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Music for Violin & Harp

Murray Boren, Gaetano Donizetti, Alan Hovhaness, Angel Lasala, Camille Saint-Saëns, Adrian Shaposhnikov

Donna Fairbanks, violin
Lysa Rytting, harp

World Premiere Recordings



Gaetano Donizetti was the undisputed master of Italian opera from the 1830s—at least after the death of Vincenzo Bellini in 1835—until the 1840s, when Giuseppe Verdi’s fast rise to fame coincided with Donizetti’s physical and mental disintegration. Like most of the composers represented on this album, Donizetti was prolific: in addition to some sixty operas, he wrote dozens of cantatas, about one hundred sacred works, and hundreds of other vocal chamber works. He even found time to write a fair amount of instrumental music, including nineteen string quartets. The Sonata recorded here is his sole work for violin and harp. The Larghetto has all the operatic passion of a tragic aria. We realize Donizetti has been pulling our leg when he breaks into the frothy Allegro.

While Adrian Shaposhnikov is not well known, his works are exquisite. A pupil of Alexander Glazunov, he graduated from the St. Petersburg Conservatory in 1913. From 1920 through 1935, he worked in Moscow as an engineering economist and freelance composer. During this period he composed the Sonata for Violin (or Flute) and Harp (1925-6). This difficult work is cast in three movements; the first is dreamy and atmospheric, the second conjures up echoes of previous centuries with its minuet rhythms and the third, a swashbuckling jig, which brings the Sonata to a rousing conclusion.

The understated simplicity of the Sonata, Op.406, by Alan Hovhaness represents the polar opposite of the virtuosity demanded by Shaposhnikov’s Sonata. Hovhaness, an astonishingly prolific American composer, studied at the New England Conservatory in the early 1930s. He showed an early interest in exotic styles, and often used Indian and Far Eastern elements in his compositions.

Angel Lasala, a composer from Argentina, wrote the Poema Del Pastor Coya in 1942. In this work, Lasala draws his material from the native music of South America. The titles of the movements evoke pastoral associations: I. “With the native woman and boy,” II. “Quena” (a native American flute) and III. “Dance.” The pentatonic scale, so common in music from indigenous cultures throughout the world, adds an exotic flavor to the piece.

Murray Boren is a prolific composer whose works include seven operas, dozens of songs and choral works, and more than eighty chamber music compositions. He also writes for the theatre, having provided music for productions of Macbeth, Antigone, To Kill a Mockingbird, and the premiere of The Seating of Senator Smoote, a Utah Centennial production. Movements from the Liturgical Dance, written for the Aurora Duo, began as imaginations of what it would be like to worship through movement. These five short pieces are not meant as music to which a dance might be performed, but are, rather, dances for the imagination and of the spirit.

In addition to being a composer, Camille Saint-Saëns was a pianist, organist and writer. He became a student at the Paris Conservatoire in 1848 and quickly made a name for himself by winning the “second prix” in 1849 and the “premiere prix” in 1851. Throughout his life, he enjoyed the friendship and patronage of Charles Gounod, Gioacchino Rossini and Hector Berlioz, but harbored a dislike for the more modern styles of Claude Debussy and Igor Stravinsky. Berlioz once said of him: “He knows everything but lacks inexperience.” Saint-Saëns’ style is neo-classical with identifiably French qualities, including neat proportions, formal clarity, polished expression and elegant lines. He wrote the Fantasie for violin and harp in 1907, the only one of his works with this instrumentation. It is a long, moody work; a chain of diverse melodies until about two-thirds of the way through (at 8:52) when, for two minutes, the harp obstinately repeats the same phrase twenty-one times while the violin plays an unusually long-breathed wave of sound which grows ever louder to the climax, then melting away into silence.

The AURORA DUO was formed in 1991 by violinist Donna Fairbanks and harpist Lysa Rytting. Although the repertoire for violin-harp duos is unique and beautiful, it is seldom heard. Fairbanks and Rytting are committed to increasing the awareness of this rare form of chamber music through their performances and recordings. The Duo’s repertoire represents music from a wide variety of time periods and styles, and includes numerous works written expressly for them by contemporary composers, two of which are featured here in their world premiere recordings.

Donna Fairbanks has performed as a soloist with several orchestras, including the Charleston Symphony, the Utah Symphony, the Orquestra Sinfonica de Londrina in Brazil and Sun Valley’s Elkhorn Festival Orchestra. She has also given recital tours in Mexico, Brazil, Europe, and China, and has performed solo recitals throughout the United States. Fairbanks received a Doctor of Musical Arts in Violin Performance from the University of Arizona, a Master of Music from the Eastman School of Music, and a Bachelor of Music from Brigham Young University. Her teachers include Zvi Zeitlin, Varujan Kojan, William Harroutonian, Tiberius Klausner, Morris Hochberg, John Ferrell and Percy Kalt. She also received chamber coaching from William Primrose and the Cleveland Quartet. Fairbanks has taught as a faculty member at the University of Minnesota MacPhail Center for the Arts, Brigham Young University and as a guest artist at the Universidade Estadual de Londrina in Brazil. She is currently Professor of Violin in the Music Department at Utah Valley University.

Harpist Lysa Rytting has performed as a soloist with the Utah Symphony, Utah Valley Symphony and Utah Chamber Players. Currently second harpist with the Utah Symphony, Rytting has also performed with the Rochester Philharmonic Orchestra, Trenton Symphony Orchestra, Boise Philharmonic Orchestra, Chautauqua Institute Orchestra, Oregon Symphony Orchestra and Las Vegas Philharmonic Orchestra, among others. She received a Premier Prix in harp performance from the Royal Conservatory of Brussels in Belgium, where she studied with Susanna Mildonian. Other teachers include Marylin Costello, former principal harpist of the Philadelphia Orchestra; Eileen Malone of the Eastman School of Music; and Louise Pratt and Rosalie Pratt at Brigham Young University. She is also an active recording artist and recitalist, and has performed at many music festivals, including the Moab Music Festival, Park City International Chamber Music Festival, Deer Valley Music Festival, Skaneateles Music Festival in New York, and the Oregon Bach Festival.
SONATA IN G MAJOR for Violin and Harp (c.1819)
I. Larghetto
II. Allegro

SONATA IN D MINOR for Violin and Harp (1925-26)
I. Andante con moto
II. Menuetto – Allegretto
III. Allego molto

ALAN HOVHANESS (1911-2000)
SONATA for Violin and Harp, Op.406 (1987)
I. Prelude
II. Cantando
III. Dance
IV. Lullaby
V. Andante dolce

ANGEL LASALA (1914-2000)
POEMA DEL PASTOR COYA for Violin and Harp (1942)
I. Con la Chola y El Changuito
II. Quena
III. Danzando

MURRAY BOREN (b. 1950)
for Violin and Harp (1995)
I. Dance No.1
II. Dance No.2
III. Dance No.3
IV. Dance No.4
V. Dance No.5

FANTASIE for Violin and Harp, Op.124 (1907)

MSR Classics
Music for Violin & Harp