Summing up the Fall Violoncellist

In an effort to maintain at least the semblance of musical/cultural content as befits the latter half of the title of this blog, I asked Daniel Ahrendt, the publicist for the Amitayus Duo, to write up a short “press release” of some of the musical activities in which I was able to engage this past fall, for the period from about August 25-December 10, 2011.  (Thus the third person references below!) 

Since returning from China to the United States the at the end of this summer, Dr. Adam Cathcart has kept quite busy playing cello in many contexts, be they in Washington state or the other side of the world. As one half of the piano and cello diplomacy-driven combo, The Amitayus Duo, Dr. Cathcart spent the latter half of the summer of 2011 in Chengdu, recording and performing for students and the public in the political and cultural capitol of Sichuan province.

The Amitayus Duo then promptly appeared in Berlin, the home base of pianist (and other half of the duo) Dr. Andreas Boelcke, to perform for a commemorative service for the ten-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks. The multi-faith service, organized by the American Ambassador to Germany, Philip D. Murphy, was attended by an array of prominent German politicians, including current president Christian Wulff, former Prime Minister Gerhard Schroeder, and Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, all of whom heard the duo’s performance of Bloch’s “Prayer from Jewish Life” prior to a reading from the Torah.

Before returning to the U.S., the duo placed finishing touches on their recording of Sichuan composer Gao Ping’s Sonata #1 for Cello and Piano; it can now be heard on YouTube.

From October though November, Dr. Cathcart spent time in the Puget Sound as a guest performer with two ensembles. On October 16th, he served as principal cellist with the Seattle Metropolitan Chamber Orchestra at Benoyara Hall, performing solos in Grieg’s “Holberg Suite” and anchoring the string section in Prokoviev’s “Classical” Symphony No. 1. This appearance served as a return to Benoyara for Dr. Cathcart who had appeared as a soloist in the Schumann Concerto the same hall, Seattle’s finest for small ensembles, last January. Cathcart subsequently appeared in performance in Tacoma in November as a tenor with Pacific Lutheran University’s Choral Union, performing the Brahms “Neue Liebeslieder Walzer,” where he also worked with composer Richard Nance on working out the instrumental kinks in some of Nance’s new writing for cello, piano, and chorus.

In late November, Cathcart teamed up with pianist Robert Jorgenson to perform programs in Olympia and Tacoma centering upon on Brahms’s F Major op. 99 No. 2 cello sonata. Guests in attendance including several well known members of the Washington classical music community including Robert Shen, the concertmaster of Puget Sound Symphony. The duo arranged a Brahms song, “Waldeinsamkeit,” for cello and piano, and capped off the year with another performance of the Brahms Sonata at the String Kaleidoscope in Pacific Lutheran University’s Lagerquist Concert Hall.  Video of the house concert should be available early in the new year.

Befitting his interest in the German romantic repertoire and long-term plans to bring more Schumann and Brahms to audiences in Northeast Asia, Cathcart made progress this past semester in futher understanding of that repertoire.  In addition to performing Schumann’s “Fantasy Pieces” in Berlin, Brahms F-major Sonata in Olympia, and the Brahms “Neue Liebeslieder Waltzer” in Tacoma, he was able to attend a performance of Schumann’s Violin Concerto (a disputed late work first performed in Nazi Germany) with the Seattle Symphony, and located a ream of new Schumann scores for cello and piano, arranged from the viola and violin repertoire, in Berlin.  This kind of light progress and simultaneous expansion of future repertoire goals seems par for the course, but he counts it as progress.  More locally to the Seattle area, Cathcart’s interest in the music of Schumann and Brahms is part of a larger process that looks at mental illness conjoined to creative impulse, and brings community outreach to psychiatric care facilities and homeless shelters.

His ongoing musical research projects currently include tracking musical diplomacy in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, reading the works of W.G. Sebald (On the Natural History of Destruction) and Conrad Crane (Air War Over Korea, 1950-53) in preparation of his Bach Destruction project, and podcasting and discussing portions of Richard Kraus’s book Pianos and Politics in Modern China.

Adam Cathcart in Berlin, Feuerbach Strasse, June 2011; Wang Yin, photo