Poster Violist and pianist pose next to each other
Violist Molly Gebrian and pianist Danny Holt present 'Trailblazers,' an album featuring three cello sonatas transcribed for viola and piano.
New Classical Tracks®

Violist Molly Gebrian and pianist Danny Holt celebrate three 'Trailblazers' of classical music

New Classical Tracks (extended interview) - Molly Gebrian
New Classical Tracks - Molly Gebrian

Molly Gebrian, viola; Danny Holt, piano – Trailblazers (Acis)

“I am a professional violist, but I also have a background in neuroscience, so I live a dual life,” violist Molly Gebrian says. “My area of expertise is applying the science of learning and memory to practicing and performing, so I help musicians practice more effectively so they can perform the way they want.”

For the past decade, Gebrian has been a viola professor in Wisconsin and Arizona. This fall, she’ll return to the East Coast, where she grew up, to teach courses on the neuroscience of learning and memory at the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston. She also loves to perform and collaborate, something she does on her new recording that celebrates three trailblazers in the world of classical music.

Why did you and your collaborator, pianist Danny Holt, decide to make this album?

“Danny and I have been very good friends since we were 15, and he's my favorite pianist to play with. So when I went down this rabbit hole, he was my first call. I was listening to music on YouTube, as I do when I clean, and this cello sonata started to play that I didn't recognize. It was the Cello Sonata by Dora Pejačević, which is the last piece on our album. And over the course of that afternoon, I discovered the three sonatas on this album, which are composed by Henriëtte Bosmans, Ethel Smyth and Pejačević.

“Like I said, Danny is an old friend, so I texted him immediately and asked if he would play the sonatas with me if I made viola transcriptions for them. And that's how this project came to be.”

This project was derailed several times due to the global pandemic, and there's an interesting connection there because all three of these composers lived through the 1918 flu epidemic. Did you feel any connection with them because of this?

“The beginning of the pandemic was such a strange time, and that's when I was learning all of this music. So the pandemic was very much on my mind for obvious reasons. And just thinking about how all three of these composers lived through a very similar time helped me relate to them and their music. The Bosmans Cello Sonata in particular was written in 1919, so right after that flu epidemic.

“… And that piece, it really grabs your attention. It's very passionate and it just has so much power and defiance. And you can kind of hear her saying to the world, ‘Here I am, I matter, my life matters, my music matters.’”


Molly Gebrian, viola; Danny Holt, piano – Trailblazers (Acis)

Molly Gebrian, viola; Danny Holt, piano – Trailblazers (Amazon)

Molly Gebrian (official site)

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