BELLOWS FALLS/BRATTLEBORO - The Windham Orchestra will pay tribute to renowned cellist David Wells on Friday, Jan. 21, in Bellows Falls and Sunday, Jan. 23 in Brattleboro.
The program - titled "Cello-bration" - will feature an all-star cast of cellists with connections to southern Vermont performing a potpourri of works for cello(s) and orchestra.
A musician of great distinction and accomplishment, and winner of both the American Artists and Harold Bauer Awards, Wells is best known for his mastery of the Bach Suites for unaccompanied cello, and for his much-lauded performances with orchestras around the world. Wells has performed in the United States and Europe with the Manhattan Trio, Columbia Concert Trio, and the Hartt String Quartet. As a soloist known for his "intensely felt performances," he has been heard in the great repertoire from the Baroque through the 20th century in major cities throughout the world.
Wells has been a professor of cello and chamber music at Manhattan School of Music, New England Conservatory, and Hartt School of Music. He is a native of East Chicago, Indiana, and has been living in Putney, Vt. for more than four decades where he co-founded the Yellow Barn Music Festival with his wife, pianist Janet Wells.
The Windham Orchestra's "Cello-bration" tribute, directed by Hugh Keelan, will feature guest cellists Zon Eastes, Timothy Merton, Eugene Friesen, and Judith Serkin; as well as Joan Esch, Michael Finckel, Pedro Pereira, and Sabine Rhyne. Wells, himself, will also grace the stage.
The works in the first half, and the guests of the Windham Orchestra who play them, honor David Wells. The first half of the concert amounts to a survey, rich in meaning, of smaller works for solo cellos in large ensemble. Each piece has a strong musical relationship with David; and each cellist has a strong connection to southern Vermont, an area that has nurtured an exceptional number of fine cellists.
Antonio Vivaldi wrote over 25 concertos for cello and strings, but only one for two concertante cellos. Zon Eastes and Timothy Merton will perform Vivaldi's Concerto for 2 Cellos, in which Vivaldi's delight in instrumental flamboyance shows in the large leaps that string instruments relish, and the tenor register of the central largo.
"Around this plaintive duet, the minor key seems to urge Vivaldi towards the demonic and a gruffer bass register," Keelan said. "The two soloists in general play a hard-fought game of calling and returning tightly-wound fragments, seldom lasting more than a handful of notes. Only at the close of the last movement do they permit one another room for a more expansive thought."
The program continues with Grammy-winning cellist Eugene Friesen featured in Anton n Dvoﬁ k's Silent Woods; and respected cellist Judith Serkin featured in Alexander Glazunov's lovely and intimate Minstrel's Song.
Heitor Villa-Lobos's most famous piece Aria from Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5, features an orchestra of cellos as all eight cellists are joined on stage by soprano Margery McCrum. The first half of Cello-bration concludes with, a work of extraordinary directness of emotion and deep personal meaning for David Wells, Gabriel Faur 's Elegy.
Following intermission, the Orchestra is joined by the all-star cast of cellists for Johannes Brahms' pastoral Symphony No. 2.
"The first movement moves at an untroubled pace, quietly powerful, interested neither in overtaking nor dropping back, that suggests a deep and benign natural process. An expansive recurring passage seems to refer to the famous 'Brahms' Lullaby', and the movement ends with a coy smile", explains Keelan.
The second movement finds the cellos introducing a brooding subject whose dark and somber mood continues until the movement's conclusion.
"Back to 'pastoral' for the Allegretto," Keelan said. "With such grazioso wit and charm Brahms banishes the furrowed brow of the slow movement. All is teasing, whimsical exploration, understated sentiment that only for moments rises above a whisper. The finale too begins with a whisper. It's the whispered secretive comedy of a farce, stifled giggles behind curtains, explosive guffaws, discovery, some serious difficulties come to light, reconciliation, a happy ending. Truly a comedy this music, with all the warmth and love that comedy embodies."
The Cello-bration will be held at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 21 at Bellows Falls Opera House in Bellows Falls and at 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 23 at the Latchis Theatre in Brattleboro. Tickets are $15, $7 for students and seniors. The Windham Orchestra is a program of the Brattleboro Music Center. Tickets are available in advance at the BMC, by phone at (802) 257-4523, online at www.bmcvt.org, and at Village Square Bookstore in Bellows Falls. For more information about the Windham Orchestra visit www.windhamorchestra.org.