Lou Saetta’s Golden Jubilee Bash
concert, on Saturday night, is a rarity on two counts. First,
it’s a recital of solo violin music, a rare treat for true
connoisseurs. Second, it celebrates 50 years of professional
music making for Mary Lou Saetta, cofounder (with flutist
Irvin Gilman) of Capitol Chamber Artists, an ensemble known
for its inventive programming and skilled, accessible concerts.
A solo violin recital makes some extra demands on the listener.
Piano is one thing: Pianos can texture the music more robustly,
laying out chords as complex as any orchestra can sound.
The violin can sound two strings at once; all four in a
broken chord or a nervous arpeggio. It only hints at those
chords, relying on you, the perceptive listener, to use
your own wit and awareness to mentally fill out the sound.
And never was this more expertly realized than in the solo
string sonatas by Bach. He wrote six for cello, six for
violin, each one a set of contrasting dance movements that
nevertheless hang together in a way that gives each work
a sense of completeness.
Saetta will play his Violin Sonata No. 1 in G Minor,
a four-movement work with, of all things, a four-voice fugue
as its second movement, something achieved on the fiddle
through a great deal of suggestion—yet you’re never unaware
of each of the voices that twines through the piece. Similarly,
the slow third movement features a lovely, plaintive theme
that seems to be answered by a chorus.
Bach’s cello sonatas also sit well on the viola—which gives
under-the-chin string players a shot at them.
I studied violin with Joseph Knitzer,” says Saetta, “he
was the last of the (Leopold) Auer students, a very fierce
man with strong opinions. Among them was the belief that
when violin players play viola, they ruin their technique.
So I stayed away from the viola for a long time. Once I
started playing that instrument, however, and studying with
Frances Tursi, I found that it actually strengthened my
Unlike the violin, which has a fairly strict length, violas
can range from a fairly large instrument to something pretty
much violin-sized; Saetta plays one of the smaller ones.
She’ll be playing Bach’s Cello Suite in C on the
viola, giving us a six-movement work with a characteristically
arpeggiated opening movement and, at its center, a beautiful,
Saetta had the pleasure of playing the U.S. premiere of
Aulis Sallinen’s Cadenza, a work written by the Finnish
composer as a test piece for an international violin competition.
“It’s about five minutes long, but it calls for lots of
left-hand pizzicato, octaves, and other virtuoso techniques.
Back when I was playing with the Albany Symphony, Sallinen
came to Albany to hear his music played by the group, and
I was asked to play this piece for a program we gave at
the Colonie Country Club.”
Other works on the program include Aram Khachaturian’s Sonata
Monologue, a three-movement work that Saetta describes
as being very Armenian in style, befitting the composer’s
heritage, and music by three renowned violinist-composers.
Eugene Ysa˙e was famous in the early 20th century not only
as a virtuoso but also as a conductor (he spent four years
with the Cincinnati Symphony). His Sonata No. 2 in A
Minor, known as the “Obsession” sonata, is a relentlessly
difficult piece that salutes Bach’s Partita No. 3
in the first movement before incorporating the darker strains
of the Dies Irae. Fritz Kreisler’s Recitativo
and Scherzo brilliantly explores the sonorities of the
solo instrument, in a work so tuneful you almost forget
how difficult it is to play. Likewise with Nicolo Paganini’s
Caprice No. 24, last of a monumental series that
explores the instrument’s every technical difficulty.
Look for a user-friendly face to this recital as well: “I’ll
be giving some explanatory remarks before the pieces,” says
Saetta, “which I think helps to break down some of the barriers
people associate with classical music. This is my anniversary,
so it should be fun.”
Mary Lou Saetta’s Golden Jubilee Bash takes place at 8 PM
Saturday (Sept. 24) at the First Congregational Church,
405 Quail St., Albany. Admission is $5. For more information,
call Capitol Chamber Artists at 458-9231.
might point out that we here at Metroland have been
“regarding the rural” quite a bit lately, what with out
recent in-depth coverage of gleaning and the Farmers
v. Yuppie Pond Scum controversy. Well, the folks at
MASS MoCA have organized an exhibition of photographers
who have been “working to breathe new life” into the “distinctly
American genre” of rural photography.
the Rural showcases the recent work of William Christenberry,
Matthew Moore, Julie Moos, Paul Shambroom and Alec Soth.
While it is in the tradition of the great 20th-century photographers
Walker Evans and Dorothea Lange, as the museum guide points
out, the “political and social context has changed.”
Pictured is Soth’s New Orleans. It’s a haunting image
in itself, but even more now, as one can’t help but wonder
if this house is still standing.
the Rural opens Saturday (Sept. 24) and continues through
Dec. 31 at MASS MoCA (1040 MASS MoCA Way, North Adams, Mass.).
For more information, call (413) 662-2111.
so long ago, it wasn’t at all certain that Alejandro Escovedo
would ever be touring again. No Depression’s artist
of the decade (the ’90s) became seriously ill with hepatitis
C in 2003, and, well, things didn’t look so good. Musicians
around the country rallied to his cause: They organized
benefit concerts to raise money for the insuranceless Escovedo,
including a fine local show with an array of aficionados
including Michael Eck.
Happily, Escovedo has sufficiently recovered to start touring
again, and will bring his rootsy, soulful sound to Troy’s
Revolution Hall on Wednesday. You can count on him thanking
everyone for helping out in his time of need, too. As he
told the Charlotte Observer last week: “It was pretty
amazing, inspiring and humbling.”
The Alejandro Escovedo Orchestra will perform Wednesday
(Sept. 28) at 8 PM at Revolution Hall (425 River St., Troy).
Tickets are $22. For more info, call 273-2337.