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When contemplating my senior project in music, I decided that neither two violin recitals nor a 70-page musicology paper would be representative of my time spent at Bard as a music major. I came to the conclusion that one recital as well as a shorter paper would be the best encapsulation of my musical experience at Bard College. The caveat in doing two projects was that I wanted to do two projects that did not relate. Essentially I did not want the violin repertoire for my recital to be dependent on what my senior musicology paper theme was and vice versa. I decided that I would write my musicology paper on the John Adams opera The Death of Klinghoffer, which is entitled Terrorism Is Meshugas: The Manifestation of Politics in John Adams’s Opera The Death of Klinghoffer. For my recital, I picked repertoire that would demonstrate the capacities of the violin.
I had two pieces in mind early on when I was planning my recital: Franck’s A Major Sonata for Violin and Piano and Bach’s A Minor solo sonata. I chose the Franck because it is a piece that I have loved for many years and is the epitome of French romantic music. Its beauty is an asset to any recital program. I programmed the Bach because of its nature as a masterwork for the violin. After playing two movements of Bach’s G minor sonata at my moderation concert, I decided to play all four movements of the more challenging A Minor Sonata for my senior recital. This piece is ideal for showing the ability of the violin as a solo instrument.
The final piece in my program took longer to determine. I wanted to relate my paper with my recital in a small capacity. This inclination led me to choose American composer Charles Ives’ Fourth Sonata (Children’s Day at the Camp Meeting) for my last piece. The Ives is a short, lighthearted piece and provided a great contrast for both the Bach and the Franck. These three pieces exemplified the violin through the lens of the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries.
I began practicing the music for the recital the summer before my senior year. First I learned the Bach Sonata, which was the most difficult, especially the second movement Fuga. The challenges in the Bach arose when the violin was playing many lines at once. Therefore learning all the voices together was a struggle technically and musically. Achieving memorization was also difficult due to the many lines progressing in the score. I learned the Ives and the Franck sonatas during the school year. Additionally, I chose Bard alum pianist Ming Aldrich-Gan to perform these sonatas with me. He had the skills to play the technically demanding parts. The Ives and Franck sonatas, while important to practice on my own, were difficult to hear without the piano. Ming and I started rehearsing together in February 2012.
By and large I am pleased with the way my recital turned out. The music I chose accurately displays the progress I have made throughout my Bard experience. My biggest transition at Bard as a violinist is that I became more engaged with the notes actually written on the page rather than how I perceive pieces should sound. For this recital, I prepared the music more methodically and diligently than I have ever prepared anything. Though everything was not perfectly performed, I am proud of my performance because I was able to convey the music through my nerves. I am especially appreciative to Marka Gustavsson for teaching me for the past three years at Bard and helping me to prepare my recital program. I intend to continue playing violin after I graduate as a lifelong hobby.
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Menees, Sydney, "Senior Concert by Sydney Menees" (2012). Senior Projects Spring 2012. 34.
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