by Larry Kellum
On Oct. 23 at Central CT State Univ. in New Britain, and on the 25th at St. Joseph’s Cathedral in Hartford, an interesting and unique program called “Slavic Masterpieces” will be presented by the CT Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra offering music by Antonin Dvorak, Tchaikovsky and Polish composer Mieczyslaw Karlowicz. Highlight of the event will be Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor, Op. 104 featuring ace cello soloist Melissa Morgan who, as she put it, “was born here, went away, and came back!” That “going away” consisted of earning her Bachelor of Music from Eastman School of Music, a Master of Music from the San Francisco Conservatory, and numerous performances all over the country before joining the Virtuosi Orchestra in the 2006-7 season. She has been a familiar face and force in maestro Adrian Sylveen’s pit since and has also performed in the three operas every year that the Virtuosi presents in conjunction with the CT Lyric Opera, both under Sylveen’s artistic direction.
As stated, this vastly talented, dynamic 43 year old artist plays many roles in life – cellist, teacher, mother, wife. Local critic / reviewer Larry Kellum had the distinct pleasure and honor to interview this charming musician in early October. Here are some highlights of that informative conversation:
LK — Tell us about your teaching career.
MM — Well, I have been doing it for over 20 years and currently have 27 private students. I also teach at BRAVO! Waterbury, and am presently filling a long-term substitute position at the Crec Ana Grace Academy of the Arts Elementary School in Avon. I have never thought about retiring. As long as my fingers and health cooperate, I plan on teaching till I drop! I love it so!
LK — Tell us about your two children. Are they following in their mother’s footsteps?
MM — My 11 year old takes piano lessons and my 14 year old guitar. While they value music and value chamber MUSIC like their mom, neither has expressed a desire as yet to pursue careers in music.
LK– I ask everyone this: what or who are your favorite musicians, cellists, operas, etc?
MM — Too many to list! I have been inspired by all of them in one way or another, but I guess Puccini’s “Tosca” is my favorite opera, and probably Yo Yo Ma my favorite cellist.
LK — Am I to assume, like many musicians, you practice and teach on a daily basis with functional instruments, but perform with a state-of-the-art cello and bow?
MM — Believe it or not, I only use one cello and one bow for everything. Everyone gets the best! My cello was made in 1768 of maple and spruce and is from Mittenwald Germany, while my bow is French, from 1800, and made of pernambuco wood. It takes time and alot of shopping around to find the two that compliment each other perfectly.
LK — Do you play any other string instruments?
MM — I certainly can play AT the violin and viola, but wouldn’t want to perform on them in public.
LK — Do you believe in the Suzuki method of instruction?
MM — i didn’t grow up with it and wasn’t trained on it, but as i began teaching at bravo! Waterbury i have come to appreciate and have a deeper understanding of how the method works, and i find it incredibly valuable, especially for younger kids.
LK — What do you do in your spare time, if you have any?
MM — I love to cook, and I am also in the process of earning my black belt in Kung Fu.
LK — You have said that this Dvorak Concerto have been your favorite musical composition since you were two years old! Why is that?
MM — It is so emotionally pulling, especially in the lyrical passages. Its chamber music-like writing best brings out the full timbre of the cello.
LK — It also has an interesting history I gather. It was composed in 1894-95 for cellist Hans Wihan, but actually premiered a year later by the famous English cellist Leo Stern. It was Dvorak’s last solo concerto, as you know.
MM –for this concert i am not playing as a member of the orchestra, but will be focusing entirely on the concerto.
LK — Well, considering that it is approximately 3/4 hour long, it should be 45 minutes of pure ecstasy! Can’t wait! Good luck!
MM — Thank-you so much!
Dvorak’s Cello Concerto in B minor has been called “supreme” and “the greatest” of all cello concertos. It is in the standard 3-movement concerto format.The composer is also well known and admired for his famous New World Symphony and his exotic fairy tale opera “Rusalka”. Sharing the bill with Ms. Morgan’s concerto will be Karlowicz’s Lithuanian Rhapsody Symphonic Poem Op. 11 and Tchaikovsky’s “The Tempest” Symphonic Poem in F minor, all obviously conducted by maestro Sylveen and his Virtuosi Orchestra.
For more information on this gala event, or the upcoming opera, Mozart’s beloved “Marriage of Figaro” coming in November, please visit www.thevirtuosi.org.