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Beilman, Weiss play high-minded works

08.01.18
Benjamin Beilman
Jackson Hole News & Guide

What is it that makes us humans, collectively and individually, go insane and do things utterly against our best interests?

“[I] don’t know much about devils and such,” composer Frederic Rzewski wrote of “Demons,” his 2018 commission for violinist Benjamin Beilman, “but as an artist I cannot help feeling sensitive to whatever it is that awakens these ideas. … I am not sure that scientists or doctors understand these things any better than writers or musicians. Perhaps, on the contrary, although we cannot explain them in rational terms, we can nevertheless throw some light on them, in our own way.”

Beilman and pianist Orion Weiss feature “Demons” in their “GTMF Presents” program Tuesday at Walk Hall, along with music by Mozart, Beethoven and Austrian violinist-composer Fritz Kreisler.

Beilman visited Jackson Hole about a year and a half ago, performing with pianist Andrew Tyson as part of the Grand Teton Music Festival’s 2017 winter series.

This time he is joined by Weiss, with whom he has been touring and performing for the past year or so.
“We first performed at a music festival in Long Island six or seven years ago,” Beilman said. “We run in similar circles, play a lot of chamber music together.”

He had wanted to do a project with Weiss for some time, and circumstances aligned when Music Accord, an organization that commissions new work from U.S. composers, approached him with a wide-open invitation. He picked Rzewski to compose a violin-piano duet, and turned to Weiss, who has performed the composer’s work before, to join him.

Rzewski, at 80 years old one of American music’s elder statesman, didn’t agree immediately.
“He wanted to hear me live,” Beilman said.

Soon after catching a New York performance and noting the distinctive sound of the violinist’s lower register, Rzewski set to work.

“The piece opens with solo violin,” Beilman said. “The first four pages are in that lower, growling registers that, as the title suggests, has a deeply ominous feeling.”

Elsewhere, however, “Demons” is airy, expansive and tranquil, borrowing phrases and melodies from anthems from Greece and America’s civil rights movement.
 
Read the rest of the review here