Composers Datebook®

with host John Zech

Wednesday, July 12

Bolcom's "Sonata Stramba"

Synopsis

The Third Sonata for Violin and Piano written by American composer William Bolcom had its premiere performance on today's date in 1993 at the Aspen Music Festival in Colorado. The violinist was Nadia Salerno-Sonneberg, with the composer himself at the piano. The work was commissioned to honor the 75th birthday of Dorothy Delay, a legendary violin teacher who taught at Juilliard for many years.

Now, the violin is a strange animal for composers to master well, especially if they aren't violinists already, and Bolcom subtitled his Third Violin Sonata "Sonata Stramba"—"stramba" being the Italian word for "strange" or "odd."

Bolcom confesses that he has long been fascinated by two musical sounds more than any other: the voice and the violin. "When I was about ten," Bolcom recalls, "we trundled out my maternal grandfather's imitation Stradivarius, made in Czechoslovakia, and I took a few not-very-successful lessons. When the violin was stolen out of the back seat of my father's Buick that was the end of my studies of the instrument."

Bolcom did become a very talented pianist, however, and befriended a violinist named Gene Nastri, who initiated the young composer into the mysteries of the instrument by performing Mozart and Beethoven Violin Sonatas with him, as well as fledgling violin works written by the young composer. As William Bolcom puts it: "I cannot think of a better way for a non-player to find out about the history and psychology of that instrument than what Gene afforded me and I shall always be in his debt."

Music Played in Today's Program

William Bolcom (b. 1938) Violin Sonata No. 3 (Sonata Stramba) Suite Solomia Soroka, vn; Arthur Greene, p; Naxos 8.559150

Additional Information

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