So, I am totally NOT a virtuoso…..

As a composer, I’m not gonna lie–I’m somewhat partial to finding ways to support fellow new composers, and with that being said, I strongly want to perform new works. Of course, I love my regular dose of Bach (Cello Suite anyone?), but there are works that have been composed, even during my own lifetime, that are just as exciting.

When I (quite unexpectedly) switched to viola as my primary instrument, I was well aware that I was joining the forces of the “underdogs” of the string family. The literature originally written for solo viola, in comparison to that of the “golden” literature for violin and cello, is relatively far and few between. Today, the waters are changing quite a bit; however, there is also what seems to be the influence of some inherent impulse of composers who want to make every solo work (whether accompanied or not) a virtuosic masterpiece. There is something quite captivating about a performer who can make the most grueling techniques look easy, and there is something even more impressive about a composer who can incorporate this aspect into their writing while allowing their work to be…well…musical.

The advantage of being a composer and a performer is that I do see both sides of the coin: many performers want to look glorious and feel confident on stage, and many composers want the audience to remain captivated and interested. Ultimately, this presents an interesting problem for me:

I humbly consider myself a “decent” musician, and I am quite confident in my performing, but I am far from what I would consider a virtuoso. Yet, I still want to play new and interesting music, and I do want a little bit of a challenge. With that said, these are the two contemporary pieces I have begun working on over the summer: Henry Cowell’s String Quartet No. 4 (“The United Quartet”), and Raul Kottler‘s Viola Alone Suite.

I will keep you informed of my progress, my frustrations, and my enlightenment in adding these two great pieces to my repertoire. Ideally, I do want to assemble a string quartet that focuses on new music this year, and there are plans of a New Music Ensemble in the works at U of R. Can’t wait!

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