CIACCONA: THE BASS OF TIME
CIACCONA offers works spanning three centuries by four composers: Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber's Passacaglia; Johann Sebastian Bach's Ciaccona from Partita No. 2 in d minor; Béla Bartók's Tempo di Ciaccona from Sonata for Solo Violin; and Luciano Berio's Sequenza VIII. Incorporating multi-media historical presentations and live personal narratives with musical performance, CIACCONA tells the story of one of music’s most ancient compositional ideas – the development of a simple repeating bass line – through the lens of solo violin repertoire.
Recorded as a CD and a DVD at the Shalin Liu Performance Center in Rockport, Massachusetts. Label: Crier Records.
Ciaccona: The Bass of TIme has been made possible with generous support from the prestigious Leonore Annenberg Fellowship Fund, of which Ms. Bollinger became a recipient in spring 2016, joining a list of artists that includes dancer Misty Copeland, actor André Holland, and mezzo-soprano Isabel Leonard.
Please visit Music page for audio excerpts, and the Media page for video.
“…violinist Robyn Bollinger presented a multimedia recital entitled “Ciaccona: The Bass of Time.” In it she did more than just perform dauntingly difficult works by Biber, Bach, Bartok, and Berio. She melded them into an evening-length exploration of the ciaccona as such — a Baroque dance form that has morphed over the course of centuries. Between the works, using projected visuals, a prerecorded script, and live commentary from the stage, she framed the evening as “the story of an idea.”
The ciaccona — or passacaglia, a term often used interchangeably — typically features variations over a repeating bass, and Bollinger chose her examples well. The Passacaglia of Heinrich Biber (1644-1702) is an antique work of haunting melancholy; Bach’s Ciaccona represents the spiritual pinnacle of the 18th-century violin; the first movement, “Tempo di Ciaccona,” from Bartok’s Solo Sonata is a tour de force of folk-inflected modernism; and Berio’s Sequenza VIII (from 1976) suggests some kind of wild interstellar voyage in sound.
In fact, what all four of these works seemed to share more obviously than any family resemblance of form is a tendency to push the violin itself toward the outer extremes of instrumental possibility. Throughout the night, Bollinger’s technique proved equal to every challenge, with playing that was poised, precise, and musical. It was in the Berio, however, that her performance seemed to catch fire, projecting both a sense of visceral commitment and a physical athleticism placed at the service of bold musical expression. “
-Jeremy Eichler, The Boston Globe
“Already a highly acclaimed artist, … her mastery of the instrument became manifestly clear in her chronological rendering of examples by Biber, Bach, Bartók and Berio.
Heinrich Ignaz Franz von Biber (1644-1704) composed and performed in Austria, though he was Hungarian. That he was peerless player in his day no doubt helped him craft the Passacaglia in G Minor, with its elegant phrasing. The bass in the Biber Passacaglia is clear, insistent and pure, riveting in each new variation. On a sonorous, year-old violin by the respected luthier Samuel Zygmuntowicz, Bollinger delivered each variation reverently.
Bollinger’s rendition of the first movement of his [Bartok’s] Sonata for Solo Violin, Tempo di Ciaccona, an elegiac one permeated by Magyar folk tunes throughout the variations. Yehudi Menuhin, who was moved by Bartók’s difficult circumstances, commissioned the work in 1943. The Bartók sonata is so difficult that whole treatises have been devoted to it (see Oliver Yatsugafu’s Performance-Practice Issues in Bartók’s Sonata for Solo Violin). Again, Bollinger delivered.
Finally came the Luciano Berio Sequenza VIII, written in 1976 for Carlo Chiarappa, based on a “compass” of two notes, A and B, and which the composer himself described as “a tribute to that musical apex which is the Ciaccona from Johann Sebastian Bach’s Partita in D Minor.” Bollinger executed the piece with bright focus and luminous tone.
The world will be hearing more from this engaging and original talent.”
-Julie Ingelfinger, Boston Musical Intelligencer
Bieber’s “Sequenza VIII” selected as one of “The 8 Best Classical Music Moments of the Week on YouTube”
“It was the concept that drew me to the new CD “Ciaconna: The Bass of Time,” from Crier Records, but it was the young violinist Robyn Bollinger who held me captive. Through solo works of Biber, Bach, Bartok and Berio, Ms. Bollinger explores the lineage of the chaconne or passacaglia, call it what you will, with its often obsessive focus on a bass figure. As so often, Berio’s obsessions, in his “Sequenza VIII,” are idiosyncratic, particularly when — after a long, somewhat static buildup — he seizes on a little twittering figure and sets it in manic perpetual motion, finally letting go only reluctantly.”
-James Oestreich, The New York TImesN