It was Vienna, in about 1894. Possibly in fading light or by candlelight, a few of Alexander von Zemlinsky’s contemporaries leaned up close to take in a cello sonata composed by this budding new artist. The music was lyrical and beautiful, in part reflecting the influence of Johannes Brahms and Gustav Mahler, both of whom Zemlinsky knew and worked with.
Generations came and went, but Zemlinsky’s Sonata in A minor for cello and piano went unperformed, even when Zemlinsky became a known composer of the early 20th century , and even when his wife donated her husband’s collection of music to the Library of Congress. Now, the piece will get its western U.S. debut in a special Colorado Mountain College concert at the Beaver Creek Chapel on Wednesday.
Scholars knew the piece had been composed, but no one knew where it was for more than 100 years. Then, several years ago, it came to light in a discovery at an estate in south Wales, and found its way to a delighted publisher last year. It was first performed in public in North America in Oct. 2006 at the Library of Congress in Washington D.C., where Zemlinsky’s other compositions reside. The premiere was performed by the Boston-based Montage Music Society. The group’s cellist, Marc Moskovitz, avidly researched the life of Zemlinsky, who was born in Vienna and lived in Prague and Berlin before spending his final years in America. When someone from the Library of Congress called to tell Moskovitz the piece was discovered, he clamored to be the first to play it, even before it was formally published. “Zemlinsky is no longer a forgotten entity – he’s going through a renaissance,” says Moskovitz. “He slowly began climbing out of obscurity in the ’70s, but with thearrival of the compact disc industry, he became something of a cult figure.” He explains that the renewed interest in music and art that were not deemed acceptable in Hitler’s Third Reich is translating into rediscovery for his contemporaries, taking Zemlinsky’s popularity to a new level. Moskovitz was so inspired by Zemlinsky that he has finished a manuscript for a book, now being revised for a potential publisher. “I became enamored with the zeitgeist the whole spirit of the time,” Moskovitz says. “It was a period of time that musically, politically and artistically is fascinating to me, and Zemlinsky was right in the middle of it. The public’s interest in Zemlinsky has not peaked yet, but has definitely blossomed.” Though on the verge of publishing his book, Moskovitz remains primarily occupied with his musical and family life.
“I am first and foremost a cellist and a father,” says the stay-at-home father of three daughters, ages 4, 2 and 11 months. While his wife works as a patent attorney, Moskovitz balances the demands of diapers and playtime with in-depth research and authoring, all between cello performances. The program for the CMC concerts begins with a piece by Erich Wolfgang Korngold, who studied under Zemlinsky, moves on to Zemlinksy’s own long-lost cello sonata in three movements and ends with a piece by Brahms. Also performing with be violinist Sarita Uranovsky, a native of South Africa, who has made Boston her home. She teaches music at MIT and Boston University, and loves it nearly as much as performing. “I get to do what I love every day and get paid for it,” says Uranovsky. “It’s a never-ending vocation. No two performances are the same, everyone has a different creative aspect and it’s very spontaneous art form. There is nothing better than to enjoy yourself while doing it. “It is pressure, but the rewards are greater than the obstacles, in my opinion,” she says. “Both my parents are artists, and very supportive of the arts, and my siblings are, too. We are all struck with it!” Accompanying Moskovitz and Uranovsky will be Debra Ayers, an accomplished pianist who directed the CMC Center for Excellence in the Arts prior to its current director, Alice Beauchamp. The Montage Music Society also performs the program March 15 in Breckenridge at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church, March 16 near Glenwood Springs at CMC Spring Valley Center’s theater and March 17 in Leadville at Lake County High School. All concerts are at 7 p.m. For more information, go to http://www.cmccearts.org or call 569-2900.