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University of Iowa News Release

Nov. 7, 2003

Photo: Cellist Hannah Holman

Holman, Nosikova Perform Cello Sonatas Nov. 21

Cellist Hannah Holman and pianist Ksenia Nosikova from the University of Iowa School of Music will present a program of cello sonatas at 8 p.m. Friday, Nov. 21 in Clapp Recital Hall on the UI campus.

Their UI faculty recital will be free and open to the public.

The program will feature Beethoven's Sonata in A major, op. 69, as well as two sonatas that stand just outside the circle of the best known cello repertory: the Sonata for cello and piano by 20th-century French composer Francis Poulenc, and the Sonata for cello and piano of Norwegian composer Edvard Grieg.

"This is all incredible music," Holman said about the program. "I feel incredibly fortunate to get to work on and perform this program with Ksenia -- she is a wonderful musician. We have had a great time delving into this music."

"I love starting the program with the Beethoven. The opening interval of an upward fifth sounds like the start of the universe to me.

"The Poulenc is especially challenging for me as a cellist. I haven't played any of his music before. I really love his harmonies, and he has a great sense of humor! I just wish I found it funny when I am leaping all over the fingerboard!

"The Grieg is an excellent Sonata that is not often played. It is very reminiscent of the piano concerto."

Beethoven wrote five sonatas for cello and piano, extending from 1796 to 1815 and representing three very different periods of his life. The two sonatas op. 5 of 1796 represent the classical style of Beethoven's earliest Viennese compositions; the Sonata in A major, op. 69, of 1807-08, written at the same time as the Fifth and Sixth symphonies, represents the assured and vigorous style of his middle period; and the two sonatas op. 102, written in 1815 when Beethoven was struggling with many personal problems, stand at the beginning of his later style period.

The Sonata in A major has a mood of serene optimism that makes Beethoven's inscription on the manuscript -- "amid tears and sorrow" -- seem puzzling. Whatever sorrow he was thinking about is thoroughly sublimated in the music. Two lyrical themes and a number of attractive subsidiary melodies propel the first movement, but it is the first theme that is the real leader, dominating both the busy development section and the coda.

The second-movement scherzo is a rhythmic game in which cello and piano are usually out of step with each other. The finale combines two lyrical themes with dashing energy, with plenty of fast passagework to show off the players' virtuosity.

The French composer Francis Poulenc was associated with a group of modernist composers in Paris in the early years of the 20th century, although he personally favored a neo-classical style and avoided the more radical forms of musical experimentation. Consequently his music has always been considered highly accessible. He wrote songs, piano pieces and several sacred choral works.

His modest output of chamber music includes two sonatas for stringed instruments, one for violin and one for cello. Both were begun during World War II, when Poulenc was living in occupied France. The Cello Sonata, written for the great French cellist Pierre Fournier, was completed after the war had ended, in 1948. As a pianist who did all of his composition at the piano, Poulenc generally assigned the piano especially prominent role in his chamber music. In the cello sonata, for example, it is the piano that often announces the basic themes which the cello subsequently embellishes.

The leading Norwegian composer of the 19th century, Edvard Grieg was born into a musical family in Bergen in 1843. After graduating from the Leipzig Conservatory, Grieg moved to Copenhagen, then the cultural capital of Scandinavia. There he developed a strong interest in Norwegian folklore. From this time on, the Norwegian flavor became a characteristic in Grieg's music. His own performances of Norwegian music made him a leading figure in the musical life of his country.

Grieg's chamber music output is small -- only six works, of which three are violin sonatas. The Cello Sonata was written for his brother, John. The composer himself was critical of the sonata, believing that it recycled too many ideas from his previous works, but others were far more favorable in their reviews. Today the sonata is a considered a standard work in the repertoire of cellists.

The Cello Sonata exploits the full range of the cello and maximizes interplay between the cello and piano. From the outset of the first movement, melodic and rhythmic elements are used by Grieg to create drama and passion. The second movement opens and closes in gentle, lyrical fashion and is followed by the extensive third movement that contains the lively rhythm of the Norwegian "halling" dance.

Holman, who served as principal cello with the Cedar Rapids Symphony in 2001-02, joined the Maia Quartet in the summer of 2002. She is also assistant principal cello of the Eastern Music Festival Orchestra and the American Sinfonietta, She began her professional career in England, playing with the English String Orchestra under Yehudi Menuhin and the City of Birmingham Symphony Orchestra under Simon Rattle.

On returning to the United States Holman became principal cello of the Jackson (Mich.) Symphony and assistant principal of the Greater Lansing Symphony and Michigan Chamber Orchestra. She also was assistant principal of the Richmond (Va.) Symphony.

Always an active chamber musician, she was a founding member of the Beaumont Piano Trio, performing recitals in several states, as well as on tour in England, and was a founding member of Quadrivium, a music ensemble in residence at the Virginia Museum of Fine Arts. As soloist she played with orchestras in Michigan, Virginia, and Georgia, and was invited to the Pablo Casals Cello competition in Germany and the Luis Sigall Cello Competition in Chile.

Holman has served on the faculties of the Worcester College in England, Michigan State University Community Music School and Virginia Union University. Holman studied at the Eastman School of Music and Michigan State University, where she completed her Bachelor of Music Degree. She obtained her master's degree at the New England Conservatory in 1993.

Nosikova, who joined the UI faculty in 1998, has performed extensively as a soloist and chamber musician throughout the United States Europe and South America. She presented two solo recitals in Weill Recital Hall at Carnegie Hall in New York City in 1996 and 2001 and has been a guest soloist with symphony and wind orchestras in Colorado, Louisiana and Iowa. In addition she has been invited to perform at international festivals in Munster, France; Rimini, Italy; and Rovin, Yugoslavia; as well as the Aspen and Sarasota Music Festivals in the United States.

A critic in the Boston Globe wrote, "Nosikova again displayed impressive musicianship," and in Alsace, France, a review noted, "her performance is brilliant, full of grace and the most astonishing precision." New York Concert Reviews noted, "in her Weill Hall recital, the space bloomed with fresh colors and supple pulse, an invigorating and pleasing effusion."

The "Italy" volume of her three-CD set of the complete "Years of Pilgrimage" by Franz Liszt was released by Centaur Records in March 2001. The year 2003 will see the release of the "Switzerland" volume, the third and final volume of the set. She has also recorded a disk of chamber music works for viola and piano by early 20th-century English composers Rebecca Clarke, Arthur Bliss and Frank Bridge with her UI colleague Christine Rutledge.

Nosikova has presented master classes in England and both North and South America. The winner of several international competitions, she regularly serves the Ibla Grand Prize International Competition in Italy as a jury member. Nosikova received a master's degree with high honors from the Moscow State Tchaikovsky Conservatory in Russia and a doctorate from the University of Colorado in Boulder. She has been invited to perform with renowned artists in numerous international master classes.

The School of Music is part of the Division of Performing Arts in the UI College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

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