Readers may recall that pianist Sarah Cahill prepared a highly imaginative program for last January’s concert in the Noe Valley Chamber Music series. Her selections juxtaposed four chaconnes from the Baroque period with three from the twentieth century and a world premiere by an up-and-coming Bay Area composer. This program was so well received that Cahill will repeat all the selections (although the newest work will no longer be a world premiere) in the program she has prepared to conclude this season’s Salons at the Hotel Rex series presented by San Francisco Performances (SFP).
To “review the bidding” from the program that Cahill prepared for her January recital, both the Baroque and twentieth-century selections were distinguished for including a female composer. In the Baroque period the composer was Élizabeth Jacquet de La Guerre, who seemed to favor the chaconne in keyboard suites in the key of D minor. (Is it a coincidence that one of the best known chaconnes is the final movement from Johann Sebastian Bach’s BWV 1004 solo violin partita, which is also in the key of D minor?) In January Cahill performed movements from two of the D minor suites by Jacquet de La Guerre, L’Inconstante (the inconstant one), composed in 1687, and the other composed in 1707.
The male Baroque composers, in chronological order of their compositions, were Henry Purcell, George Frideric Handel, and François Couperin. Purcell alternated in calling his pieces with a repeated bass line “chaconne” or “ground.” Cahill performed one of the pieces he called “ground” in the key of C minor (Z. D221), composed in 1689. The Handel chaconne, in the key of G major, was composed in 1706; and Couperin’s chaconne, which he entitled “La Favorite” (the favored one) was in his 1713 collection of keyboard compositions.
The female composer from the twentieth century was Sofia Gubaidulina, whose chaconne was composed early in her career as a composer in 1962. The other two twentieth-century composers were Carl Nielsen, whose Opus 32 chaconne was composed in 1917, and Stefan Wolpe, who composed his “Dance in the Form of a Chaconne” in 1939.
The world premiere was by Danny Clay, who called his piece simply “Chaconne.” Readers may recall that, in 2014, the MUSA Baroque Ensemble commissioned Clay through their Art Inspiring Art project to write an original work that they would perform at the Young Performers Festival held that summer in conjunction with the Berkeley Festival & Exhibition. On that occasion he composed “La Folia,” named after the Spanish harmonic progression that served as a ground for a series of variations. “Chaconne” thus provided Clay with an opportunity to continue exploring his interest in repurposing ideas from the seventeenth century for contemporary objectives.
Cahill’s recital will take place in the Salon Room of the Hotel Rex. It will begin at 6:30 p.m. on Wednesday, May 4. The Hotel Rex is located at 562 Sutter Street, on the north side between Powell Street and Mason Street. Tickets are $25, and they may be purchased in advance from a City Box Office event page.