Craig Ketter to Perform Ullmann Piano Sonata No. 1 on PREFORMANCES WITH ALLISON CHARNEY
Photo Credit: Pianist Craig Ketter (top) Composer Victor Ullmann
In each of its seasons "PREformances with Allison Charney" turns the spotlight on the virtuosity of the concert series' extraordinarily talented collaborative pianist, Craig Ketter. When he assumes center stage onMarch 13th Mr. Ketter will take the opportunity to play the infrequently performed music of 20th century composer, pianist and conductor Viktor Ullmann. Over the past decade pianist Craig Ketter has collaborated with colleagues in "The Ullmann Project," bringing the music Viktor Ullmann and a lost generation of musicians stifled by the Nazi regime to a broader audience. As with all PREformances' special guests, Mr. Ketter's performance anticipates a special, future engagement - in this case, a recording project of the complete piano sonatas of Viktor Ullmann.
Critically acclaimed for "transporting the listeners to extraordinary heights" and "into a world beyond time and space," pianist Craig Ketter is known for playing with powerhouse sonority combined with long-lined, dulcet lyricism. Mr. Ketter has performed as soloist with the Grant Park Symphony Orchestra, the North Carolina Symphony, the Sacramento Philharmonic, the Oakland East Bay Symphony, the Mobile Symphony, the South Orange Symphony, the Raleigh Symphony, the Garden State Philharmonic, the Durham Symphony, the Rocky Ridge Music Festival Orchestra, and the American Festival for the Arts Orchestra. His solo concerts have taken him to Mexico, Argentina, Barbados, France, Germany, Japan, and across the United States and Canada.
With Ullmann's Piano Sonata No. 1, op. 10, Mr. Ketter performs the first of Ullmann's seven sonatas composed between 1936 - 1944. Piano Sonata No. 1 is an exuberant musical expression written in homage to Gustav Mahler, the famed composer who acted as a bridge between the 19th century Austro-German tradition and the modernism of the early 20th century. Musicologists now view the arc of Ullmann's seven sonatas as the composer's personal musical journey, interweaving experience, history and the contemplation of his ultimate demise in Auschwitz in 1944.
Born in 1898, in Teschen, Silesia (then a part of the Austrian Hungarian Empire, now a part of the Czech Republic) Ullmann's musical talents brought him to Vienna where he participated in Schoenberg's advanced courses in 1918-19. By his early twenties and at Arnold Schoenberg's recommendation, Ullmann became one of Alexander Zemlinsky's conducting assistants at the New German Theatre in Prague in the 1920s. Well regarded, Ullmann was actively engaged with Zemlinsky in the preparation of performances of Schoenberg's Gurre-Lieder, as well as operas by Mozart, Strauss, Wagner, Berg and others, which Ullmann also conducted. In 1923 with the Sieben Lieder mit Klavier (7 Songs with Piano) Ullmann witnessed a series of successful performances of his works, which lasted until the beginning of the 1930s (Sieben Serenaden). At the Geneva music festival of the International Society for New Music in 1929, his Schönberg Variations, a piano cycle on a theme by his teacher in Vienna, caused something of a stir. Five years later, for the orchestral arrangement of this work, he was awarded the Hertzka Prize, named in honor of the former director of Universal Editions. In the meantime Ullmann had been appointed conductor in Zürich for two years.
Although raised a Catholic, Ullmann's Jewish parentage consigned him under Nazi racial laws and despite his accomplishments he was forced to flee Germany in mid-1933. Ullmann returned to Prague as a music teacher and journalist where during the 1930s Ullmann composed, taught and wrote articles for German musical publications in Prague. When Czechoslovakia came under Nazi control in 1939, the performance of Ullmann's works was banned, and a public musical life became impossible for him.
By the end of 1939 Ullmann's complete list of works had reached 41 opus numbers, which included three piano sonatas, song cycles on texts by various poets, operas, and the piano concerto Op. 25. Most of these works are missing. The manuscripts presumably disappeared during the occupation. Of the 41-works composed, thirteen printed items have survived, which Ullmann published privately and entrusted to a friend for safekeeping before his deportation to Theresienstadt in 1942. During Ullmann's two years of incarceration he was at the center of the camp's intellectual and artistic life. There he composed over twenty musical works which include a string quartet, four piano sonatas, song cycles, choral works, incidental music for a play, and an opera libretto. Embracing his family origins, Ullmann also composed a number of works based on traditional Jewish themes, including a set of haunting Yiddish and Hebrew songs.
Sonata No.7 (1944), dedicated to three of his children Max, Jean and Felice (Pavel, born in 1940 had already died in the camp) was the last of Ullmann's works written before he was transported to Auschwitz. It is almost akin to a musical autobiography in which through the five movements he quotes his obvious loves in the shape of quotations and allusions to such composers as Bach, Mahler, Schoenberg and Wagner. Into this mix he adds echoes of Slovak hymns, Lutheran chorales and even a Hebrew folksong in the final movement. The opening Allegro movement, reflecting the late German Romantic style, is exhilarating and life-affirming. Ullmann and his wife Elisabeth were deported to Auschwitz on 16 October 1944, in one of the last transports, where they died in the gas chamber.
Complementing his solo performances with collaborative ventures, Mr. Ketter has regularly performed with critically acclaimed soprano Allison Charney in her classical concert series "PREformances with Allison Charney" as well as interNational Singers and chamber groups. Venues include NPR's Performance Today series, CBS Sunday Morning, Sirius Satellite Radio, Carnegie Hall, Avery Fisher Hall, the Teatro Colon in Buenos Aires, La Huaca, Atlapa in Panama City, the Savannah Music Festival, Bay Chamber Concerts in Rockport, Maine, "Music in the Mountains" in Colorado, and The Marilyn Horne Foundation. Musicians he has collaborated with include flutist Eugenia Zukerman, clarinetists Stephen Williamson, Ricardo Morales and Jon Manasse, cellists Robert deMaine and Eric Bartlett, violinists Kelly Hall-Tompkins and Roy Malan, and singers Deborah Voigt, Margaret Jane Wray, Cynthia Lawrence, Samuel Ramey, Paul Plishka, Ben Heppner, Cliff Forbis, and Robert White. He has also performed with the esteemed actress Claire Bloom.
Craig Ketter began piano studies at the age of seven, giving his first solo recital at the age of ten. Shortly thereafter, he began to win top prizes in numerous competitions including the Young Keyboard Artists Association International Piano Competition, the North Carolina Symphony Young Artists Competition, and the Kingsville International Piano Competition. He later won first prizes in the Bartok-Kabalevsky-Prokofiev International Piano Competition, the Richardson Awards National Piano Competition and the South Orange Symphony of New Jersey Young Artists Competition. He was also awarded the Saunderson Award at the Coleman Chamber Music Competition in Los Angeles, California with the Meliora Winds.Craig Ketter received his Bachelor's and Master's Degrees from the Eastman School of Music under the tutelage of Nelita True and Barry Snyder, where he also taught as Mr. Snyder's assistant. He continued post-graduate studies with YohevedKaplinsky of the Juilliard School. Complementing his performing with teaching, Mr. Ketter has presented master classes throughout the United States and Argentina, and has served as a guest professor and adjudicator in several institutions and venues. He has been a faculty member of the Rocky Ridge Music Festival in Colorado and has served as Chair of the Piano Faculty at the American Festival for the Arts in Houston, Texas. He is currently on the faculty of New Jersey City University. Mr. Ketter currently resides in the New York area with his wife, Canadian soprano Valerie Gonzalez, and his two sons, Isaac and Daniel.
The JCC Manhattan, home to PREFORMANCES WITH Allison Charney is a vibrant non-profit community center on the Upper West Side and home to the Lambert Center for Arts + Ideas, The cornerstone of progressive programming in Manhattan, the JCC serves over 55,000 people annually through 1,200 programs each season that educate, inspire, and transform participants' minds, bodies, and spirits. Since its inception, the JCC has been committed to serving the community by offering programs and services that reach beyond neighborhood boundaries. Programs at the JCC reach people at all stages of their lives, and serve the entire family and community. Proceeds from PREFORMANCES WITH Allison Charney help support the pivotal work of The Basser Center for BRCA and the breadth of arts programing at the JCC. Located on 76th Street and Amsterdam, Goldman Sonnenfeldt Auditorium is a key cultural asset of the JCC Manhattan, a vibrant non-profit community center on the Upper West Side and home to the Lambert Center for Arts + Ideas, presenter of PREFORMANCES WITH Allison Charney. The cornerstone of progressive programming in Manhattan, the JCC serves over 55,000 people annually through 1,200 programs each season that educate, inspire, and transform participants' minds, bodies, and spirits. Since its inception, the JCC has been committed to serving the community by offering programs and services that reach beyond neighborhood boundaries. Programs at the JCC reach people at all stages of their lives, and serve the entire family and community. Proceeds from PREFORMANCES WITH Allison Charney help support the pivotal work of The Basser Center for BRCA and the breadth of arts programing at the JCC.
PREFORMANCES WITH Allison Charney
Monday March 13th at 7:30PM
The Goldman Sonnenfeldt Auditorium
JCC Manhattan, Lambert Center for Arts + Ideas
334 Amsterdam Avenue at West 76th Street, NY
Accessible by Subway: 1/2/3 to 72nd St.; Bus: M7 or M11 to West 75th Street
TICKETS: General Admission $15, JCC Members $10;
Please call 646.505.5708 to reserve $5 Senior-discounted tickets