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Journey from Bach to Britten

Tuesday's program will span chamber music's repertoire

David Finckel and his wife, Wu Han, will play in Libby Gardner Hall.
David Finckel and his wife, Wu Han, will play in Libby Gardner Hall.
Artist Led

Husband-and-wife musicians David Finckel and Wu Han each have demanding careers that often separate them for lengthy periods. Finckel is the Emerson Quartet's cellist, and Wu Han maintains an active schedule as a pianist. But they still manage to find time to perform together as a duo.

Finckel and Wu Han first played in Salt Lake City three years ago. At that time, they gave a spectacular performance of the complete Beethoven cello sonatas. On Tuesday, they'll be returning to play a somewhat different program.

"It's always a pleasure to get rebooked, because you get a sentimental attachment to places you've played before," Wu Han said by phone from New York. (Finckel was in Florence, Italy, with the Emerson and unavailable for an interview.)

Their recital, which is co-sponsored by the Chamber Music Society of Salt Lake City and the Virtuoso Series, is a history of chamber music, Wu Han said. "It's a very interesting program. It's a survey of music history in two hours."

The program takes a chronological path from J.S. Bach to Benjamin Britten. Along the way, there'll be stops for Beethoven, Schumann and Debussy. "It really shows you a good diet of how music developed from the baroque to the 20th century."

The program will begin with Bach's Sonata for Viola da Gamba in G major, BWV 1027. "When he wrote these sets of sonatas in Leipzig, he ran a concert series at a coffeehouse down the street from the churches where he worked. This is fun and spirited music."

Britten's sonata, which he wrote in 1961 for Mstislav Rostropovich, is technically demanding and virtuosic. "It's sheer virtuosity for the cello, especially in the last movement, and the piano part isn't easy, either," Wu Han said.

In between these two works, the duo will play Beethoven's Sonata in A major, op. 69, Schumann's Adagio and Allegro, op. 70, and Debussy's Sonata for Cello and Piano. "We try to make our programs a journey for the audience. This is a very colorful program. It shows how the language has developed in terms of cello technique. Each piece has its own place in the cello repertoire."

One composer who's missing from this program is Brahms. Brahms didn't write much chamber music specifically for the cello, although he did write two magnificent sonatas. So to hear how Finckel and Wu Han play Brahms, one needs to listen to their most recent album. In September, the duo released a CD of the two sonatas, along with the Six Pieces for Solo Piano, op. 118.

The album is the latest release on their ArtistLed label. In 1997, when Finckel and Wu Han started it, they were the first artists to venture out into the recording industry. And now, eight years later, the company is thriving. "We're doing fantastically well," Wu Han said. "When we started, everyone said that it was a vanity project, and we had to get our manager behind us, but it's turned out to be an artistically sound undertaking."

She and her husband have total artistic control over their product. "We can choose the music and the engineer. And no one can drop us from our own label, or cancel out a contract."

Wu Han sees every CD that ArtistLed releases as a piece of art. "It takes a tremendous amount of energy to produce, and it gives us a sense of responsibility. But everything we do comes from our heart."

If you go . . .

What: David Finckel, cello; Wu Han, piano

Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University

of Utah

When: Tuesday,

7:30 p.m.

How much: $25

Phone: 581-7100 or 561-3999

Web:www.virtuososeries.org


E-mail: ereichel@desnews.com