The Jakarta Post
The viola is slightly larger than a violin and has a lower sound. (Shutterstock/File)
The viola might not be a popular instrument in Indonesia, but a preview in an online newspaper might have been the boost needed to generate public enthusiasm in violist Adam Cordle’s recent concerts in Jakarta.
The article was cleverly titled “The handsome American violist will perform in Jakarta” and most probably it was the mixture of the word “handsome” and the mystery of the viola that attracted the audience.
The audience was not at all disappointed, not only because of his physical appearance, but even more his high musicianship and virtuosity.
The viola is slightly larger than a violin and has a lower sound. It serves as a “bridge” between the violin and the cello in chamber music, and for centuries it was considered as merely a filling instrument.
It was not until the 20th century that viola earned the stature it deserves, as an instrument with a poignant, warm and mellow sound. Thanks to composers such as Paul Hindemith, William Walton, Toru Takemitsu and Alfred Schnittke, the viola became popular through their works for solo performances and orchestra.
Cordle, who has performed throughout North America and Europe with different partners, chamber groups and orchestras, is at the moment in Jakarta and has performed with his duo partner who equally impressed the audience, Indonesian pianist Edith Widayani, as Duo 590.
The 590 is a code for courses that Eastman School of Music doctoral students take as part of their curriculum.
Adam and Edith met on one of these courses in their first semester of graduate study. Also, one of the main interstates in Rochester — where Eastman is located — is named 590.
So, the name Duo 590 references both how and where they were founded. This year, both musicians have earned their doctorate degrees in Music from that prestigious institution.
Duo 590 performed two concerts last week in Jakarta and will perform again this weekend.
On Aug. 2, they performed at the Institut Francais d’Indonésie (IFI), with a program of exclusively French Women Composers of the early 20th century: Nadia Boulanger, Fernande Decruck and Marcelle Soulage.
From the French women’s program at IFI, Nadia Boulanger was the only name that was known by most of the Jakarta audience.
Her work played was “Three Pieces for Cello & Piano” and it was Cordle’s initiative to play it on an instrument one octave higher — and it worked so well.
But it was Marcelle Soulage’s Sonata in A minor, op. 25 that convinced the audience as a forgotten (or ignored?) great work.
Soulage (1894-1970) composed prolifically, sometimes writing under the pseudonym Marc Sauval but then was almost totally forgotten after her death.
Many of her works remained unrecorded, and in fact a YouTube video of Duo 590 playing the abovementioned sonata is the only available recording of it. Listening to this four-movement work really aroused the audience’s curiosity to discover more works by this fabulous composer, and the dazzling Duo 590 should definitely make a CD recording of this forgotten musical gem.
The next day they presented a “lighter” program, for an afternoon of High Tea at the Writers Bar in Raffles Hotel.
This time, Duo 590 performed shorter and “easier listening” works by Gabriel Faure, Franz Liszt, two movements of the Soulage Sonata (at the request of the audience who loved the piece the day before) and the writer’s “Someone’s Stolen Her Heart” written during my early conservatory days and — as the title implies — evoking a not-meant-to-be teenage crush.
Cordle will perform again, this time as a soloist with a chamber orchestra, on Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Soehanna Hall of The Energy Building in SCBD at 3 p.m., giving the World Premiere of the writer’s new work, “Sebuah Simfoni Tentang Perempuan” (A Symphony on Women). This 20-minute Symphony was commissioned by former Indonesian president BJ Habibie through the Habibie-Ainun Foundation to mark the 20th anniversary of the reformasi in Indonesia, focusing on the merits and contribution of women on this aspect.
The work is written for solo viola, narrator and eight instruments. The narration was written by prominent writer Putu Fajar Arcana and will be read by actress Maryam Supraba.
Before the new work is performed, Cordle will show his prowess by performing my virtuosic works for viola and piano, again with Edith Widayani.
The writer is a composer & pianist