Arts & Entertainment

Feb. 14 Recital at St. Paul’s, Westfield, Will Feature NJ Symphony Strings Duo

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Violinist and NJ Symphony Orchestra Associate Concertmaster Brennan Sweet will perform in a Bach to Handel Recital at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Westfield. Credits: Courtesy Brennan Sweet
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Jonathan Spitz, principal cellist with the NJ Symphony Orchestra, will perform in tandem with violinist Brennan Sweet. Credits: Courtesy Jonathan Spitz
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WESTFIELD, NJ - The Friends of Music at St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Westfield will present on Sunday, Feb. 14, at 4 p.m. a recital performed in tandem by violinist Brennan Sweet, Associate Concertmaster of The New Jersey Symphony Orchestra, and Jonathan Spitz, NJSO’s celebrated principal cellist. Baroque composers Johann Sebastian Bach and George Frederic Handel are featured on this Sunday afternoon, Valentine’s Day Bach to Handel program. 

Violinist Sweet will perform Bach’s Partita III in E Major for solo violin (BWV 1006), composed in 1720 in six movements: Preludio, Loure, Menuets (I and II), Bourrée and Gigue. This piece typically celebrates the various dances and dance tempos popular in the early 18th Century/late Baroque period. For example, the lyrical Loure, (gigue lente), a slow French Baroque dance, is followed by the more lively Gavotte en Rondeau which, says Sweet, “should set toes tapping.” 

Cellist Spitz will perform Bach’s Cello Suite II in D minor for solo cello (BWV 1008) (1717-23), composed, likewise, in a symmetrically conceived cycle of Preludio followed by five Baroque dance-type variations.  Unlike Bach’s Partita III, this Suite did not become widely known and popular until 1936-39, when cellist Pablo Casals became the first to record it, at Abbey Road Studios in London. Spitz is praised for his interpretation of this dramatic, deeply soulful work. 

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Sweet and Spitz will cap the February 14 Recital with a vivacious, inspirational duet -- The Passacaglia from Handel’s Suite in G minor (HWV 432), arranged for violin and cello by Johan Halvorsen. Described as a theme-based “series of thrilling variations in a tour de force of musical invention,” this work is nicknamed “The Impossible,alluding to the difficulty of creating full, four-part harmony with only two instruments. Notes St. Paul’s Music Director Charles M. Banks, “it will culminate what promises to be a wonderful afternoon of music of the highest caliber performed by two consummate guest artists!”  

“Given St. Paul’s wonderful acoustics and spirited surroundings,” adds Banks, “these virtuosic works and performers are expected to enhance both the listening and the viewing pleasure of Recital attendees – and they could also tug on a few Valentine’s Day heart strings!”

St. Paul’s Episcopal Church is located at 414 E. Broad Street (near Euclid Ave.) in Westfield.  Tickets at the door are $20.  Students and parking are free.  Following the recital, attendees are invited to meet and greet Messrs. Sweet and Spitz at a bountiful reception in the Cloister.  For more information, contact Director Banks at 908-451-5082, or e-mail cbnj123@verizon.net

Background

Brennan Sweet earned a Bachelor of Music degree from Indiana University, and later joined the faculty as lecturer for two years.  A child prodigy, Sweet was, by age 10, the youngest member of the St. Louis Symphony Youth Orchestra, under Leonard Slatkin.  By age 16, he was performing professionally with local opera, chamber and popular (e.g., Nelson Riddle) orchestras.   Internationally, Sweet toured France, performing for the re-opening of the Opera Bastille in Paris.  In 1977, he studied violin at the Franz Liszt Academy of Music (Budapest, Hungary).  He has performed with Joshua Bell and Stephen Isserlis.  In 1994, he joined NJSO as Associate Concertmaster, also serving for three seasons as the orchestra’s Acting Concertmaster.  Sweet has been praised as a “lush-toned, heartfelt and nuanced” violin soloist.  

Jonathan Spitz is the recently appointed Chair of String Studies at Rutgers University’s Mason Gross School of the Arts.  He has served on the Artist Faculty there since 2002.  A graduate of The Curtis Institute of Music (Philadelphia) and recognized as one of the leading cellists in the U. S., he performs nationally and internationally as soloist, chamber musician and orchestral principal.  He serves as Principal Cello of both the New Jersey Symphony Orchestra (since 1991) and the American Ballet Theater Orchestra.  He also tours internationally as Co-Principal of the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra.  Like Sweet, Spitz was a prodigy who first performed as a 16-year-old soloist with the Bergen Youth Orchestra.

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