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First Monday at Jordan Hall
Boston, Massachusetts
Monday, 7 March 2016 - 7:30 PM
First Mondays at Jordan Hall are brilliant with music, performed by some of the world’s best chamber musicians. First Mondays are fresh and full of imaginative pairings of well-loved classics and new work. They’re in Jordan Hall, one of the finest places on the planet to hear music of this caliber. Oh, and First Mondays are free.

Let’s face it, not every Monday is this good. Join us!

Tonight’s concert features a Hungarian program of Bartók and Kodály. With the help of the Borromeo Quartet, and a trio of musicians who specialize in the genre, Artistic Director Laurence Lesser brings in both visual and musical examples to take us on a journey through the composers’ ethnic pasts and influences. The Artistic Director provides the following notes on the program:

Tonight’s concert will be a Hungarian program, starting with the Kodály Serenade and ending with Bartók String Quartet No.4. In searching for what to put in the middle, my mind turned to the work those two composers did in the early 20th century going to villages and recording what they heard on Edison wax cylinders. As I got deeper into it I found two things: in our area we have a violinist, Beth Bahia Cohen, of Syrian Jewish and Eastern European Jewish descent, who specializes in ethnic music from Eastern Europe and the Middle East. I also learned that Borromeo violinist Nicholas Kitchen had made a video incorporating photos of village musicians and using some of the wax roll material.

Beth Cohen sent me sound files of her playing Transylvanian music, one using an instrument I didn’t know about called “gardon” – it’s like a small cello, carved out of one piece of wood with 3 strings (all tuned to D) – and played NOT fingered, NOT bowed and NOT plucked. It’s played as a percussion instrument by a stick hitting the strings. But it also has a string on the side which is only for plucking. When I heard that, it became obvious as the source for the Bartók slap pizzicato!

And so, the middle section is going to use all of that: starting with Beth and colleagues playing something from Transylvania with kontra (viola) and bögös (bass), followed by some of the video about how they went looking for sources, followed by her playing a piece with gardon, and finishing with the Borromeo String Quartet playing a part of Bartók’s Quartet No.4 featuring that kind of pizzicato.

The wax rolls also captured the source material for Bartók’s First Rhapsody - originally for violin and piano but made by the composer for cello and piano as well. After hearing the source material, the middle segment will end with a performance of the Bartók Rhapsody for cello and piano.

Beth’s colleagues are coming especially from New York. As part of Robert Labaree’s Intercultural Institute, they will also be here the day before (Sunday, March 6) from 12-2 in the Keller Room to help us learn more about all that. These are events not to be missed!

Laurence Lesser

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New England Conservatory
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Borromeo String Quartet
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Nicholas Kitchen
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