The nine Epigrams (Epigrammák) were composed in 1954 along with several other educational works designed to exemplify Kodály’s method of musical education. They were originally conceived as vocalises, for a wordless voice and piano accompaniment, but the voice part can be adapted to almost any instrument. In these little pieces, grave, gay or lyrical, with their discreet polyphonic imitations between melody and accompaniment, the Hungarian accent is so perfectly absorbed into Kodály’s habit of discourse that there is hardly a hint of the exotic about them: they simply testify to a rare serenity of spirit and delight in music-making. Calum MacDonald © 2010

Kodály wrote most of his chamber music during the relatively early period from 1905 to 1920 after which he concentrated on orchestral, stage and especially choral music. A self-taught cellist, Kodály’s finest chamber music is for strings, the highlights of which are two string quartets, the duo for violin and cello, a sonata for solo cello and an unfinished two movement sonata for cello and piano written in 1910. Unsatisfied with the original first movement of the later cello sonata, Kodály left it unfinished, returning to it again twelve years later in 1922 with the intention of providing a replacement for the discarded first movement. Feeling that the resulting composition was significantly different in style than the original sonata, Kodály let it stand by itself as the beautiful, single movement Sonatina for Cello and Piano. While some have characterized it as thoroughly Hungarian in its melodic contours, it is also suggestive of the modern French music that made such an impression on Kodály and Bartók at the turn of the century and that often shares the spacious pentatonic tendencies with the Hungarian folk music they discovered in Transylvania around the same time.

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In 1928, Bartók wrote the two Rhapsodies for Violin and Piano, often called “Hungarian Rhapsodies” and sometimes bearing the subtitle “Folk Dances”. Each was written for a prominent Hungarian violinist of the day: the first for Joseph Szigeti, the second for Zoltán Székely, the founder of the Hungarian String Quartet. The rhapsodies each employ a two-part form, the first part slow (lassú), the second fast (friss, meaning brisk or fresh), a tradition in Hungarian dance music that features sectional contrasts of tempo and mood, the typical examples being the csárdás and its ancestor, the 18th century army recruiting dance, the verbunkos. In Bartók’s second rhapsody, the first part lassú is moderate in tempo, bright, impassioned with soaring cries from the violin and phrases that are exotically “eastern” with their augmented intervals. In the second part friss, Bartók features striking rhythmic patterns, further tempo variations, spiky pizzicato, tart double-stops, sharp harmonics and lively melodic fragments that sound by turns like folk music, playful children’s songs or exhilarating, improvised marches. The rhapsodies have folk origins but show the manipulation and development of Bartók the sophisticated art music composer. It has been said of both Kodály and Bartók that they seldom used actual folk music in their own compositions but rather had thoroughly assimilated the folk idiom to the extent that their personal vocabulary became a spontaneously stylized expression of the same musical impulse. Bartók transcribed the rhapsodies for violin and orchestra during the same year, the year in which he also wrote his most well known chamber masterpiece, the Fourth String Quartet.

Jing Li
Hailed as “an outstanding instrumentalist and musician” with “exceptional musicality, integrity, and polish,” cellist Jing Li has performed around the world as a soloist, recitalist, and chamber musician.  She has made solo appearances with the Mississippi Symphony Orchestra, Acadiana Symphony of Louisiana, Indiana University Orchestra, Shepherd School Symphony Orchestra, and Cuenca Symphony Orchestra in Ecuador.  An avid chamber musician, Ms. Li has collaborated with such distinguished artists as Miriam Fried, Donald Weilerstein, Lawrence Wolfe, and the Borromeo String Quartet, as well as participating in internationally renowned festivals including the Norfolk Chamber Music Festival, Sarasota Music Festival, Banff Centre for the Arts, and the Piatigorsky Seminar for Cellists.Born in Beijing, China, Ms. Li immigrated to the United States when she was three years old and received her first cello lessons from her father, Tien Sheng Li.  At the age of fourteen, she was accepted into the illustrious studio of Janos Starker at Indiana University School of Music as his youngest student, consequently graduating with an Artist Diploma.  She continued her studies with Paul Katz at Rice University, receiving a Bachelor of Music degree cum laude, and with Laurence Lesser at New England Conservatory, where she was awarded a Master of Music degree with Academic Honors and Distinction in Performance.  She is a top prizewinner in the Corpus Christi International String Competition and the Irving M. Klein International String Competition, where she received the Allen P. Weiss Memorial Prize for Best Performance of the Commissioned Work by David Liptak.A recent resident of New York City, Ms. Li is Assistant Principal Cellist of the Springfield Symphony Orchestra and a member of the Rhode Island Philharmonic. She also performs regularly on Broadway and with BMOP (Boston Modern Orchestra Project), Monadnock Music, Pro Arte Chamber Orchestra, Aurea, and A Far Cry Chamber Orchestra.  As a dedicated teacher, she maintains an active private studio.

Victoria Schwartzman
Born in St. Petersburg, Russia, Victoria Schwartzman (formerly Mazin) performs regularly as a soloist and chamber musician. Victoria has appeared at the Music Mountain Festival with the St. Petersburg String Quartet, in the New York Philharmonic Ensembles series at Merkin Hall, at Bargemusic, in the Gessner- Schocken concert series in Cambridge, WMP Concert Hall, and the Nicolas Roerich Museum concert series in New York City. As a member of the Yanvar Trio, she was a prizewinner in the Val-Tidone Chamber Music Competition and a finalist in the Zinotti International Chamber Music competition, both in Italy. As soloist with orchestra, Victoria has performed with the Jerusalem Chamber Orchestra, the Longy School of Music Chamber Orchestra, and the Riverside Orchestra. She has performed at the Quartet Program in Pennsylvania, and participated in the Tel-Hai International Piano Festival in Israel and the Lyrica Chamber Music Festival in New Jersey. Also active in the field of opera and art song, Victoria was vocal coach and accompanist at Boston Lyric Opera, Glimmerglass Opera, the Brevard Music Center, the Westchester Summer Vocal Institute, and the American Institute of Musical Studies Festival in Graz, Austria. She recently gave a master class in Russian vocal repertoire at Queens College, New York. She is on the coaching faculty in the Vocal Department at Montclair State University.After graduating from Jerusalem Conservatory, Victoria continued her education at the Longy School of Music and New England Conservatory. While pursuing various degrees in solo and chamber music performance, she was selected to perform in masterclasses given by Dmitri Bashkirov, Menahem Pressler, and Richard Goode, among others. Her principal teachers include Irina Kivaiko, Issak Kossov, Victor Rosenbaum, Sally Pinkas, Eda Shlyam, and Eteri Andjaparidze