piano soloist. In fact his performance at a prior concert was so superb that Ann Murray of the International Music Foundation, which produces the Dame Myra Hess series, nominated him for a competition that he indeed won. The program notes that Adam Golka “has won widespread critical and popular acclaim with his ‘brilliant technique and real emotional depth’ (The Washington Post). He has garnered international prizes including the 2008 Gilmore Young Artist Award, first prize in the 2003 China Shanghai International Piano Competition and the 2009 Max I. Allen Classical Fellowship Award of the American Pianists Association.”
Golka comes from a musical family. His mother is a pianist and his brother, Tomasz Golka, is a conductor with whom he has also enjoyed performing.
Of this concert Golka says, “Alice and I have been friends for about two years and have shared many wonderful musical experiences. This is our first public performance together but we have played together a lot privately. Sometimes the challenges of playing duets are vast but when you are working with a musician like Alice these problems of finding balance go away. We are constantly aware of what is important in the music and not allowing elements to overpower when they should not.”
After the concert many of the audience members were eager to not only applaud the two musicians but to talk to them personally. Like so many cultural treasures in Chicago, the Dame Myra Hess Concert series allows you to have this kind of up close and personal contact with the artists.
Dame Myra Hess Concerts are held every Wednesday at 12:15 in the beautiful mosaic ceiling Preston Bradley Hall of the Chicago Cultural Center (on Michigan Avenue between Washington and Randolph) as well as simulcast on WFMT.
For information on upcoming concerts visit the International Music Foundation web pages on the Dame Myra Hess series.
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Concert hall photos: Amy Munice