Viola Music of Rudolf Haken

Rudolf Haken


World Premiere Recordings



“[Haken] is a lively and colorful composer... hearing [Haken] playing his own music with conviction is enjoyable... the instruments are done justice to [by the recorded sound], and I am happy to have the project... Try this one. You might like it.”
Moore, American Record Guide [November/December 2016]
“[Rudolf Haken is] cosmopolitan, absorbing mainly American and Western-European elements... musically conservative and seemingly unabashed about it: he doesn't need every harmony to sound individual or every melody to take unexpected turns. But, on the flip side, don't assume his music is predictable or rife with clichès – it's not... performances by Haken and pianist Rachel Jensen are splendid... there is much that is highly rewarding on this disc, and those interested in accessible contemporary chamber and/or viola music should fine this disc of interest. Sound reproduction is well balanced and clear and the album notes by Paul Groh are informative and thought-provoking.”
Robert Cummings, Classical Net [October 2016]
“If a bit of stirring modern neoclassical-neoromantic chamber music for viola sounds like something you'd appreciate, there is Rudolf Haken and his album of compositions entitled Romancing the Viola... Rudolf plays the viola quite well and Rachel Jensen seconds him nicely… This is well-crafted, well-played music that has some of the expression and passion of early last century, yet also sometimes is modern neo-classical in a way that has something of the sophistication of Hindemith but remains original nonetheless... These are works with memorable thematics, well constructed compositional form and a touch of virtuoso kinetics. I found after listening several times that Haken wears well on the ears... Refreshing!”
Grego Applegate Edwards, Gapplegate Classical Review [August 2016]
[ + + + + ] “Rudolf Haken [is] a fine violist... [the Polonaise for Viola and Piano is] a virtuoso showpiece filled with unexpected harmonic and rhythmic twists. It keeps sounding as if it is veering off the tracks into unexpected territory, then abruptly pulls back, as if Haken is having fun at the expense of performer and listener alike. [Für Fritz is] a playful, harmonically rich and very difficult display piece in the Kreisler mode, filled with chromaticism and delicacy that are almost impossible to balance – although Haken himself clearly knows how to produce the effects he wants... [The Suite in A minor is] a classy updating of the Baroque suite that invites, indeed requires, Romantic interpretation: there is some of the poise of Bach and Telemann here, and the movements’ dance titles are those of the old suites, but the music itself has definite Romantic flair and expressiveness. … Rachel Jensen is a very fine accompanist and partner throughout the recording...”
Mark J. Estren, InfoDad [July 2016]
The death of Jean Sibelius in 1957 was hailed as a milestone, the passing of the last surviving composer of the Romantic era; but we violists should be aware that Alfred Hill and York Bowen, both of whom composed major works for the viola and also played the instrument themselves, outlived the great Finnish symphonist by several years. And while Sibelius composed practically nothing after 1926, Hill and Bowen continued to express themselves in the musical style of their youth throughout the first half of the twentieth century and into the age of Rock and Roll. Some might accuse them of a lack of imagination, but that would be unfair. The truly unimaginative composers are the ones who obsequiously follow every new trend as it arises. Musical styles do not come with expiration dates, and composers should not be slaves to fashion. Some of the styles that were current before any of us were born are still beloved by millions of people; and a contemporary composer working in such a style may ultimately take it in directions other than those taken by history.

Consider the music of Rudolf Haken, Professor of Viola at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. Born in late 1965, only a few years after the last of the Romantic composers had passed away, Haken was a child prodigy who conducted his own orchestral music at the age of ten and had the good sense to select the viola as his primary instrument at an early age. He has become an outstanding concert artist, a bold and exciting performer who has toured internationally to great success. His viola works, many written in the lush and dramatic style of the late nineteenth century, are distinguished by a sensuous lyricism, an exuberant sense of humour, a natural and thorough mastery of compositional technique, and above all an intimate understanding of the technical and expressive capabilities of the viola - a body of work all the more remarkable in that much of it was composed when Haken was still in his teens. Best of all, scores and recordings of his music may be downloaded directly from his website. When a musician of this calibre takes the trouble to make his music so immediately accessible, it’s worth our while to check it out.

American violist and composer Rudolf Haken has heard his work performed around the world by a wide array of fine artists, including violinist Rachel Barton Pine, flutist Jean Ferrandis, oboist Nancy Ambrose King and trumpeter Paul Merkelo. Haken’s concertos have been notably successful, with performances in North America, South America, Europe and Asia. A recording concertos was chosen as a 2007 Critics’ Choice by the American Record Guide. He has received numerous commissions, and has heard his works performed at conferences of the American Saxophone Alliance, the International Double Reed Society, and the International Trumpet Guild. In 2004, WTTW in Chicago produced a video featuring Haken performing his electric viola transcriptions of Van Halen and Metallica that was shown in passenger areas at O’Hare and Midway airports in Chicago. An advocate of the Rivinus ergonomic five-string viola, he has been featured in the Journal of the American Viola Society and The Strad. Haken performs regularly on four-string, five-string, and six-string violas in North and South America, Europe and Asia. At the age of ten, Haken conducted his first orchestral works, and appeared frequently in his teenage years throughout the United States and Europe as composer, conductor, soloist and chamber musician. Haken is currently on the music faculty at the University of Illinois.
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Rachel Jensen holds masters and doctorate degrees in Vocal Coaching and Accompanying, earned at the University of Illinois where she was the student and assistant of John Wustman. Jensen has visited on the music faculties of Oberlin Conservatory, University of Illinois and Illinois Wesleyan University, and maintains a busy teaching studio in Urbana, Illinois, where she gives instruction in piano and voice.

POLONAISE for Viola and Piano (1990)

FÜR FRITZ for Viola and Piano (1980)

FANTASIA IN F-SHARP MINOR for Viola and Piano (1981)
I. Allegretto
II. Scherzo
III. Adagio
IV. Finale

SUITE IN A MINOR for Solo Viola (1981)
I. Preludio
II. Allemanda
III. Corrente
IV. Sarabanda
V. Menuetto I & II
VI. Giga I & II

SONATA IN D MINOR for Viola and Piano (1981)
I. Adagio-Vivace
II. Tema con variazioni
III. Giocoso

Tetsuo Matsuda viola | John Norwood Lee bow

MSR Classics