Of Note
October 23, 2009
Kitchen conjures musical treats with that old Bach magic
Violinist Nicholas Kitchen
Violinist Nicholas Kitchen
Christian Steiner

WELLFLEET - The six Bach works for solo violin are the ultimate in expression for the violin, and they are also the measure of a particular violinist’s salt. A violinist can return throughout her or his career to wrestle with the three sonatas and three partitas, known for their depth of feeling and the different expressions lent to them by each player.

The 30th season of the Cape Cod Chamber Music Festival will come to a very dramatic close in Wellfleet at 3 p.m. on Sunday, Oct. 25, with a solo performance by violinist Nicholas Kitchen.

Kitchen, in a special night, will perform three Bach solos, as well as work by Bartók, Hindemith and Ysaÿe, three composers who wrote pieces for violin inspired by the unaccompanied work by Bach. Entitled “Bach Cycling to the Future,” it will include a special multi-media presentation of the Bach music. The Wellfleet concert is the first with this specific program.

Kitchen will perform the Sonata No. 1 in G minor, BWV. 1001, a famous sonata that starts softly and builds in emotional intensity. The second piece is the Partita in D minor with its unusual structure of four movements to which Bach added a fifth movement, the legendary Bach Chaconne.

Kitchen says he is still surprised by what he finds in the music after years of studying, teaching and performing it.

“What’s so amazing about the Cycle,” Kitchen says by phone, “is that Bach decided to do something so ambitious for a solo violin, a tiny box of wood.” Kitchen, along with other students of Bach, guesses that the Chaconne was written as an epitaph for Bach’s first wife, Maria Barbara, upon her death. It is the music that is the most convincing evidence. “It starts with tragic darkness and despair and then becomes absolutely joyous,” he says.

The Chaconne along with the other movements is sure to bring out the gorgeousness of Kitchen’s playing.

“I have played all six on numerous occasions,” he says. “Early on you learn the magnificence, the challenge, of the music but when I spent more time I began to see the symmetry and relationships among all the pieces. I noticed more and more minor fugues, patterns among the pieces.”

Kitchen did not mention that last spring at the Library of Congress, he performed the six solos on five Cremonese violins made between the 17th and 18th centuries (The video taken on that occasion is posted beneath the program of the Wellfleet concert on the Borromeo String Quartet’s website.)

The violins, made in the time of Bach, are now held in the collection of the Library of Congress. Kitchen plays regularly on a violin called the Guarneri del Gesù, known as the “Baron Vita, which belonged to his teacher, Szymon Goldberg.

Kitchen is the first violinist in The Borromeo String Quartet, which includes violinist Kristopher Tong, violist Mai Motobuchi, and cellist Yeesun Kim, who is also Kitchen’s spouse. The quartet performs more than 100 concerts a year all over the U.S., Europe and Asia, and is the quartet-in-residence at the New England Conservatory.

For six years, Kitchen served as artistic director of the Cape Cod Festival and he is enthusiastic about its special community.

Kitchen is known for his embrace for the innovative possibilities in new technology. He has been at the forefront of recording live chamber music concerts, as well as using web video technology for distance learning at NEC. Sunday will allow Cape Cod audiences a peek into this world. Kitchen has a digitized version of Bach’s own hand-written manuscript and he turns the pages with a pedal. Kitchen describes the pages as visually beautiful. One can only imagine what it would be like for someone who can read the music to be looking at Bach’s notes while hearing Kitchen’s interpretation of each phrase.

While he likes to educate people about the innards of the pieces he plays, he hopes that the audience at WHAT will very simply able “to enjoy the beautifully raw meditative experience of the Bach.”

Back to List
Back to Top