Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Violinist Cecylia Arzewski and Bach this Saturday

This Saturday, May 21st at 8:15 PM, the 20th Anniversary Season of Clayton State University's Spivey Hall concludes with violinist Cecylia Arzewski playing her second and final recital of the complete works for violin solo by Johann Sebastian Bach.

For Bach-lovers, this is a feast consisting of the A-minor Sonata (No. 2), and the D-minor and E-major Partitas (Nos. 2 and 3).  The program rightly concludes with the famous Chaconne from the D-minor Partita -- a piece whose inspiration power remains undiminished over the centuries, as one of Bach's supreme creations.

I first heard Cecylia in recital at Oglethorpe University, early in her tenure as concertmaster of the Atlanta Symphony, shortly after I had joined the staff as artistic administrator in the 1990-91 season.  This performance included the towering Bach Chaconne in D minor.  It impressed me mightily.  The intensity, laser-like focus, precision, discipline, passion and imagination of her playing was undeniable.  This was a woman driven by a higher calling.

A few seasons ago, I had the pleasure of hearing one of Cecylia's all-Bach recitals at Emory University's Carlos Museum.  The room was full of admiring listeners, many of whom stood to hear her play.  This is where the idea of inviting her to perform the complete Sonatas and Partitas as part of Spviey Hall's 2011 Spring Bach Festival took shape -- a suggestion she responded to warmly, because, as I learned, she was preparing to record them all, and they needed to be "played in."   

Very soon, once her final recording sessions in New York are completed later this spring, that dream will be much closer to becoming reality -- an immense personal and artistic achievement. 

I was intrigued to read Cecylia's comments about the artists whose performances of Bach had inspired her during her life-long study of these pieces -- and happily surprised, because a good number of them are not violinists, but pianists..!  Her interview with Pierre Ruhe of is posted here:

(I share her regard for Pablo Casals as a Bach interpreter, though I only know the recordings, never having heard him live. A recording featuring Casals playing the Schubert C-major String Quintet ignited my love of chamber music when I was high school; I have the recording still, and its emotional effect on me is undiminished.)

Cecylia has devoted countless hours, over decades of her life, to cultivating, honing and refining her performances of these works.  As you can imagine, her recital Saturday promises to be an amazing experience on many levels. 

Thus I warmly encourage anyone who cares about Bach to come and be regaled by magnifcent music, performed by one of Atlanta's foremost musicians in the acoustical splendor of Spivey Hall.  Tickets for the 8:15 PM recital are just $25 at or at the Box Office, (678) 466-4200; a 50% discount for students with ID is available when ordering by phone or at the Box Office.