Tonight, violinist Brandon Christensen and pianist Marilyn Garst will unspool a remarkable program. Two majestic sonatas will frame two short contemporary works, and the concert will close with a splash of moody, tango-inspired film music. At 7 p.m. in the intimate and acoustically inviting sanctuary of the Unitarian Universalist Church, the duo will open the 11th season of the UU Recital Series.
Organized a decade ago by Garst, the innovative music director of the Unitarian Fellowship, the UU Recital Series may have a cumbersome title, but it has an illustrious history.
After a 25-year performance and college teaching career as professor of piano, harpsichord and keyboard ensembles at George Washington University, Garst and her husband, Ron, moved to Durango. She immediately set to work establishing an intimate recital series by inviting regional musicians to perform.
Her outreach continues this year with programs and performers local audiences may have not heard before.
Christensen, who is relatively new to town, recently performed with the San Juan Symphony in the twin-concert season opener in Telluride and Durango. After 15 years as professor of music at Southwest Missouri State University, Christensen and his wife have moved to the Southwest.
He holds a doctor of musical arts degree from Stony Brook University in New York and has served in the music departments of Dickenson College and the Pennsylvania Academy of Music.
In Durango, Christensen has established a private violin studio, performs with the San Juan Symphony and will appear later in the year in other recitals.
But he will make his solo Durango debut tonight with Garst.
Together, the musicians will open the recital series with Mozart’s Sonata in B-flat Major, KV 378, followed by a rendering of the theme from “Schindler’s List,” by American composer John Williams.
The duo will close the first half with a transcription of George Gershwin’s “Bess, You is My Woman Now,” from the American opera “Porgy and Bess.” The Gershwin transcription was made by none other than violinist Jascha Heifetz. Unknown to many music fans, he had a parallel career as a jazz composer-arranger under the pseudonym Jim Hoyl.
After intermission, Christensen and Garst will perform Brahms Sonata in G Major, Op. 78, an expansive three-movement work. And to conclude the evening, the duo will play the tango-inspired “Improvviso in D Minor”, by the Italian film composer Nino Rota.
The work, like the theme from “Schindler’s List,” may well be familiar to audience members.
Judith Reynolds is an arts journalist and member of the American Theater Critics Association.