UW News

December 5, 2014

‘Music from the War to End All Wars’: A student performer’s view

UW News

Jane Heinrichs is a doctoral student in piano performance at the UW School of Music and will perform in two of the three concerts that comprise the three-part series “Music from the War to End All Wars.” The series begins Sunday, Dec. 7, in Brechemin Auditorium, and continues on March 3 and May 8, 2015.

So, does knowing the historical context of a piece of music affect how she approaches and performs it? Not exactly, Heinrichs said, “but it is always enriching to know the composer’s historical situation.”

She added, “Usually when I’m getting a piece ready to perform, I have all sorts of personal stories or visual images I mentally attach to the music while I’m practicing. I think knowing the history of a piece can also increase the pool of stories I would have available to make the piece more effective.”

Mostly, she said she works with “the myriad of details the composer wrote on the musical score, and not incorporating the composer’s extra-musical biographical details.”

Of a World War I-era piece by Spanish composer Manuel de Falla she will play, Heinrichs said one might expect “a certain permeating sadness.” But to the contrary, “Falla’s pieces are brilliant, smoky, flirtatious, angry (spurned lovers) and witty — about as Spanish as you can get!”

In the March concert Heinrichs will (with Corentin Pokorny on violin) play Bela Bartok’s “Rumanian Folk Dances,” which resulted from the composer collecting folk songs in Rumania and Hungary, until the 1914 Russian invasion of Rumania ended his research.

Heinrichs said that for both composers, “these wartime compositions were rooted in nationalism, but it’s hard to tell if the war caused the nationalism.

“It makes me wonder that if the U.S. were invaded, would American composers also become nationalistic and folk song-oriented, writing pieces based on ‘Buffalo Gals’ or ‘Swanee River’?”