Award-winning cellist Jennifer Kloetzel opens the Del Valle Fine Arts’ concert season at the Bankhead Theater in Livermore on Saturday, Oct. 12, at 7:30 p.m., with pianist Robert Koenig. Composer Elena Ruehr will be on hand for the premier of the cello sonata she wrote for Kloetzel.
Lauded for her elegant playing and vibrant tone, Kloetzel was a founding member of the Cypress Quartet. Koenig is a sought-after collaborative pianist and chamber musician. Both are currently on the music faculty at U.C. Santa Barbara.
Saturday’s program, said Kloetzel, will showcase the “wicked versatility” of the cello, using “four strings and a bow to create all sorts of orchestrated effects.”
The first three works on the program were not originally intended for the cello. Haydn composed his Divertimento in D Major for a baryton (an early string instrument), viola and cello trio. Two centuries later, renowned cellist Gregor Piatagorsky adapted it for himself with piano accompaniment.
“We are making the sound of a trio with just two instruments,” Kloetzel said.
In Beethoven’s Sonata for Cello and Piano in F Major, originally written for a famous horn player, Beethoven lets the cello take over the role of the horn in conversation with the piano. In De Falla’s “Siete canciones populares espanolas,” piano and cello reconfigure the original voices of the soprano and accompaniment.
“And I am tasked with extra things – a lot of strumming and plucking,” Kloetzel added.
Of course, composers do write specifically for the cello, and for specific musicians, too. Kloetzel and Koenig will perform Prokofiev’s stately and lyrical Sonata in C Major for Cello and Piano. Under repressive conditions in the USSR, Prokofiev was inspired to write this work especially for Mstislav Rostropovich under the epigraph “Mankind – that has a proud sound.”
Ruehr, on the music faculty at MIT, is a prolific composer who often finds inspiration in nature, art, poetry, literature and even the news, as she did for “Lift” (2013) in the story of Malala Yousafzai. With the Boston Modern Orchestra Project, Kloetzel has recorded Ruehr’s cello concerto “Cloud Atlas” (2011), which was inspired by David Mitchell’s 2004 novel.
Ruehr stated that her new sonata is “a story about a young person who is reaching for something ephemeral, hoping for the future, finding difficulty, and eventually triumphing.”
As parents, both Ruehr and Kloetzel relate to this story.
“A lot of contemporary music, not just mine, is quite a bit more audience-friendly than it used to be, and more directly emotional,” Ruehr said.
Ruehr’s structures remind Kloetzel of Beethoven, the melodies of Schubert. Of her own music, Ruehr noted, “The idea is that the surface be simple, the structure complex.”
Sponsored by Del Valle Fine Arts, Kloetzel will tell Tri-Valley elementary school students about her “Travels with Gertrude (My Cello).”
“The stories are what music is about for me,” said Kloetzel. “What is the composer communicating with his or her music?”
Free youth tickets and reduced college rush tickets are available for this concert. Regular ticket prices start at $32. To purchase tickets, visit lvpac.org or the Bankhead Theater box office, 2400 First St., Livermore; or call (925)373-6800.