Inspired by Bach and other Projects

Inspired by Bach

About this project

We don’t know exactly when or exactly why Bach wrote his Sei Solo for “violin without bass” (probably around 300 years ago), and after their mid-19th century rise to prominence they have remained a staple in violin learning and literature ever since. Much has been made of the grammatical curiosity on their title page (Sei Solo reading variously as “you are alone” or “he is alone”), since Bach was famously meticulous and could easily have written Sei Soli (six solos). During the height of the pandemic, Nicholas explored these works in conjunction with interviews of his musician-friends doing social justice work, in an effort to feel less alone himself. Since then, Nicholas has created works of visual art inspired by each of these incredible, monumental pieces, which will be projected as the music sounds. The concert is presented by the UNC Music Department in conjunction with the North Carolina HIP Festival in Moeser Auditorium at UNC-Chapel Hill on February 24, 2023 at 7 pm.

Inspired by Bach: G Minor Adagio, Soft Pastel on Sanded Paper, Nicholas DiEugenio, 2021

When the violin:’ Music inspired by folk and traditional sources

About this project

When the violinis a project inspired by pianist Mimi Solomon and my own violin students at UNC Chapel Hill, as well as the poet Hafiz and the composer Reena Esmail. In late summer 2021, Mimi mused that it would be a wonderful idea for her piano students to all learn pieces composed in the past “five years,” and I thought the idea rang true as a project for the UNC violin students as well. I asked each student to choose a piece, in some cases suggesting certain repertoire as a starting point, but mostly leaving room for the students to choose music that appealed to them for any number of reasons. As a musician, I have been so grateful for the breadth and variety that this project has brought to the studio, and for all of the exploration, growth, and openness it has engendered in the students. The title of this particular project is taken from Reena Esmail’s hauntingly beautiful solo violin work (adapted for violinist Vijay Gupta from the original version for choir and violin/cello, and performed for this project by UNC student Kapil Ramanarayanan). It is inspired by a text from the 14th C. Persian poet Hafiz:

The violin
Can forgive the past

It starts singing.

When the violin can stop worrying
About the future

You will become
Such a drunk laughing nuisance

That God
Will then lean down
And start combing you into

When the violin can forgive
Every wound caused by

The heart starts

— Hafiz, The Gift (tr. Daniel Ladinsky)

-Nicholas DiEugenio, March 2022

Recalibrating Romantic: Female composers and a new expressivity

About this project

UNC Chapel Hill owns two marvelous fortepianos; One of them is an original 1843 Pleyel, the other a Graf copy made by Rodney Regier in the 1990’s. In June 2021, Nicholas and Mimi Solomon made three live recordings using these instruments along with period violin bows (Ralph Ashmead & J.J Martin workshop). These three recordings are the first installment in a larger project dedicated to the music of composers of underrepresented groups in classical music. Additionally, by exploring the music of Clara Schumann, Pauline Viardot, and Teresa Carreño with these beautiful instruments, Nicholas and Mimi are discovering new forms of expressivity through sound color, timing, and “expressive asynchrony” which are much less possible using modern instruments.

Clara Schumann: Three Romances for violin and fortepiano featuring the Regier Graf and bow by Ralph Ashmead
Pauline Viardot: Six Pieces for violin and piano featuring the 1843 Pleyel and bow by J.J Martin workshop
Teresa Carreño: Romance featuring the 1843 Pleyel and bow by J.J. Martin workshop

Alone/Engaged: The Six Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach for Solo Violin

About this project

Nicholas spent one afternoon each week during the month of July 2020 at The Chapel of the Cross in Chapel Hill, NC, creating the video mini-series “Alone/Engaged: The Six Sonatas and Partitas of J.S. Bach for Solo Violin.” On Tuesdays, Oct 13, Oct 27, and Nov 10 at 7:30 pm, Nicholas will release one video on his website and YouTube channel featuring two of the six pieces, along with an interview highlighting the work of a different musician working in sustained community engagement across the country. The videos and interviews will also stream live on UNC Chapel Hill’s Facebook and YouTube pages.

“In the solo violin works of Bach, far from being ‘alone,’ one is deeply engaged with the music; its many voices, its jaunty dance rhythms, its spiritual arias, its mystical soliloquies, and its labyrinthine structures. Through solitude and contemplation, one has the time and space to breathe and to engage. Over the past year, being ‘alone’ has encouraged me to think much more about how I choose to ‘engage,’ and the types of daily engagement that music can offer going forward.” -Nicholas DiEugenio

Follow updates and musical previews of this project on Instagram: @dieu_violin

Check out this article about the project by UNC Chapel Hill student journalist Audrey Ladele

Read the CVNC Review of Alone/Engaged

Tuesday, November 10, 2020 @ 7:30 pm: A Minor Sonata and E Major Partita

Watch Live here at 7:30 pm on UNC Chapel Hill’s Facebook and YouTube live streams, including a conversation with conductor and musical mentor Kenny Bean, Associate Director of the Primavera Fund, Associate Conductor of the Philadelphia Youth Orchestra, and director of the Kinhaven Junior Session Orchestra and Chorus.

J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 2 in A Minor, BWV 1003
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 3 in E Major, BWV 1006

Tuesday, October 27, 2020 @ 7:30 pm: D Minor Sonata and C Major Sonata

You can watch the previously aired episode here on UNC Chapel Hill’s Music Department YouTube channel, including a conversation with violinist, speaker, and advocate Vijay Gupta, founder of Street Symphony and 2018 MacArthur Fellow.

J.S. Bach: Partita No. 2 in D Minor, BWV 1004
J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 3 in C Major, BWV 1005

Tuesday, October 13, 2020 @ 7:30 pm: G Minor Sonata and B Minor Partita

You can watch the previously aired episode here on UNC Chapel Hill’s Music Department YouTube channel, including a conversation with violinist Jacqueline Jove, Director of Education, Sphinx Organization.

J.S. Bach: Sonata No. 1 in G Minor, BWV 1001
J.S. Bach: Partita No. 1 in B Minor, BWV 1002

Unraveling Beethoven: Beyond the Canon

Reanimating Beethoven’s 10 Violin Sonatas in the 21st Century

Tonia Ko                         Allen Anderson                         Jesse Jones                         Robert Honstein                          D.K. Garner

About this project

As part of our ongoing, lifelong engagement with the Beethoven Violin Sonatas, we think a lot about how we hear these works, and the things we notice–not just on repeated hearings, but also with 21st century ears and sensibilities. To de-canonize, undress, and humanize a figure like E.T.A. Hoffman’s heroic Beethoven is paradoxical; we seek a new image for “Beethoven” in our post-canonic age, yet in so doing we reanimate this figure in a different way. We are writing a new chapter in our ongoing relationship with this music.

The motivation for this project is about coming to grips with the concept of the ‘Classic’ from the various standpoints of performer, composer, and listener. What does it mean for creative artists to work alongside the specter of classic works? How do we hear these works now, and what have they become in our 21st century world? Do listeners recognize a canonic, classic work as such, or are we now in fresh, fertile soil for these works in our culture? These are questions that our project seeks to open and to investigate.

Our culture values originality, though we have also inherited a canon of classics and all of the expectations that accompany anything associated with the canon. This project seeks to undress and unravel those expectations a bit, and to learn more about their origins. We want to have our cake and eat it too; we want to move beyond the canon and into the 21st century, and we want to take Beethoven with us.