MacDowell Violinist to Perform Bach Sonata, Partita at Mariposa
On June 18th at 3 p.m., violinist, filmmaker, writer, and MacDowell fellow Paul Festa and will give an afternoon concert at the Mariposa Museum in Peterborough, N.H. This short concert, a special edition of the MacDowell Colony’s MacDowell Downtown series, is free and open to the public. The Mariposa Museum is located at 26 Main Street in Peterborough, NH.
Festa will perform Johann Sebastian Bach’s Sonata #3 and Partita #3 in E for Violin Solo. The concert is planned as the first in a series of three free Saturday afternoon performances at the Mariposa while Festa is in residence at MacDowell (through July).
In addition to playing the violin, Paul Festa writes fiction, and makes films about music. His first film, Apparition of the Eternal Church, captures the responses of 31 artists to the music of French composer Olivier Messiaen. His second film, The Glitter Emergency, sets the story of a peg-leg ballerina to music from the Tchaikovsky violin concerto. His third film, Tie It Into My Hand, explores the life of the artist in violin lessons that Paul takes with artists of every description — from Margaret Cho, Alan Cumming, and Mink Stole to Barbara Hammer, Gary Graffman and Harold Bloom — none of whom are violinists.
In addition to teaching courses in documentary film production and fiction writing at Bard College Berlin, Paul is currently developing a documentary performance about the political upheavals of 1979, a novel about the medical marijuana movement in California, and films of the six violin sonatas and partitas by J.S. Bach.
“Bach composed his “six solos for violin without bass accompaniment” in 1720 while employed by the Calvinist Prince Leopold of Cöthen,” Festa said. “As a Lutheran church musician, Bach had devoted most of his energies to composing sacred music, but in Cöthen the Calvinists had their psalm playlists squared away. Leopold put Bach to work writing music for the house band (in which the prince played harpsichord and viola da gamba), spurring Bach to produce some of the great masterworks of Western music: the six “Brandenburg” concertos, the six cello suites, the violin solos.
“The violin solos stand alone in the violin repertory. Other composers, most successfully Bartók, have modeled solo works on them, but no example by predecessor or successor has broken into the core repertory, while Bach’s have become its foundation. To some degree in the three partitas (dance suites), but particularly in the three sonatas with their monumental fugues, Bach managed the miraculous feat of sustaining enormously complex multi-voiced (contrapuntal) music on an ostensibly single-voiced instrument.”
Festa says he first encountered these works at 14 when he learned the first sonata. Thirty years later, he performed the entire cycle for the first time, and now he has embarked on a project to record them and make movies to accompany the recordings.
“I wish to thank the MacDowell Colony and the Mariposa Museum for the opportunity to present the monumental C major sonata and the ebullient E major partita during this MacDowell residency,” Festa said.
The Mariposa Museum is a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering peace, global awareness, and understanding across cultural boundaries. For more information, please visit www.mariposamuseum.org.