Lee and Robinson Record Mendelssohn's Complete Works for Cello and Piano
Two of Kent State University's finest faculty musicians have collaborated once again, this time performing and recording Felix Mendelssohn's complete works for cello and piano.
Donna Lee, Ph.D. associate professor of piano, and Keith H. Robinson, assistant professor of cello, both on the faculty of the Hugh A. Glauser School of Music, started performing Mendelssohn's complete works in 2009, the year marking the 200th anniversary of the composer's birth. While on several occasions in recent years Lee and Robinson performed Ludwig van Beethoven's complete works for cello and piano, this is the first time they've recorded together.
"It's always such a feat to study and perform the complete works of a composer," says Lee. "Compared to Beethoven's works for piano and cello, Mendelssohn's works for this genre are far more obscure, although they are fantastically written. We were excited to have the chance to record them, there being just a handful of recordings."
Mendelssohn: Complete Works for Cello and Piano
is an 18-track compilation, just over an hour in length, and the CD contains the composer's famous 26-minute, four-track Cello Sonata No. 2 in D major, Op. 58. According to Robinson, a member of the Miami String Quartet for more than 20 years, it is the most complete work on the program. He says, "It's full of energy and optimism.
Lee characterizes it as "pure brilliance." Describing the piece further, she says, "To me, playing the D major sonata is like being on a motorcycle, speeding on a highway, without a helmet. It's exhilarating and a little scary!"
She continues, "On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mendelssohn's two-and-a-half-minute miniature piece, Album Leaf
, is full of intimate expression." Album Leaf
is Robinson's personal favorite, and he says, "It was recently discovered and is an unfinished work that leads exquisitely into the Song without Words in D major
The CD, released by Blue Griffin Recording, was introduced at the Nov. 20, 2011, Kent Keyboard Series at the Carl F.W. Ludwig Recital Hall at Kent State.Robinson says Mendelssohn (1809-47) was a child prodigy.
"His talent at such a young age was comparable to Mozart. The String Octet in E-flat major he wrote when he was 16 years old is one of the great masterpieces of all time. He was a student of the game and intensely studied the music of Johann Sebastian Bach," says Robinson. Lee agrees that Mendelssohn is indeed one of the great composers, saying, "His music contains a depth of expressive range. It is extremely effective and idiomatically well-written," she adds.
When asked about her collaboration with Robinson, Lee says, "With great musicians, you have the opportunity to discover, awaken and spin forth a musical dialogue. I feel incredibly fortunate to have inspiring collaborators.
Lee made her solo debut in 1990 with the National Symphony Orchestra. She has since appeared as a soloist at Kennedy Center's Concert Hall and Terrace Theater in Washington, DC and Lincoln Center's Alice Tully Hall in New York City. She earned her doctorate from Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University, her Masters from The Juilliard School, and her bachelor of music degree from the University of Maryland, College Park, where she studied with prominent artist-teachers Julian Martin, the late Rudolf Firkusny, and Thomas Schumacher, respectively. During the summers she is co-director of the Piano Institute at Kent State and artist-faculty at Kent Blossom Chamber Music in Ohio and Brevard Music Center in North Carolina.
Robinson has enjoyed a long career as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician over the past several decades. Since graduating from the Curtis Institute of Music where he studied with David Soyer of the Guarneri Quartet, he has appeared as soloist with orchestras in Paris, Miami, West Palm Beach, Midland-Odessa, and Panama City, Panama. Appearances include those with The American Sinfonietta, The Miami Chamber Symphony, and the New World Symphony as well as several music festivals in North America. He plays on a cello dated 1690, made by Giovanni Grancino in Milan, Italy.
Robinson and Lee will next perform together at the 2012 Kent/Blossom Music Festival. The five-week chamber music festival, June 24-July 28, will be in its 45th season, with more than 40 students from all over the world studying with members of The Cleveland Orchestra and Kent State faculty.
Robinson's next concerts are in Philadelphia and New York, performing the Mendelssohn octet and Johannes Brahms' String Sextet in B-flat major.
Lee has upcoming recitals in Chicago and Florida. Later this spring, she will perform in Brno, Czech Republic, and Maui, Hawaii.