Written Improvisation

Thursday, July 12, 2018 • Coffee 11am, Concert 11:30am

Christ Church Cathedral


Friday, July 13, 2018 • Coffee 11am, Concert 11:30am

Christ Church Cathedral

Improvisation has been defined as unprepared, spontaneous composition. Often times, the difference between predetermined music and improvised music is the difference between written and unwritten music. There’s an exhilaration to the idea of a musician making something up in the moment. We open the festival with a program that blurs the sensation of what you are hearing: How can this music not be improvised? Haydn’s String Quartet Op. 54, No. 2 has a fascinating second movement which begins with a beautiful set of chords; however, it is the moment the first violinist breaks away and begins “speaking” that makes this work utterly unique. One might think the first violinist could be making up all the beautiful, melismatic passages, where you will hear sophisticated rhythms played with unfettered direction as if singing to oneself in quiet grief. Just as quickly as it begins, the movement “forgets” itself into a playful minuet.

The Franck Sonata for Violin and Piano rounds out the program with our violinist Geoff Nuttall and pianist Stephen Prutsman, who have an ability to make all music speak in fresh, provocative, and insightful ways. As an aside, in continuing the idea of written and unwritten music, Franck wrote this violin sonata as a wedding gift to the famous violinist, Eugène Ysaÿe—and presented it to him the morning of the ceremony! Ysaÿe reportedly did not have time to play it through, but managed to perform the work that day for the other wedding guests, with whom one was a pianist collaborating on the keyboard. Where written music arrives at the juncture of sightreading and improvising is anyone’s guess!

We invite you to join us after the concerts in a leisurely walk to Robson Square, where we will have free performances as you find lunch amidst all the different options.


String Quartet in C Major, Op. 54, No.2
Joseph Haydn (1732-1809)
Geoff Nuttall, violin, Valerie Li, violin, Eric Wong, viola, and Adrian Fung, cello

Sonata for Violin and Piano
César Franck (1822-1890)
Geoff Nuttall, violin, and Stephen Prutsman, piano

TICKETS Adult $42 • Senior $38