Cellist Pegis to solo with CSO on Elgar work, with Bermel, Nielsen on program

In an evening and program touching on contrasts between eras and emotions, displacement and nostalgia, the Chautauqua Symphony Orchestra will perform at 8:15 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 11 in the Amphitheater, under the baton of Music Director Rossen Milanov, sharing a stage with a soloist who’s one of their own.

The CSO will perform three pieces tonight: Derek Bermel’s “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace,” Edward Elgar’s Cello Concerto in E minor, op. 85, and Carl Nielsen’s Symphony No. 5, op. 50.

Composer and clarinetist Bermel — who has been honored with a Guggenheim and Fulbright fellowships, the Rome Prize, and an Academy Award from the American Academy of Arts and Letters, among others — is known for his blending of world music, funk and jazz. His “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace” draws on Hungarian composer Béla Bartók — particularly Bartók’s last years, which he spent in New York City, holding on to his musical roots in an unfamiliar environment.

The New York Times included the first movement of “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace” on its list of “The 25 Best Classical Music Tracks of 2019,” with a critic calling “amerikanizalodik” a “dizzying melting pot of folklike rhythms, droning tunes and pungent modernist harmonies, spiked with bursts of wailing jazz.” Of the whole, The New York Times described “A Shout, a Whisper, and a Trace,” as a “vibrant homage to Bartók.” The album upon which it appeared, Migrations, received a Grammy nomination.

 The composer is in residence Week Seven, having performed with the Argus Quartet Saturday, and workshopping The House on Mango Street: The Opera with author Sandra Cisneros, the librettist adapting her famous novel for the stage. The workshop, which culminates in a public reading Friday in Norton Hall, comes five years after Cisneros and Bermel first collaborated on the inter-arts production of “House on Mango Suite,” which premiered on the Amp stage.

Following the Bermel, the CSO presents Elgar’s Cello Concerto, with Jolyon Pegis as soloist. Pegis steps center stage as the original guest soloist, Pablo Ferrández, withdrew from his Chautauqua performance because of travel circumstances. Pegis is the CSO’s principal cellist, and has performed countless times, in numerous capacities and venues, all across the grounds — and the country. Pegis has appeared as a recitalist, chamber musician, and orchestral soloist across the United States, and is associate principal cellist with the Dallas Symphony and a member of the contemporary ensemble Voices of Change.

Pegis, who has been playing with the CSO for nearly 30 years, knew from the first moment he heard cello music as a child that that was the instrument he wanted to play — “The quality of the register just appealed to me,” he told the Daily in 2012 — and made his Carnegie Hall debut in 1990. The evening concludes with Danish composer Nielsen’s dramatic Symphony No. 5, composed in the years following World War I and finally gaining recognition outside of Nielsen’s home country only with a 1962 recording from Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic Orchestra. With an aggressive woodwind motif, and an inspiring, grand finale, the work is a study in contrasts; given an elusive, far-from definitive interpretation, according to “Symphony Notes” columnist David B. Levy, the idea of a “study in contrasts may be the safest answer for those who need to know.”

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The author Sara Toth

Sara Toth is entering her fifth summer as editor of The Chautauquan Daily and works year-round in Chautauqua Institution’s Department of Education. Previously, she served four years as the Daily’s assistant and then managing editor. An alum of the Daily internship program, she is a native of Pittsburgh(ish), attended Gannon University in Erie, Pennsylvania, and worked for nearly four years as a reporter in the Baltimore Sun Media Group. She lives in Jamestown with her husband, a photographer, and her Lilac, a cat.