The Nijinsky of the Viola

April 22, 2011

Violist, Richard O'Neill

Last night Richard O’Neill performed my Three Arias for Viola and Piano at a concert of string music by Los Angeles Composers–all performed beautifully by UCLA faculty and student ensembles. On the first half I was surrounded by Stravinsky’s gnarly Double Canon and Three Pcs for String Quartet (1914), and the Joyce-ian masterpiece Op. 45 String Trio of Arnold Schoenberg. Op.45 was performed by faculty member Movses Pogossian, an undergraduate, and a graduate–an impressive and touching collaboration.

Vaslav Nijinsky

My arias were like the creamy center of an Oreo surrounded by these 20th century giants. My colleague and friend, Richard O’Neill, viola, and James Lent, piano, offered up a gorgeous performance. I found myself holding my breath watching Richard dance and perform. He had internalized the music so deeply that he knew how the piece goes in the body as well as on the viola. I’ve nicknamed him “The Nijinsky of the Viola.” I am blessed to have had such a gift as this performance.

I was also happy to have met Ronald and Barbara Schoenberg at a dinner before the concert. We carried on the whole time. I learned more stories about his father than I had ever known. Many of the stories he couldn’t really vouch for, but found them amusing enough to retell. Barbara is the daughter of Eric Zeisl, and married to Ronald Schoenberg, and I loved visiting with her, quizzing her on her father.

The concert also included music by Lou Harrison, Eric Zeisl, and Ernst Toch. Bravo the the UCLA string faculty and students for such a terrific concert.

Previous post:

Next post: