October 27, 2019
Benaroya Hall, seattle
Brahms, Dvorak and Still
Central Washington University
Department of Music
October 25, 2019
Romantic masterpieces for violin and piano featuring international competition winner and Seattle native Rachell Ellen Wong.
“Rachell Ellen Wong brought flamboyance and tender eloquence…that brought the program to a thrilling conclusion.”
— Joshua Kosman, Datebook
Rachell Ellen Wong
Sonatina in G Major, op. 100
Harry T. Burleigh:
Southland Suite for piano
Deep River (transcribed for violin and piano by Maud Powell)
Romance for violin and piano (dedicated to Maud Powell)
Sonata in A Major, op. 100
William Grant Still:
Suite for violin and piano
“Schenkman provided beautifully sculpted piano playing… stylistically brilliant, with crisp and dynamic sonorities.”
— Mark Kanny,
In 1885 Jeanette Thurber established a National Conservatory of Music with the radical idea of sponsoring Black students, women, and students with disabilities, to develop a uniquely American school of music. Seven years later Thurber persuaded Czech composer Antonin Dvorak to move to New York and become director of the conservatory. In his three years there Dvorak championed the idea of developing an American national music built on the music of African-American and Indigenous people. Dvorak himself incorporated American themes into his music, most famously in his ninth symphony, “From the New World,” but also in chamber works such as the sonatina for violin and piano which he composed in 1894 as a gift to his children.
One of the Black students whom Dvorak met and befriended at the National Conservatory was Henry Thacker Burleigh, who played double bass in the school orchestra and developed an impressive career as a singer, composer, and arranger. In addition to his concert career Burleigh was a soloist at St. George’s Episcopal Church and a member of the choir at Temple Emanu-El in New York. His art songs were performed by many of the leading singers of his time.
Maud Powell was the first American superstar violinist and was hugely influential in the development of western classical music in America. Powell gave the American premieres of the Sibelius and Tchaikovsky violin concertos and performed the Dvorak concerto with the New York Philharmonic under the supervision of the composer. She also commissioned a concerto from the mixed-race British composer Samuel Coleridge-Taylor, whose father was a descendant of enslaved African-Americans.
Amy Beach, née Cheney, was one of the most successful American composers of her time, with large-scale works premiered by the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Handel & Haydn Society. Her romance for violin and piano was written for Maud Powell.
Despite the efforts of visionaries such as Thurber, Dvorak, and Powell, white males have continued to dominate American classical music. Johannes Brahms, an early champion of Dvorak’s work, is among the best of those white male composers. William Grant Still, one of the great Black composers of the 20th century, has been called “The Dean of African-American Composers.” The three movements of his suite for violin and piano were inspired by works by African-American or mixed race artists: Richmond Barthe, Sargent Johnson, and Augusta Savage.