News

Brahms & Dohnányi on BMC Records – Out on 6 November, 2020!

After a late summer flurry of final touches, my recording of Brahms and Dohnányi Sonatas with pianist Dániel Lőwenberg is finally here! The new album will be released by BMC Records on 6 November.

As we get ready to share this project, I’ve been reflecting on how we got started and the journey from discovery to finished album. I have vivid memories of our first rehearsals of the Dohnányi sonata for a concert in Budapest several years ago. How enchanted we were by his glowing sound world and charming turns of phrase! There was a feeling of emerging from the far side of a magical rabbit hole as we made our way through his most ear-bending modulations. Especially vivid are the memories of moments when we started to enjoy the ride, trusting that we would come out of every harmonic scrape, James Bond-style, only slightly dusted up. But above all, I remember how the eloquence of the music touched us: Out of the opening three-note motive (D#–E–C#), Dohnányi weaves an epic journey, tendril by musical tendril, until these three notes work themselves so far into your psyche that you feel they must have always been there.

The idea of recording this gem of a sonata came up surprisingly early in those first rehearsals. But the idea got stuck on a crucial question: What to pair it with? We quickly rejected most of the obvious choices (Strauss, Janacek, etc.) because none quite complemented the qualities we most wanted to bring out, namely Dohnányi’s personal voice, his meticulous craft, and that distinctly late-summer feeling of nostalgia for summer itself which the late-romantics did so well—and which suffuses this sonata.

Then, by pure happenstance some months later, I noticed an announcement that Bärenreiter would re-publish the forgotten violin versions of Brahms’s Op. 120 clarinet sonatas. The link between the two composers is well known (Brahms championed the young Dohnányi’s first piano quintet in Vienna), but in these sonatas it feels as if Dohnányi picks up where Brahms left off. As Márton Kerékfy has so eloquently written in the booklet for this recording, “the late style of Brahms was Dohnányi’s musical mother tongue.” A short phone call to Dániel later, it was decided.

If you ask any violinist or music lover, they will most likely agree that Brahms wrote just three violin sonatas (Op. 78, Op. 100, Op. 108). The violin version of the Op. 120 sonatas have been completely ignored by violinists and remained out of print for over a century until 2016. Since then, a few violinists have picked them up and a recent recording challenges this assumption with its title: “Brahms—The Five Sonatas for Violin and Piano.” It’s a good headline, but I think the music tells a more complex story—not unlike the multiple layers and truths that so often coexist in Brahms’s sense of rhythm and narrative. When playing Brahms I find myself asking questions such as: Is the music in two or three? Dancing or crying? — and the answer is usually: Yes, and more.

The Sonatas Op. 120 (in F minor and E-flat major) date from 1894, shortly after Brahms came out of self-imposed retirement in order to write for clarinetist Richard Mühlfeld. “No one could play the clarinet more beautifully than Herr Mühlfeld does here,” he rapturously wrote to Clara Schumann. After hearing Mühlfeld herself, Clara replied, “it’s as if he were created for your work. This profound simplicity, and the subtlety of his interpretation!”

The genre of the clarinet sonata was brand new (and surprising, as attested to by remarks and reviews from the time), and playing the viola was also not yet thought of as a distinct pursuit from playing the violin. Although the timeline is not clear, Brahms soon envisioned a viola version of the sonatas, and shortly after in February 1895 sent a teasing letter to his publisher about yet a third version: “Since you do not care for original works, but only for arrangements—I say at once that immediately after the first issue I intend to make an edition for violin, for which some things would have to be changed—thus an independent edition.” By the end of July, 1895, all three versions had been published.

Although the Op. 120 sonatas were played by violinist Marie Soldat-Roeger and also by Joseph Joachim, who otherwise shunned transcriptions, should we really call these “violin sonatas”? Or is the DNA of the (mostly) vibrato-less clarinet so embedded in the writing that they can only be thought of as loving transcriptions of clarinet sonatas?

The chance to explore these questions and their musical implications on tempo, character, vibrato, and so much more, proved irresistible! The challenge of navigating between the three instrumental identities, each with its distinct voice, became an essential part of the rehearsal process (instruments were borrowed, friends consulted), and a source of constant inspiration. The beauty is inseparable from the ambiguity.

It is often said that these masterly late works have no extra notes—which they really don’t. And yet the music itself doesn’t know this or have that retrospective confidence as it unfolds. Over the process of making the recording, we returned again and again to the searching quality, sometimes turbulent, and sometimes child-like in its innocence, that suffuses these sonatas. I try to keep that thought fresh, even now that the recordings are “in the can,” as the saying goes—a constant reminder of what an intimate and vulnerable thing it was for Brahms, and indeed for anyone, to put notes on a page.

Brahms & Dohnányi Recording Publicity Materials

October 8, 2020

Dohnányi and Brahms Sonatas on BMC Records

Sign-up to hear a sample and hear about the launch!

I’m excited to announce a new recording of Dohnányi’s wonderful and mercurial Sonata and the two Brahms Sonatas Op. 120 (in the published version for violin made by Brahms himself) with pianist Dániel Lőwenberg.

Not many people know that these eloquent sonatas from late in Brahms’ life were originally published for violin and piano alongside the famous versions for clarinet and viola (it was a clarinetist who inspired the sonatas and Brahms’ return to composing after retirement, after all) and viola. Violinist Joseph Joachim played both the viola and violin versions in his recitals.

The recording will be released in fall 2020 by BMC Records in Budapest, and while it is not yet possible to order the recording directly from BMC, you can sign-up below to be the first to know when it is released.

May 20, 2020

 

2020 Birdfoot Festival Cancelled

Until recently, we were putting the finishing touches on Birdfoot 2020. I was so excited to share the news (and all of the music) with you.

The cancellation of a music festival is undeniably “small potatoes” at the moment. And yet it feels inseparable from all of the other concerts that have been canceled and all the music that is not being made. It also feels symbolic of the economic devastation that musicians—and so many others—are experiencing.

Heartfelt thanks to all of Birdfoot’s friends, fans, musicians, and volunteers. Your support brings this music to life.

Read the full letter and find out more about what Birdfoot has been able to do (thanks to you!) at www.birdfootfestival.org. There’s also a short video of music that would have been performed during Birdfoot 2020, featuring isolated musicians, Beethoven’s ‘Pastoral’ Symphony (and a cactus).

April 19, 2020

Biography

A musician deeply shaped by her roots in the bohemian city of New Orleans, violinist Jenna Sherry is currently based in London. A versatile chamber musician who also specializes in historical performance, Jenna has collaborated with Steven Isserlis, composers Unsuk Chin and Julian Anderson, and performed at venues including the Kennedy Center, Barbican Hall, and in the Aldeburgh Festival, the Warsaw Autumn Festival, and the Salzburg Chamber Music Festival.

Jenna has recorded Unsuk Chin’s Double Bind? for solo violin and electronics for BBC broadcast, collaborating with the composer and the work’s original creators at IRCAM and most recently performing the piece with the SWR ExperimentalStudio in Cologne’s Acht Brücken Festival.

In 2020, with pianist Dániel Lőwenberg, she will release a recording of sonatas by Dohnányi and Brahms with BMC Records (Budapest).

Jenna is the violinist/violist of EnsembleExperimental (ensemble of the SWR ExperimentalStudio in Freiburg), and regularly plays with groups such as the Irish Chamber Orchestra, Spira Mirabilis, and John Eliot Gardiner’s Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique.

She has participated in chamber music festivals around the world, including the Geelvinck Fortepiano Festival (NL), Taos Chamber Music School and Festival (USA), and the International Musicians Seminar Prussia Cove (UK) where she regularly attends the invitation-only Open Chamber Music sessions.Selected as a Marshall Scholar by the British government, Jenna studied with David Takeno at the Guildhall School of Music & Drama and previously at Indiana University with Mark Kaplan, where she was a Herman B. Wells Scholar. While growing up in New Orleans, her formative teachers were Mary Anne Fairlie and Valerie Poullette. More recent inspiration has come from work with Ferenc Rados, András Keller, and Pavlo Beznosiuk.

In 2017, Jenna joined the faculty of the Royal Conservatory The Hague’s School for Young Talent. Jenna previously taught at the Yehudi Menuhin School (UK), a specialist music school for students between 8-18 years old.

Having sensed early on that New Orleans had something to give that classical music needs, Jenna founded and is Artistic Director of the Birdfoot Festival, praised for its “youthful, rule-bending style”.

 jennasherryviolin

2021

January–AprilMarksteeg 10 Concert Series: More information soon. Watch this space!

2020

3–5 January — Recording, Budapest Music Center, Hungary

9 January — Concert at Marksteeg 10, Leiden, NL

19 JanuaryPlacitas Arts Series, Placitas NM
Robert Schumann, Adagio and Allegro, Opus 70
Frederic Nicolas Duvernoy, Trio No. 2 in F Major
Hans Abrahamsen, Seks Stykker (Six Pieces)
Johannes Brahms, Horn Trio, Opus 40

28 February — House Concert benefiting the Birdfoot Festival, Orinda CA

29 February — House Concert benefiting the Birdfoot Festival, Berkeley CA

26 MarchPrometheus – Imagining Sounds, Ghent,
Belgium POSTPONED

  • Steibelt: Mélange Op. 10
  • Beethoven: Prometheus Variations Op. 35
  • Boondiskulchok: Prometheus (2020) Belgian Premiere
  • Prach Boondiskulchok, Luca Montebugnoli, Sanae Zanane and Jenna Sherry

Pianos: Walter and Erard

7-11 JulyDante Festival, Cornwall POSTPONED

20–30 MayBirdfoot Festival 2020 CANCELLED

26-31 JulyMusicianship for Performers online course

9 August — Private Recital with Prach Boondiskulchok

13 August — Music in the Tower: The Interior Castle—Bach’s Art of Fugue
Live streamed from St. Pancras Tower, London
Listen on Youtube
Program notes and performer bios
Simon Blendis & Jenna Sherry, violins
Francis Kefford, viola
Ursula Smith, cello

21–27 AugustDante Festival, Cornwall

4-15 September — Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Tour
Beethoven: Missa Solemnis CANCELLED

6-13 SeptemberIMS Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music

13 September – 18 OctoberMusicianship for Performers online course

26 September — Concert with Ensemble Experimental & SWR ExperimentalStudio, Freiburg, Germany
Luigi Nono: Guai ai gelidi mostri
And more…Ensemble Experimental (ENEX) ensembleexperimental.de

2019

May 22–June 1Birdfoot Festival 2019

20 August–7 September — Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Tour

8-15 SeptemberIMS Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music

21 September — Kurtág, Czernowin, and Tenney with ExperimentalStudio, Freiburg

3 October — Private Concert, Budapest, Hungary

2018

February 25–March 3 — Birdfoot Festival Spring Artist Residency

May 23-June 2Birdfoot Festival 2018

September 9–16IMS Prussia Cove Open Chamber Music

August 30–September 5 — Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Tour

October 10, 12, 14, 15, 20, 21, 22 — Orchestre Révolutionnaire et Romantique Tour

November 3–10 November IMS Prussia Cove Southwest Tour

6th November: Maker with Rame Community Hall
7th November: Calstock Arts
9th November: The Centre, Newlyn
10th November: Lelant Village Hall

Mozart: Duo for Violin and Viola in B flat major, K.424
Kodály: Serenade for two Violins and Viola, Op.12
Dvořák: String Quartet No.13 in G major, Op.106
Jenna Sherry & Susanne Schäffer, violins
Garfield Jackson, viola
James Barralet, cello

December 1Improv Conference NOLA Panel Discussion
2pm, New Orleans Jazz Museum
Zarouhie Abdalian, Courtney Bryan, and Jenna Sherry – three New Orleanian artists of the same generation working in Jazz, Classical, and Visual Art/Sound Collaboration – explore the intersections of improvisation across their work and lives. Moderated by Gianna Chachere.

December 2Improv Conference NOLA: Messing with Mozart—The Surprising Art of Classical Improvisation
11-1pm, New Orleans Center for the Creative Art
Jenna Sherry, violin and Julia Hamos, piano

Video

 

Birdfoot Festival

Recognized for its fresh approach and “intensely personal” music-making, Birdfoot Festival will celebrate its 10th season in 2021. Birdfoot creates time and space for musicians to do their best work and then brings artists and audiences together to share meaningful and inspiring musical experiences. The annual festival gathers performers who are more than just performers—exceptional artists who are also on a mission to make classical and contemporary music more relevant, visible and accessible. Named for the branching footprint of the Mississippi river delta, Birdfoot draws inspiration from New Orleans’ live-music culture, presenting chamber music in cozy venues and inviting listeners into the creative process. Over the past nine seasons, Birdfoot has presented over 160 concerts and events and drawn musicians and audiences from across the nation and five continents.

Learn more about Birdfoot Festival

Jenna speaks with Diane Mack in 2019 on New Orleans Public Radio’s Inside the Arts

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