Debut Solo Viola Album by Victoria Voronyansky explores works by Bach, Debussy, Albeniz, Biber, and Piazzolla as Red Viola and Victoria's sensitive performances tell a real-life fairytale of loss, recovery, renewal, and triumph!

The Story                          The Music

 
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  The Story:

It all began one snowy winter evening, in late 1992. I was still in high school, and visiting New York City when my viola was stolen, carried away by a homeless man, whom I can only remember by the scent he left behind as he disappeared. To this day, when I close my eyes I can still feel the cold, the snow on my skin, hear myself scream, and a choking sensation as I realized that this truly happened. My voice, my first love, my emotional outlet, gone forever, disappearing into the darkness of Manhattan.

The event became a painful secret, an occurrence I kept to myself. After numerous searches and appeals for help from the police, my hope for the viola's recovery slowly turned to despair, I didn't dare contemplate the possibility of it coming back into my life.
However, one person's kindness, inquisitiveness, and determination altered the course of this sad story, and changed my life in the most unexpected and profound way.

As the world was ringing in the New Year and the New Millennium, Ava Lindberg was pondering a question: what to do with a viola that came into her possession. While inspecting the instrument and the Russian-looking scarf the viola was wrapped in she began to realize there was more to the story then she had been told, and that the Red Viola was most likely a stolen instrument. Determined to find its owner, Ava traced it back through subtle clues to locate me and bring the instrument back into my life.

A few days later, on January 8, 2000 I was awakened by a phone call. My mom was calling to tell me that she received a letter for me, marked "personal and confidential". I asked her to go ahead and open it. After a long silence she said, "Your viola was found." The letter was from Ava Lindberg. It simply said that she had a viola, which she thought was stolen from me, and would like to discuss the future of the instrument.

Twelve years had passed since that fateful morning in Manhattan. Ava became a good friend, whom I came to admire and respect, and who also happens to be a wonderful pianist. Whenever we have the opportunity, we play chamber music together. I will be grateful to Ava for the rest of my life. The Red Viola has become a much cherished and loved companion in all my musical endeavors. This album is a reflection, a musical narrative, tracing the events of this real-life fairy tale. Each piece performed has a connection to the story, with works by J.S. Bach, Vieuxtemps, and Biber outlining the arc of emotional journey through loss and recovery, and pieces by Albeniz, Debussy, and Piazzolla devoted to the process of reconnecting and exploring technical and tonal boundaries of the Red Viola.

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About the Music:

The idea for making this CD has been my constant companion for many years. On one hand I wanted to share this amazing story, and my gratitude to Ava Lindberg for returning the Red Viola to me when it crossed her path. On the other I knew that putting a project like this together will open up old wounds and force me to relive the experience, although in musical and emotional flashbacks, but still difficult thoughts to bring up every day for the one year it took me to put this CD together. Nevertheless I decided that giving this project life will help me cope with both the trauma of it, and the reconnection to the instrument, plus I felt that sharing my experience may help others who are dealing with a difficult situation and are looking for some sense of relief and hope.

Throughout my life the only way I could process emotions successfully was by playing viola or violin. When confronted with loss, it was the only way I could cope. Instead of journaling or talking to friends or family I would suddenly think of a certain piece by Bach, and know that if I only played it I would get some sense of relief. And so I would close a door to my practice room, get the music for Bach Cello Suites and Violin Sonatas and Partitas, and start playing. One piece would be quickly followed by another, and then another, I would move from a Sarabande of one suite to a Prelude of a different Sonata, to a Bauree or a Courante, and as the process would roll along my emotional state would gradually stabilize, and after playing for an hour or two I felt that I can put the instrument down, and face the world.

In putting together this CD I tried to find a balance between featuring pieces that helped me cope with loss of the instrument and compositions that helped me process the unexpected joy of getting the viola back. Yes, after the long separation from the instrument and because of the traumatic way it was torn from my life I needed to find a connection to it again. It took a very long time to get the viola to sound good after it wasn’t played for 7 years, its last known destination before falling into Ava's hands being a floor of a parking garage on Manhattan's Upper West Side. Subjected to all types of weather and terrible neglect it's a wonder the instrument didn't deteriorate beyond any help. Fortunately a wonderful violin restoration specialist, Adam Crane, took the time to help me, and after extensive repairs the instrument sounded better then ever! Not only was the Red Viola's tone improved, it was much easier to handle. Thanks to changes Adam made to the fingerboard, nut, and bridge, I could now get around the instrument with greater ease, and so I began to explore repertoire for violin, flute and piano, attempting various existing transcriptions, or transcribing pieces myself. It felt great to approach the instrument with this fresh perspective, and although I still enjoyed playing standard viola repertoire, I loved discovering new musical possibilities that opened up to me.

Over the upcoming weeks I will be updating this page with details on how each piece on the CD is connected to the story of the Red Viola. If you would like to receive notices of these updates, please sign up here, or simply keep checking back to see all the new posts. I would love to hear from you too, so please don't hesitate to share your own stories.


 

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Asturias

Anabasis Red Viola ~ Asturias Leyenda by Isaac Albéniz

     

       
Isaac
Isaac Albéniz Asturias Leyenda from Suite española Op 47 SC, transcribed for viola

Every composition included on Anabasis Red Viola is connected to the story of separation and reunion with my instrument. Asturias had a unique role: it helped me re-establish connection with my instrument, and served as a reminder of what originally motivated me as a child to study music.
My fascination with music from Spain began when on my 9th birthday I received an LP of Isaac Stern performing Lalo's "Symphonie espagnole" with Eugene Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. I loved the piece, Stern's interpretation, the rich and soulful sound of the Philadelphia Orchestra, but what captivated me beyond everything else was the fire and passion of this style of music. And so this piece by a
French composer, performed by an American violinist, with the Philadelphia Orchestra led by a Hungarian conductor came to symbolize Spain to me, a kid growing up in the Ukraine. I imagined dancers with castanets, accompanied by guitar, surrounded by beautiful lush trees, warmth, and sun, a romantic vision that I wholeheartedly embraced and daydreamed about.
As years passed, the fascination grew. It was now over a decade later, and the Red Viola was back in my life after a long absence. I wanted to find a piece that would serve as a fresh start, something that could connect me to a more innocent time in my life, and at the same time allow me to explore new possibilities of this particular instrument. The goal was to find a piece that would work well on a viola, both in terms of tonal range, and character. The exploration, though, was contained to classical and folk repertoire: works by numerous composers, among them Isaac Albéniz, Manuel de Falla, and Pablo de Sarasate, as well as Flamenco music. Although there were many fantastic compositions, none of the pieces I tried seemed to work for this instrument.
The breakthrough came from an unexpected source. In a coffee house someone was playing "Spanish Caravan" by The Doors. The guitar theme in the opening was strikingly simple and memorable. I didn't know the song, and after confirming the group was The Doors, and finding the exact name of the composition, I began my research. It wasn't long before I found the connection to "Asturias" by Isaac Albéniz . I loved the piece! Recordings by Andre Segovia and John Williams inspired me to dig deeper. I wondered why I hadn't come across the piece earlier.
As it happens, I did encounter the piece before, but in its original, piano version. At that time, in that form, I couldn't even begin to imagine it on the viola. It took hearing a rock version of the theme, followed by a guitar transcription of the full piece, to make me realize that this composition can actually work well on the viola.
I began to work on the "Asturias", and as I was getting to know the notes, and coming
up with various musical ideas, I also started to study geography of the Asturias region in Spain, exploring the landscape, hoping to gain insight and inspiration. The pictures of the mountains and beeches were breathtaking: I tried to imagine what traits of Asturias was Albéniz thinking of when writing the piece: Picos de Europa with their many caves, the stunning beeches, or the fishing villages, dotting the coastline. I wanted to know what inspired him.
Armed with pictures of mountains, caves, beeches, seafood stews, and grazing sheep in a neat little research file I was happy, learning a beautiful piece about a gorgeous place in a region I fantasized about since childhood. But alas, the deeper we dig, the likelier we are to find things that shatter our first impressions. And so it was with "Asturias". As it turned out, the piece's original title was "Prelude", within a set of pieces called "Songs of Spain". The region inspiring this creation: unknown. It was only after composer's death that it was published yet again, this time with the title "Asturias-Leyenda" within a compilation of pieces under the name "Spanish Suite". A quarter century earlier, Albéniz had promised an editor in Germany to compose a multi movement work, with pieces which would be evocative of various regions in Spain. But of the 8 pieces he agreed to compose, in actuality he had delivered 4. A couple of years after Albéniz died, the editor, feeling cheated by composer's original nonchalant attitude to his commitment, decided to take the job of completing the opus into his own hands, by simply renaming already composed works, which, in their original incarnation, lacked region-specific names, and hence, could be easily titled by the editor as he saw fit.
Upon finding these facts I looked at my carefully selected photos, said goodbye to the pastoral images of the grazing sheep and the scrumptious shots of seafood stew, and placed them into my "potential places to travel" file. Although my initial reaction to liberties the editor took with the naming process were anger and betrayal, I soon realized that in a sense the new information was liberating. I could now probe deeper into the musical content, looking into connection with numerous traditions and influences, among them flamenco, romani, and middle eastern themes, things that were obvious in the music itself, but which I didn't bother to delve into from the get-go simply because of the implications from the piece's name. So in a sense taking a step away from the name made it possible for me see the piece for what it was: a fascinating, complex, strikingly beautiful musical composition, that could captivate audiences, and inspire performers no matter what the name was, just by simply being itself.
 

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Anabasis Red Viola ~ Syrinx by Claude Debussy

Debussy
 

A few years ago I was putting together a solo viola recital. Unaccompanied repertoire for viola prior to Hindemith was scarce, and since the program needed to cover the scope of different time periods and compositional styles, the solution was to look at solo repertoire from a number of different instruments, and see which pieces could, with minimal or no adjustment, be best adapted for the viola.

Debussy's Syrinx caught my attention initially because of the sheer beauty and haunting quality of the piece. I was also intrigued by the title, and the myth associated with the story. As the work on the piece began, exploration of mythology seemed like a reasonable first step. A story of an innocent, chaste nymph who, in an attempt to escape Pan's advances chose to be turned into a hollow reed, inspired approach to tone color that was pure, breathy, and ethereal. Thinking of the piece as being centered around the idea of femininity, beauty, and youth, though, felt somehow wrong when playing Syrinx in its entirety. There were aspects inherent in the music that contradicted the innocence and purity I aimed for. Instead, there was something primal, sensual about it, echoing the opening bassoon solo from Stravinsky's "Le Sacre du printemps", and as much as I tried, I couldn't reconcile what I envisioned to be the essence of the piece with its actual musical content.

Frustrated, I decided to research the genesis of the piece itself, hoping to find clues that will help clarify my confusion. In retrospect, I realize that this should have been my first step, but, perhaps without the initial inner struggle experienced during the early stages of working on the piece, the information that came up from subsequent research would have had a lesser impact on the final performance.

It turns out that original title for the piece was "Le flûte de Pan", and was intended by Debussy to be a part of a theatrical project with playwright Gabriel Mourey. The project was a play in verse called Psyché. "Le flûte de Pan" was to be performed during a portion of a play when two nymphs discuss love, passion, and the sensual effect of the sounds of Pan's music. In the meantime, Pan is hiding in a cave, playing the flute. The sounds he creates have an inebriating effect on the nymphs, who are seduced by the music. The piece was to be performed off stage.

The dedicatee of the piece was flutist Louis Fleury. He became the champion of the piece, and performed it often. However he jealously guarded the manuscript and refused to share it with anyone. Years after its premier, when Debussy and Fleury had passed away, the piece became available to the public. Fleury's widow gave the manuscript to the publisher named Jobert. It was at the stage of getting published, when the changes were made to the manuscript that altered the perception of the piece, and even, to a degree, its content. The publisher changed the name to "Syrinx", and asked flutist Marcel Moyse to edit the manuscript. Originally the piece had no bar lines, and lacked most breath marks. Moyse added quite a few breath markings, bar lines and time signatures, which, the editor thought, would make the piece more accessible for the flutists who were likely to purchase the manuscript.
After finding out all the information, I was convinced that Syrinx would have to be a part of the album I was planning to record, based on the story of the Red Viola, an instrument which was stolen, and returned to me 7 years later. Yes, the piece is gorgeous, and I love performing it, but what really compelled me to make it part of the album were the parallels in the journeys of the instrument and the manuscript. Both could have ended their days in obscurity, destroyed by neglect and decay, and both underwent a metamorphosis thanks to humanity and passions of those with whom they came into contact. Ultimately it is not the object, but the potential inherent within, that moves us to act, bringing something meaningful and special out of obscurity and giving it voice once again.
 

 

Anabasis Red Viola ~ Piazzolla Tango Etude No. 3

 

After numerous requests from fellow Bratsche enthusiasts and some careful work with No.2 pencil, scanner, and various programs, I assembled a video of Piazzolla's Tango Étude No. 3, with all my fingerings, bowings, and octave changes marked and shown in the video. "Expressive liberties" were intentionally left out of the scanned manuscript :) I welcome your feedback, questions, and would love to see your video uploads of this fantastic piece!

 
**To see markings clearly select HD setting (720p) or next highest, 480p.
 
 

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Anabasis Red Viola ~ J.S. Bach Selections

 

Music by J.S. Bach has always inspired me. From the first time I heard it, and to the present moments as I write this entry, I think of the beauty, variety, power, and perfection of his creations, and am overwhelmed by its intensity.
All pieces by Bach which are included on this album are pieces that I have played in times of difficulties, and the process of going through one, then another, and another, have helped me cope with realities of life. It seems that for any situation, for any emotional state, there is always a work by Bach that can help celebrate, mourn, reflect, transition, and make a day better.
The Prelude I'm playing in this video is a great example of a transformative work. It has been my go-to piece since I was a child, first as a listener, and later, as a performer. Featured in this video are also the Delaware river, and my dog, who
loves Bach's music as well, and typically dozes off at my feet when I practice.
 

 
 
       
 
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