Every player of the viola da gamba knows the joke: if one has a four-decade career playing the instrument, one has spent at least twenty years tuning. This notoriously difficult instrument is the shape of a small cello, held up by wedging it between the calves. Elisabeth Reed, co-director of the Baroque Ensemble, explains that the sound it produces compares to that of a cello the way candlelight looks after a day under fluorescent light.
For an hour in the middle of a rainy Thursday, the sound of candlelight bathed the recital hall at the Ann E. Pitzer center.
Harpsichordist Yuko Tanaka and gambist John Dornenburg opened the winter season of the free Shinkoskey noon concerts with a program notable for both the playfulness and obvious difficulty of the pieces. Seventeenth- and eighteenth-century composers Charles Dollé and the mysteriously named Monsieur de Sainte-Colombe demanded large leaps between registers and the imitation of wind, bells, and other instruments.
What was not obvious to the audience was that a couple hours earlier, these musicians did not expect to put on this concert. Music Department events manager Phil Daley received a phone call from the originally scheduled Elisabeth Reed explaining that she had become ill and could not perform along with harpsichordist Corey Jamason. Reed’s strong recommendation Dornenburg and Tanaka, and their readiness to travel and perform these challenging pieces, is a credit to the strength and entrepreneurship of the Bay Area’s network of musicians.
This performance was part of an ongoing series of free noontime concerts held in the recital hall of the new Ann E. Pitzer Center, which is funded by an endowment to honor the memory of musician and community activist, Joy S. Shinkoskey. As Phil Daley says, “Music is meant to be shared.” While the schedule adjusts to make the best use of visiting performers, the programs feature music in loose chronological order, following the popular Music 10 course on Western Music History developed by Professor D. Kern Holoman.
Be sure to make time this Thursday (January 26) to hear violinist Ana Presler and cellist Leighton Fong of the Left Coast Chamber Ensemble perform works from Bach and Ravel as well as compositions by UC Davis faculty composers Laurie San Martin and Sam Nichols. The first Shinkoskey concert in February features Prof. Holoman conducting faculty affiliates in a program of Debussy curiosités, a combination of works by Debussy and virtuoso (American) violinist Arthur Hartmann.
-Rachel Reeves, PhD, Mellon Public Scholars Program Manager