Jacobs professor to premiere dozen viola pieces

Jacobs School of Music professor Atar Arad admitted he finds it more than a little intimidating to perform all of his self-composed Twelve Caprices for Viola as part of the school’s Summer Music Festival.

“I am absolutely thrilled to premiere the set at the Summer Musical Festival,” he told Art at IU via email. “But the caprices being so technically demanding, I find it extremely challenging — scary almost — to present them for the first time to an audience of music students and music lovers alike so used to the highest level of artistry offered by our school and by Bloomington’s musical environment as a matter of routine.”

Atar Arad

Jacobs School of Music professor Atar Arad.

Arad said each of his caprices is related to a well-known viola piece. For example, violists might recognize fragments of the second movement of William Walton’s Viola Concerto in his Caprice Two, the closing run of Bartok’s Viola Concerto in his Caprice Three — Arad said he likes to present this caprice as an encore to the Bartok concerto — and elements of Schubert’s Arpeggione Sonata in his Caprice Seven.

Those with a discerning ear might pay particular attention to Caprice Twelve, as Arad said his source of inspiration for that work will remain secret.

“According to the Harvard Dictionary of Music, a caprice is a ‘humorous, fanciful or bizarre composition, often characterized by an idiosyncratic departure from current stylistic norms,’” he said. “With composer-performers like Paganini and others, caprices were used also as instrumental show-off pieces, and their transcendental difficulties were at the heart of their raison d’être. I wrote my caprices over a span of several years, whenever I was in a ‘humorous, fanciful or bizarre mood’ or whenever I felt like challenging myself or others with some instrumental hurdles.”

He initially considered writing 24 caprices, he said, adding: “Truth be said, half of Paganini’s magical number is good enough for me.”

Arad has performed several of his caprices in the past, but he said some will be played for the first time during the Festival Chamber Players performance at 8 p.m. July 11 in Auer Hall. In addition, the concert represents the first time the entire set will be performed as a whole.

Details about the concert , including ticket information, are available online.

Arad was violist of the Cleveland Quartet from 1980 to 1987. Among his compositions are a viola concerto, which premiered in Bloomington, Brussels and Stockholm; and a string quartet, which will be performed July 5 at the Summer Musical Festival by the Rubens Quartet. He is artist-faculty at the Steans Institute of the Ravinia Festival, Keshet Eilon in Israel and Domaine Forget in Quebec. He also tours worldwide, has recorded widely and published several essays.

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