Diana Tishchenko & José Gallardo
The music in today’s concert takes us on a journey from turmoil to reflection, clarity and hope for what comes next.
The meaning of a sonata has shape-shifted over time – the word itself comes from the Latin ‘sonare’, which is literally ‘to sound’, meaning that a sonata in its original context can refer to anything ‘sounded’ by instruments. In more recent iterations, ‘recent’ in this instance meaning the last several hundred years, the word has been used more specifically to refer to a form of compositional expression. That form has wiggled its way into much of the symphonic writing we know and love, and is satisfying, according to Leonard Bernstein, because of its architecture. In all its re-inventions and variations, the sonata is nourishing to us as listeners because of the way it balances and contrasts.
Johann Sebastian Bach’s sonatas and partitas for solo violin, six works essential to the repertoire, follow a Sonata da chiesa structure: a 17th-century invention of four movements, that very much fulfils Bernstein’s idea of satisfaction through structure. The ‘Andante’ from the second sonata featured on today’s programme sits as the third movement, and offers a lyrical, haunting melody atop a deliberate and unbroken bass line. There is great virtuosity in the seemingly simple melodic material.
This extract from Bach’s Sonata No 2 is complemented by Turkish composer Fazıl Say’s deeply moving second sonata, titled Mount Ida. Composed in 2019, the three-movement work is named for the ‘great tragedy in nature that occurred at Mount Ida, in Turkey, where hundreds of thousands of animals and trees were destroyed,’ Say told The Violin Channel in 2020, speaking of the 195,000 trees removed to make way for a prospective gold mine. The three movements, which deal with decimation, devastation and ultimately, hope, are in turn heart-wrenching and epic, desolate and somehow buoyant, as Say’s music explores the possibility attached to the Turkish people’s resistance to the destruction of the natural world.
Vasco Mendonça, a Portugese composer equally interested in the architecture of music and the idea of exploring contemporary issues through composition, was commissioned to write his work a box of darkness with a bird in its heart by the European Concert Hall Organisation, who named violinist Diana Tishchenko as one of their six Rising Stars for the 2022/2023 season. Hearing Tishchenko play made Mendonça jump at the opportunity to write for her: ‘she has a rich sound and makes the instrument resonate,’ he says, a fact clear to him despite being forced to begin his compositional process over Zoom due to the Covid-19 pandemic and subsequent restrictions. In writing for a solo instrument, there are natural restrictions set in your way, but parameters of this nature can, through the right lens, become great gifts. Mendonça approached the instrument orchestrally, exploring the natural resonances and quite simply, exploiting (as J S Bach did) the fact that the violin can play more than one note at once. In this work, he explores the violin’s sound world through double-stops and open strings, delving into concepts of continuity, reflection, and abstraction.
When commissioned to write the piece in 2020, around the time of the presidential election in the United States, Mendonça had just discovered the American poet Terrance Hayes, whose work sparked something immediately: ‘I felt in his poetry that he was capturing the essence of the dreadful moment we were living in, in a more accurate way than any news bulletin or political report. Through the personal, the abstract, he was telling us something more truthful.’
The phrase ‘I make you a box of darkness with a bird in its heart’ from Hayes’ poem American Sonnet for My Past and Future Assassin said something beyond just the political to Mendonça: ‘he was also reflecting very deeply on what language means.’ This type of reflection felt like a homecoming to the composer: ‘music is, in itself, a very abstract language. A self-reflective language.’
Finally, we end as we begin: an arresting melody and a haunting exploration of lyricism and emotional extremes. A short, virtuosic work, Maxim Shalygin’s KAYA, written in 2019 for the Nederlands Vioolconcours, creates a complex and immersive sound world from which it takes a moment to emerge. A Ukrainian-Dutch composer, Shalygin says that ‘being shocked by music is about pain turning into beauty and getting under your skin, taking away your breath.’ And it is this sentiment that all of the pieces today reach for – that irresistible and utterly human urge to go just a little further, a little deeper, in the hope of arriving at some kind of magnificence.
© Megan Steller
Programme and performers
Johann Sebastian Bach ‘Andante’ from Violin Sonata No 2
Fazıl Say Sonata No 2, Mount Ida
1. Decimation of Nature
2. Wounded Bird
3. Rite of Hope
Vasco Mendonça a box of darkness with a bird in its heart
Maxim Shalygin KAYA
Diana Tishchenko violin
José Gallardo piano
Diana Tishchenko is considered one of the most exciting artists of today’s classical music scene, particularly known for her rich range of the violin repertoire. Whereas being praised for her authentic, stylistically refined performances within Barock Epoche she extends her programs until the present period, especially enjoying collaboration with contemporary composers, who often dedicate their compositions to herself.
In 2018, Diana Tishchenkowon the Grand Prix at the legendary Long Thibaud Crespin International Competition in Paris. Her Parisian debut CD Strangers in PARadISe has been released on Warner Classics to the highest critical acclaim.
After the European Concert Hall Organization (ECHO) named her a Rising Star, Diana Tishchenko appears in 20 major concert halls in Europe including the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the Paris Philharmonie, the Concertgebouw Amsterdam in the 2022/23 season.
She has shared the stage with conductors such as Ivan Fischer, Lahav Shani, Andrew Litton, Joshua Weilerstein, among others, appearing with orchestras such as Deutsches Symphonie-Orchester Berlin, giving her debut performance at the Berliner Philharmonie, as well as Orchestre National d’Île-de-France, Berlin Baroque Soloists, and Orchestre Philharmonique de Strasbourg and Budapest Festival Orchestra.
Diana appears regularly at major festivals, including the Rheingau Musik Festival, the Schleswig-Holstein Musik Festival, La Folle Journée de Nantes and Tokyo, the Prades Festival Pablo Casals. She will be debuting at the Pierre Boulez Saal appearing at Barocktage 2022 of the Berlin State Opera.
The Crimean-born violinist began her violin studies with her aunt in native Simferopol, and later at Kyiv’s specialized music school for gifted children. She received her bachelor and master degree with Ulf Wallin at the Hanns Eisler Academy of Music in Berlin and Solo Performance with Boris Kuschnir at the University of Arts Graz. A strong musical influence was provided to her by Gidon Kremer, Sir András Schiff, Rita Wagner and Ferenc Rados.
Diana Tishchenko plays a violin by Antonio Stradivari from 1695.
Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, José Gallardo began taking piano lessons at the age of five. After studying at the Conservatory in Buenos Aires, he continued his studies with Prof Poldi Mildner at the Music Department of the University of Mainz and received his diploma in 1997. During this time he discovered his passion for chamber music. He owes musical inspiration to artists such as Menahem Pressler, Alfonso Montecino, Karl-Heinz Kämmerling, Eberhard Feltz, Sergiu Celibidache, Rosalyn Tureck and Bernard Greenhouse.
José Gallardo has won numerous national and international prizes and plays concerts worldwide at venues such as the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, Philharmonie in Berlin, Wigmore Hall London or the Teatro della Pergola Florence. He has been invited to play at renowned festivals as Lockenhaus Chamber Music Festival, Verbier Festival, Lucerne Festival, Ludwigsburg Schlossfestspiele, Schwetzinger Festspiele, Music Days Hitzacker, Kaposfest Ungarn, Cello Festival Kronberg and Chopin Festival in Warsaw.
José Gallardo’s comprehensive chamber music activities and collaborations in Europe, Asia, Israel, Oceania and South America connect him with Vilde Frang, Barnabás Kelemen, Gidon Kremer, Linus Roth, Benjamin Schmid, Nils Mönkemeyer, Tomoko Akasaka, Andreas Ottensamer, Nicolas Altstaedt, Julius Berger, Maximilian Hornung, Benedict Klöckner, Miklós Perényi, and others.
He is a sought-after pianist for studio productions. More than 20 CDs have been released by Warner, Deutsche Grammophone, Challenge Records Int., Genuin, NEON, Oehms Classics and Naxos as well as television and radio productions by BR, SWR, MDR, BBC, RAI and others.
From 1998 to 2008 he was a lecturer at the Department of Music at the University of Mainz. Since autumn 2008 he has been teaching at the Leopold Mozart Center of the University of Augsburg. Since 2013 he is, together with Andreas Ottensamer, artistic director of the chamber music festival Bürgenstock Festivals in Lucerne.