Hannah Addario-Berry

Hannah explaining Kodály's work.

Hannah explaining Kodály's work.

The performance by cellist Hannah Addario-Berry that I recently attended was part of the cellist’s US and Canadian tour, focusing on the music from her new solo album, Scordatura, with works by the Hungarian composer, Zoltán Kodály, as well as young composers Lisa Renée Coons, Brent Miller, Alisa Rose, and Jerry Liu.

Hannah played Kodály’s Sonata for Unaccompanied Cello, composed in 1915, during the first half of her performance. At the time of its creation, Hannah explained, this piece was the most significant work for solo cello since Bach’s cello suites, written about 200 years before. Kodály’s sonata employs an altered tuning style (scordatura) that allows richer harmonic possibilities in the lower range of the cello. In this sonata, the C and G strings are lowered by a semitone to B and F#, allowing for a combination of open strings and chords that would otherwise be impossible. Hannah’s demonstration of the tuning gave us the opportunity to understand the physical aspects of this technique. This method demands extreme technical and musical finesse from the performer, opening the melodic possibilities of the cello.

The second half of her performance was a showcase of commissioned pieces by young composers. Myths Daughter, composed by Lisa Renée in 2015, is a piece reminiscent of child- hood fairy tales. This work incorporates video images, casting the audience into a remembered past and then gradually bringing them back to the present as the images of childhood fade away. Lands End, composed by Alisa Rose in 2015, is a fiddle tune inspired by the Lands End Trail along the picturesque water line of San Francisco. Miniatures, Book 3: Koans, inspired by Hannah and composed by Brent Miller in 2015, consists of several short movements which reflects Miller’s intuitive approach to the composition, abandoning the constraints of reason and connecting seemingly unrelated qualities from the styles of different composers. Lastly, Hannah performed Jerry Liu's Calor, composed in 2015. "Calor is the Latin word for "heat." Like heat of a flame, the music flickers between smoldering drowsiness and fiery momentum. Stemless noteheads and meterless measures give the performer freedom to linger or intensify as they see fit, with spacings between noteheads guiding the musician toward the composer's intent."  

The performance was held at the Forte House in the Sunset district of San Francisco; the perfect environment for an intimate home concert. The host of the event, JJ, was very welcoming and elegantly prepared drinks and tasty hors-d’oeuvres. I was very happy to see Hannah, who I had met several years ago while hosting her group, the Del Sol String Quartet, for a home concert. It was inspiring to see her exploring the possibilities of the cello and sharing with her audience her enthusiasm for these more obscure musical treasures.