Relax with Willy and Friends at free chamber music concert Monday

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The timing couldn't be better. Spend the Monday after Thanksgiving weekend in the company of Willy Sucre and five of his musician friends in a free concert at 7:30 p.m. Nov. 26 in New Mexico Tech's Macey Center.

The concert is the second in the Presidential Chamber Music Series sponsored by Tech President Dr. Daniel H. López and under the umbrella of the Performing Arts Series. Admission is free to all.

Sucre has arranged for an evening of sextets, the first time the chamber series has featured music written for six musicians. Joining the affable violist on stage are Guillermo Figueroa and Krzysztof Zimowski, violin; Cherokee Randolph, viola; Ivonne Figueroa, piano; and James Holland on cello.

The evening's program includes works by Joaquín Turina, Johannes Brahms and Amédée-Ernest Chausson.

"This is a wonderful way for chamber music aficionados to close out one holiday before the swift slide to the yuletide season," said PAS director Ronna Kalish. "Willy chose the series of sextets especially for this time of the year."

"The program is very interesting, not just because of the composers, but because of the people playing," Sucre said in a telephone interview.

First, meet the composers.

Turina was a Spanish composer of classical music. Often his music conveys a feeling of rapture or exaltation. His compositions "Escena Adaluza" for solo viola, piano and string quartet, "Crepusculedu Soir Allegretto Mosso" and "A La Fenetre Andantino Mosso" will be performed by the sextet.

The Turina piece was written for viola, piano and string quartet. Sucre said chamber music written for a sextet is very unusual.

"In fact, this is the only piece I know of written for that combination (of instruments)," he said.

The composition speaks to the language of Andalusia, Spain, and was written to capture the feel of the people of this region, with its rich culture and strong cultural identity, Sucre said.

The violist and his friends will perform two movements — "The Evening Twilight" and "At the Window." Sucre described the first movement as a song of romance with its pizzicato and tremolos from the string quartet, signifying the strokes of a guitar.

In the second movement, the composition speaks of two people in love as exemplified by the serenade between the viola and the strings.

Chausson, meanwhile, was a French romantic composer. To please his father, Chausson studied law, but he had little interest in the profession. Before deciding on a musical career, he dabbled in writing and drawing.

His composition "Concerto in D Major, Op. 21" for violin, piano and string quartet: "Decide, Sicilienne, Grave, Tres Anime" has the same feel as the Turina pieces with its pizzicato and tremolos, but is extremely passionate, Sucre said.

In between the two is "Scherzo Op. Postumus" for violin and piano by the German composer and pianist Brahms. Brahms, who spent much of his professional life in Vienna, Austria, was a very popular and influential musician sometimes grouped with Johann Sebastian Bach and Ludwig van Beethoven as one of the "Three B's."

The sextet will perform the third movement of the Brahms sonata, which, Sucre said, is often played by itself. The performance will feature guest guitarist Guillermo Figueroa and his sister Ivonne Figueroa on piano — "a great addition to the program," according to Sucre.

And now meet the evening's musicians.

Figueroa, onetime music director of the former New Mexico Symphony Orchestra, is current music director of the Music in the Mountains Festival in Colorado, as well as principal guest conductor of the Puerto Rico Symphony.

Figueroa, a violinist, was a founding member and concertmaster of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra and concertmaster of the New York City Ballet.

Pianist Ivonne Figueroa began her musical studies at the age of 5 with her father, Guillermo, and other members of Puerto Rico's most distinguished musical family. She later studied with Pablo Casals, and in 1966 Figueroa was awarded the Pablo Casals Scholarship by the maestro himself.

Under the direction of her brother, she toured the Dominican Republic with the Puerto Rico Symphony last April, and performed with the Figueroa Quartet at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Casals Festival in February.

Violinist Zimowski was concertmaster and featured soloist of the former NMSO for more than a decade. Born in Wroclaw, Poland, he began his musical studies at the age of six. In 1977, Zimowski received his master's degree with honors from the Academy of Music in Wroclaw.

He moved to New Mexico in 1986 to help form the Helios String Quartet, the ensemble-in-residence of PAS from 1987 until 1997. Zimowski lives in Albuquerque with wife, Urzula, also a musician, and their son. 

Holland began cello studies at the age of 9 in his hometown of Pensacola, Fla. He earned a Bachelor of Music degree in cello performance from the University of Alabama and a Master of Music degree from the Eastman School of Music.

For many years he has been an active enthusiastic cello teacher and chamber music coach. He lives in Albuquerque with his wife, violinist Megan Holland.

Randolph started playing through the string orchestra program in the Albuquerque Public Schools as well as the Albuquerque Youth Symphony through high school.  She earned a degree in viola performance from UNM, and worked on her master's at Boston University.

 Cherokee currently teaches orchestra with the Rio Rancho Public Schools and coaches young violists with the AYS Program.

Sucre himself continues to be the driving force behind the "Willy Sucre & Friends" concerts. Born in La Paz, Bolivia, Sucre studied in La Paz and with music schools in Maine, New York and with the Peabody Conservatory in Baltimore, Md.

As a chamber musician, Sucre was the founder of the Cuarteto Boliviano, guest violist with various chamber music ensembles, and for 10 years the violist of the Helios String Quartet. He enjoys playing with other musicians and ensembles of diverse instrumentation.