SHARE

March 15, at 8 p.m. in Markel Audi­torium, come hear the last installment of Hillsdale College’s Pro­fes­sional Artists Series of the school year.

The concert not only fea­tures pro­fes­sional vio­linist Jasper Wood but also the original com­po­si­tions of Assistant Pro­fessor of Music Matthew Fuerst.

Fuerst, who has worked at Hillsdale since the fall of 2008, wrote four pieces of music for Wood and his duet partner, pianist David Riley.

Fuerst’s most recent com­po­sition, his third sonata, pre­miered two weeks ago in Lex­ington, Va.

“It’s a great, fan­tastic piece,” said Wood, pro­fessor of violin and chamber music at Uni­versity of British Colombia in Van­couver, Canada. “It’s really chal­lenging tech­ni­cally but makes sense with the piano. It’s exciting and has a beau­tiful second movement.”

Riley became sick after the pre­miere and con­se­quently will not perform March 15. Fuerst and Brad Blackham, artist and teacher of music at Hillsdale College, will play with Wood.

Riley, pro­fessor of piano and chamber music at the Uni­versity of Oregon, has played with Wood for the past 19 years.

“Dave [Riley] knew Matt [Fuerst] and was telling me about his com­po­si­tions,” Wood said. “I lis­tened to a couple pieces of his and loved what I heard.”

Wood said it is a multi-step learning process when he gets a new piece of music. After learning his part sep­a­rately, he fits the violin and piano parts together with Riley.

The two musi­cians stay in almost con­stant contact with Fuerst as they practice. Wood said he points out hard or awkward parts to Fuerst. Fuerst either explains why he wrote that section the way he did, or he works with Wood and Riley to make the passage more com­fortable.

“It’s neat to have a live com­poser to explain things to you,” Wood said. “Even with pieces I’ve played a lot before, I’ll call him [Fuerst] up to ask about a marking or tell him how rehearsals are going. It’s a con­stant back-and-forth.”

Fitting the piece together is exciting — like trying to piece together a puzzle, Wood said.

The two musi­cians do not usually practice with Fuerst until right before the pre­miere; however, Wood and Riley do practice together con­sis­tently.

After com­mis­sioning the first sonata, which showed for the first time in 2001, Wood said he and Riley had a blast and wanted more.

They com­mis­sioned and pre­miered the second sonata in 2003. Fuerst then wrote “Dia­bolical Dances” in 2006 after Wood and Riley specif­i­cally com­mis­sioned a show piece.

“Dia­bolical Dances” showed in Hillsdale a couple years before Fuerst became a pro­fessor.

“Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d end up here,” he said.

Fuerst said the first sonata is a one movement, heavy work, while the second sonata is a mul­tiple-movement, lighter piece.

“I wanted it to be as dif­ferent as pos­sible from the first piece,” Fuerst said.

He said he enjoys working with Wood and Riley because they give him freedom to compose.

Fuerst met Riley at the Eastman School of Music in Rochester, New York, when he arrived as an under­graduate student.

Riley was working on his doc­toral degree at the time. The two moved to New York City after grad­u­ation and have main­tained a friendship ever since.

“With Jasper [Wood] and Dave [Riley] things are very flexible,” he said. “I’ve been for­tunate to work with them because they do usually tell me to give them whatever I want.”

Fuerst started com­posing music at age 8 or 9, he said.

“My whole life has been a single-minded pursuit to be the best com­poser I can be and to perfect my craft,” Fuerst said. “With the exception of a couple years when I wanted to play baseball. It’s not that dif­ferent from writing an essay. The first question I always ask is, ‘why am I writing this piece?’ Every piece needs to have a structure and outline.”

Fuerst said once he has the outline, he fills it in. He said the piece never seems quite fin­ished.

“I always tinker,” he said, “but at some point you just have to let it go and move onto the next project.”

After he sends the piece off, his work is not over.

“If some­thing doesn’t work, I fix it,” he said.

For example, Fuerst said he has bigger hands than Riley so he needed to adjust some of the stretches in the piano part of the third sonata.

“The third sonata in par­ticular I keep fixing details, espe­cially after one or two per­for­mances. I think it’s because I’m proud of that piece — it’s the best piece I’ve written.”

Fuerst has also written two com­po­si­tions for the New York City Ballet and one for the Lubbock Orchestra in Texas, among others, he said.

The most important things to remember when com­posing, Fuerst said: control the music and maintain a logical form.


              ejohnston@hillsdale.edu