Strings vibrate with love, loss and virtuosity


Monday night’s chamber music program at New Mexico Tech features two composers whose names might not be familiar to most Socorro concert-goers, with good reason.



The first is Grazyna Bacewizc, a Polish composer who died in 1969.

“If you haven’t heard of her, you’re not alone,” said violist Willy Sucre. “This lady was, in her time, one of the best violinists on the planet. She was kind of like a genius, in a way, and of course, playing violin was not enough for her.”

Sucre said although the pieces might be a little “different sounding,” they’re an absolute pleasure.

“Not many people know her still, and even fewer people have played her,” he said. “I’m very glad to bring her to Socorro to play her quartet.”

Polish-born violinist Krzysztof Zimowski, who joins Sucre on stage, is a compatriot of Bacewizc’. Sucre was overjoyed when Zimowski was able to find the sheet music for Bacewizc’ String Quartet No. 2 in C Major, which was in itself a challenge because it’s so seldom performed.

“It’s just beautiful, totally new to perform and such a great pleasure to be able to introduce to a new audience,” Sucre said. “It presents the most wonderful challenges — each part is very complicated, and then you multiply that by four performers.”

Sucre’s anticipation and excitement are contagious, and his passion for his art reaches to every seat in New Mexico Tech’s Macey Center, as past audiences are well aware. Sucre began presenting free chamber music concerts in Socorro some years ago as part of the Presidential Chamber Music Series sponsored by Tech president Dr. Dan Lopez, and over time he has developed an ever-increasing following of appreciative and enthusiastic fans who know they’ll be treated to something rare and wonderful.

The second composer on the program is Bedrich Smetana, who, like Beethoven, became deaf late in life, but was still able to hear music in his head and transcribe it on paper. Sucre and his fellow chamber musicians will be performing Smetana’s String Quartet in E Minor, “From My Life.”

“When he wrote this piece, he was totally deaf, he couldn’t hear a thing,” Sucre said. “He was about getting ready to die. He had lost so many things, and he had become ill.”

Each movement in the quartet represents a time in the composer’s life.

“The first movement is about his childhood,” Sucre said. “Smetana was a wonderful dancer, and the music has a lot of dance themes. He was able to make the viola and the second violin sound like trumpets — it’s what he remembers from his childhood. The second movement has themes of his country — you can hear the mazurka — it’s just a very happy movement, very happy.”

The third movement, Sucre said, is about Smetana’s wife.

“When he is young, he meets this wonderful woman and marries her, and they are so happy. Then, 10 years later, she dies,” he said. “He suffers very much emotionally from that loss. The movement is about love and hurt at the same time.”

The last movement, Sucre said, has a little bit of everything.

“You’ll hear the first violin playing a very, very high note,” he said. “It represents this noise he used to have constantly in his ear as he was losing his hearing. He wanted to paint with notes the story of his life.”

Sucre and Zimowski are joined for this concert by Julanie Collier Lee on violin, and cellist James Holland, and all the performers have a long list of distinguished credentials. Both pieces on the program are technically challenging, and will draw heavily on the musicians’ talent and skill, which, if anything, makes them even more excited.

“These pieces together make an incredible program,” Sucre said.

Sucre said it’s always his intention to give the audience something new, and he was hoping no one would know about Bacewizc, so he could have the great pleasure of introducing such a wonderful composer to the Socorro audience.


Contact Suzanne Barteau