FHSU to host annual Cottonwood Music Festival


By Ruth Firestone

Hays music supporter

HAYS, Kan. – Begun in 2000, The Fort Hays State University Cottonwood Music Festival celebrates the genius of chamber music by bringing recognized guest artists to Hays to collaborate with FHSU’s Department of Music and Theatre faculty and students for three days of rehearsals, master classes and concerts.

The culminating concert for the festival will be at 7:30 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, in the Beach/Schmidt Performing Arts Center in Sheridan Hall on FHSU’s campus.

Featured FHSU music faculty members will be Shokhrukh Sadikov, assistant professor, violist and conductor; Benjamin Cline, chair and cellist; and Dr. Irena Ravitskaya, associate professor and pianist.

Guest artists are Veronique Mathieu, University of Kansas, violin; Evgeny Zvonnikov, 2012 winner of the FHSU young artist competition, violin; Rudolf Haken, Urbana, Ill., viola; and Sunnat Ibrahim, doctoral student at KU, cello.

Interestingly, all three compositions to be performed were written during a time of immense cultural change in Western civilization, but reveal only hints of things to come.

The program will begin with Edward Elgar’s “Serenade for Strings” (1892), the first composition he was satisfied with and one of his most-performed works. It is a short piece in three movements, very pleasant to the ear if a trifle mundane – critics think the second, slow movement most closely resembles his later compositions. The FHSU Sinfonietta will join guest and faculty artists in this chamber orchestra work.

Arnold Schoenberg’s “Verklaerte Nacht” (“Transfigured Night” 1899) will follow next, bringing a joyous mood to the program. This is Schoenberg’s first important work and also one of the icons of post-Wagnerian Romanticism. The poem by Richard Dehmel that gave Schoenberg the title, though about true love, promoted the end of middle-class morality and the beginning of a new humanity, “beyond good and evil” (Nietzsche).

In the poem, a man and woman are taking a walk on a winter night where the woman confesses that, driven by her needs for sex and motherhood, she is pregnant by another man. The man declares his love for her, for the baby to come, and even for the other man. They walk happily along. “Love conquers all” (Virgil).

One of Elgar’s late compositions, the “Piano Quintet” (1918), will conclude the concert. The “Quintet” bridges the cultural chasm between pre-and post-World War I. Musically, it is firmly entrenched in the late Romantic, post-Wagnerian tradition – Elgar himself called it “large” and “ghostly stuff.” It may reflect some of the trauma of World War I and the alienation felt afterward. The piece has a background story from folklore about sacrilegious monks struck by lightning whose ghosts feel “sad and dispossessed.” Unlike the “Serenade,” the “Quintet” took a long time to become part of the standard repertoire, but is now frequently performed.

Please mark your calendar for 7:30 p.m., Jan. 27, in Beach/Schmidt. Also, come to the pre-concert talk by Cline and Sadikov at 7 p.m. As are all HSO concerts, this concert is free and open to the public. The Cottonwood Festival and this concert have been made possible by a generous grant from Claire Matthews. Cathy’s Breads will host the post-concert reception.

Additional festival activities include a performance by FHSU’s Sinfonietta at 1:30 p.m., Friday, Jan. 19, at the Hays Public Library; master classes at 2 p.m., Thursday Jan. 25, and Friday, Jan. 26, and an honors concert at 4 p.m., Saturday, Jan. 27, all in FHSU’s Palmer Recital Hall located in Malloy Hall, room 115. The public is welcome to all these events.

Additional information about festival activities can be found on the Hays Symphony Orchestra’s Facebook page.

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