FantaC — World premiere of a collaboration with the Ashkenazy Ballet Center, inspired by music that is based on the viola C string. Ranging from Bach, Ligeti to Bunch





Music of Bach, Garth Knox, Tower, Ligeti, Hindemith, Vieuxtemps, Kenji Bunch


iconmonstr-headphones-1-48Henri Vieuxtemps: Capriccio

An extraordinary collaboration between the Ashkenazy Ballet Center in Lugano, Switzerland and renowned violist Hsin Yun Huang, a choreographed project with dancers, celebrating wonderful movements and pieces written by composers who were also violists.
Projected premiere — March 8th, 2021 — Trieste, Italy https://www.societadeiconcerti.it

The program FantaC has lived in my head for a year.  It started with my dream of incorporating the Ligeti work into a choreographed project with dance.  Then I reflected that if I was able to build more around it, it could become a “program” and stand on its own.  In another sense, this is a celebration of wonderful viola movements and pieces from many fabulous composer-violists — Paul Hindemith, Garth Knox, Kenji Bunch and perhaps Bach in his day with a viola d’Amore.

The C-string (the lowest string on the viola) is a wonderful string for obvious reasons. Many composers, when writing for the viola, gravitate towards the haunting, warm and chocolatey timbre of this special string. Our program starts with the sunny and familiar C major Prelude from Bach’s 3rd suite, the curtain opens with a melodic journey that is rich and unstoppable. followed by a Romanian Dance Hora Lungå by Ligeti, who employs a “natural” intonation system (microtonal for certain notes, it will seem “out of tune” by today’s tuning aesthetics).  This movement stretches the C string’s range almost to the breaking point, resulting in a sound of great expressivity, depth and power.  The haunting state of silence at the end of this piece is then shattered by the explosion of the 4th movement from Hindemith’s Solo Sonata Op. 25 No.1, the ultimate wild C-string fantasy.  This short 1-minute movement leaves us breathless and in awe.  Vieuxtemps’ Capriccio is exactly the solace one needs after the confrontation of these two movements.   9 Fingers by Garth Knox, himself a brilliant violist, explores various uses of almost all the fingers in fun and imaginative ways.  I decided to add Joan Tower’s Wild Purple, which in my opinion is the truest “fantasy” in its structure and flow.

Now we release the viola into other realms of sonority with scordatura tuning and explore further what the viola could do. When top A string goes down to a G, it created an opportunity to experience one of the most profound sorrows in the hands of the greatest master J.S. Bach in his Saraband of the 5th suite for Violoncello senza Basso. Returning to 250 years earlier, the stark emptiness yet aching connections between notes evoke a new listening experience. The Gigue in minor communicates such mixed emotions. A typically joyful last dance becomes hesitant and halting. Finally we release the C string down to a low G! It loosens up with Kenji Bunch’s 3 Gs. This rock-inspired short movement leads us to jive with the performer. The entire program evaporates in G,  but perhaps that is the ultimate fantasy — it is up to the listener’s imagination to bring it back from dominant to tonic! Enjoy FantaC!