A.W.Duo Introduction and Polonaise Brilliante Op. 3 - Chopin
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March 2017 News!

Dear friends,

we write this message as we await takeoff for a nonstop flight to Beijing! A.W.Duo is embarking upon its first international tour, with six concerts in the Hebei Province of China.

We'll be playing a wonderful program of short pieces, including the Heifetz transcriptions of songs from Gershwin's Porgy and Bess, Popper's Hungarian Rhapsody, Beethoven Variations on themes from the Magic Flute, Tangos by Piazzolla, a litte Rachmaninoff, and even "Requiebros" by Cassado, a joyful romp of a piece we learned of during last summer's "CelloMania II" at HCCMF.

Following our visit to China, we'll be coming back for return invites from presenters in NC and RI, and will be tackling the Brahms E minor op. 38 Sonata and Bach D major gambas alongside other pieces from our rep.

It's an exciting time, and we thank you for keeping in touch. All best,

James and Alyona

Welcome, 2016!

Dear friends and music lovers,

It has been some time since we last wrote, and we hope you all have been doing well. 2015 was quite a year. We performed our first full Beethoven cycle in New York and South Carolina, and more importantly, became parents! Our little baby girl Sofia turns eight months tomorrow, and it has been a joyous and wild ride so far.

We are now preparing for some very exciting projects in 2016. First up is a February tour of the Carolinas with Soprano Ariadne Greif, our good friend and long-time musical co-consirator. We'll be presenting an eclectic program called "Lyric Sweets", featuring works or piano, voice, and cello featuring a wide range of composers from the late 19th and early 20th centuries. We are thrilled to bring this program to audiences in the south, and we may get in some NY house concerts along the way as well!

In April, we are excited to be returning for the fifth year now to the wonder Downtown Music at Grace in White Plains, where we'll be playing Chopin's amazing G minor sonata.

This summer we'll head back to North Carolina for a return invite to the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival, where we'll participate in Cello Mania II (six cellos + piano!! DON'T MISS!!) and also participate as featured performers in a Salon at Six house concert, where we'll play our signature piece, the Rachmaninoff Sonata Op. 19.

Stay tuned for more updates, and as ever we thank you for your support and interest in the A.W.DUO!

- James

2014 Highlights

As we look forward to some exciting new projects, travels and collaborations in 2015, we would like to take a moment to look back on 2014, and share some highlights with you.

The A.W.Duo performed twenty-seven concerts in ten different states! Of these performances, three were college venues, nine were chamber music series, one was a children's concert, and many of the concerts took place during our two regional tours of the southeast and the west coast. One concert was a live radio broadcast, and another was recorded and later aired by the local radio station. Our repertoire included four world premieres, including one commission.

A couple of our favorite memories from 2014:
- playing Menotti's Suite for two cellos and piano with cello superstar Sarah Sant'Ambrosio of the Eroica Trio at the Highlands-Cashiers Chamber Music Festival.
- playing in Alice Tully Hall for the ICN Festival Gala in a program that included internationally touring solo cellist Zuill Bailey
- participating in Listen Closely concerts in our home neighborhood of Inwood, Manhattan.
- reconnecting with family while on the road! - swimming in both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, and experiencing mountains, forests (including redwoods!) and desert while on the road.

We have been continuously amazed at the hospitality, kindness, and deep love of music found in all the wonderful people we shared our music with over the past year. We are grateful to have learned much on many levels, as players, musicians, and participants in the extremely dynamic and diverse environment that is today's music business.

As a new year roles in, our direction and decisions will be as ever guided by our core values: to always improve our playing, our presence, and our business, to learn new music, and to stay connected to our friends and community, even as we travel and form new friendships in new places. We have some plans for recordings, concerts, and tours that are currently in the works, and we look forward to sharing news of these ventures when the time is right.

Thank you for your interest and support of the A.W.Duo, and best wishes for 2015! Keep in touch!

James and Alyona

Our First Commission: "The Light Princess Suite" (2014) By Ayumi Okada

Hello music lovers, it is our great pleasure to share with you this wonderful new piece of music by our dear friend Ayumi Okada. We asked Ayumi to write a suite of pieces following a favorite fairy tale called The Light Princess by 19th Century author George MacDonald (mentor and role model to such greats as C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien). One of our goals as a duo is to begin playing more children's concerts, and we thought this piece would be a great addition to a program for the "childlike." (George MacDonald did "not write for children, but for the child-like, whether five, fifty, or seventy-five." ) It has been received wonderfully since its premiere in March, and we look forward to many more performances of the piece!

An audio recording of our live performance on March 30, 2014 at Church of the Good Shepherd in Columbia SC, courtesy of SCETV Radio, can be found Here.

The text of the story upon which the piece is based can be found Here.

Record Release

Alyona and I found it appropriate to make Rachmaninoff's "Sonata in G minor for cello and piano, op. 19" our first recorded release for several reasons. First and foremost, Rachmaninoff is a composer we both have loved for many years. We consider it an immense blessing to have a piece written by him for our ensemble, especially considering the fact that he never wrote a Sonata for violin and piano!

Also--Rachmaninoff wrote this Sonata in four movements in the fall of 1901, immediately following the publication of his Second Piano Concerto, the piece that brought him into international renown. He was 28 at the time--the same age as both members of the A.W.Duo! The piece is a hidden gem in the established composer's repertoire, but brings a knowing smile to the face of anyone who has had the pleasure of hearing it when mentioned in conversation.

So, after months of intrigue and mechanical failure, including men stomping around on the roof of our recording studio, Alyona breaking a bass piano string, a surprise trip to a contemporary chamber festival in Maine, and other hiccups along the way, the A.W.Duo is VERY happy to announce our first independent release. Recorded, mixed, and mastered at Joseph Patrych Sound Studios in the Bronx, NY. Album artwork designed by Will Garrison.

Albums are now available for order!! If you'd like to pick up a copy or three, go to the front page of this site, where you'll find order instructions and a PAYPAL link. And remember, music makes a wonderful gift! :) Thank you for your support, and we look forward to seeing many of you in the coming season. -James and Alyona

Three weeks at the Bowdoin International Music Festival

Hello everyone!!

Alyona and I have just returned home from three weeks in Brunswick, Maine, where we participated in the Bowdoin International Music Festival on the beautiful Bowdoin College Campus.

We received mentoring from some really incredible musicians, all veterans of the business and full of great advice for us. Our coaches included Matti Raekallio, pianist; Steven Doane, cellist; Luke Rinderknecht, percussionist; Rosemary Elliot, cellist; Andre Emilianoff, cellist; Tao Lin, pianist; Kurt Muroki, bassist; and Constance Moore, pianist.

We found a wonderful and inspiring community of musicians of all ages at Bowdoin, and came away feeling energized and inspired to dive into our upcoming projects. Perhaps an indication of how much information we absorbed can be summed up in the following anecdote. When we posted a blurb on our facebook page about having just finished at Bowdoin, a good friend of ours, James Wu, wittingly wrote "how's your bow doin'?" Having just received such a massive quantity of great cello bow-usage ideas over the past few weeks, I immediately wanted to try and earnestly regurgitate in writing everything that I had learned onto the comment thread. It wasn't until Alyona said his comment out loud with a laugh that I realized James Wu's pun. Well, my bow is doin' fine, thanks to Bowdoin!

A few pieces of advice for those traveling to Maine in the summertime:

1) Definitely talk to the locals. They are without exception good, reasonable people with pride for their state, and plenty of ideas for you on how to enjoy it while you are there. You might even receive a dinner invitation!

2) Bring rain gear!! Cannot stress this one enough. The silver lining of the almost constant rain we encountered was that we were forced to stay inside and do the practicing that we had to do anyways.

3) Eat Lobster. Enough said.

4) If you happen to be moved to spontaneously jump from a boat or dock into the glorious Atlantic, do, for heaven's sake, be sure to remove your glasses first. And if you fail to take this precaution, do make sure to bring an extra pair of lenses with you when traveling to Maine.

5) No matter how inviting it is to sit down at the foot of one of Bowdoin College's old-growth pines, know that when you do in fact sit down, your bottom will become covered in pine sap.

6) Did I mention lobster already?

That's all for now from the A.W.Duo. We are going to Russia in August to explore Alyona's homeland and reunite with her blessed mother, Nina. We'll be in New York in the fall, putting together our new program and exploring more fascinating repertoire for cello and piano. Stay in touch for more updates and concert postings!


June Update

AWDuo just finished a fantastic six days at the Beethoven Institute!! It was great to be back at Mannes, coaching with such fantastic musicians as Benjamin Hochman, Michael Kannen, and Tom Sauer. For the final concert this afternoon, we performed Beethoven's Op. 5 no. 2 Sonata in G minor for cello and piano (a work of symphonic proportions!) and a wonderful set of variations on the theme from J.S. Bach's Goldberg Variations by Peter Lieberson (1947-2011). All in all, a rich week. Now it's "Charleston, here we come!!!" We'll be flying from JFK tomorrow morning VERY early. What am doing still awake!? We hope to see some of you at Piccolo Spoleto this Thursday, 3PM, at First Scots Presbyterian. Click on the date in our "Performances" section for details!

Reflections on our Spring 2013 Tour to the southeast

Greetings! Alyona and I have returned safely to our home in New York City after a magnificent introduction to the southeast as a touring duo. As we settle in to our next round of projects, we wanted to take a moment to reflect on the experience from which we have just emerged. First and foremost, we’d like to thank all our generous hosts and enthusiastic audience members for making this experience possible! Additionally, we’d like to thank composer Chandler Carter for sharing his exquisite piece with us, The Song of the Bachman’s Warbler. This piece’s haunting quotations of birdsong alongside fragments of J.S. Bach’s famous aria Es ist Vollbracht made it a popular piece in the southeast, where the species of bird for which the piece was written once made its home. For more about the Bachman’s Warbler, Click Here

In addition to Chandler Carter’s piece, our program consisted of Beethoven’s Sonata op. 5 no 2 in g minor for cello and piano, and Rachmaninoff’s Sonata op. 19 for cello and piano, also in g minor. For a select few concerts, Alyona also played two solo pieces: Beethoven’s 12 Variations on a theme from Wranitzky’s Russian Dance WoO 71 in A major, and Liszt’s Tears for Things in a Hungarian Mode from the Third of Year of Pilgrimage. It was a true joy to focus on these rich masterworks together over the past few months. The early Beethoven sonata was an exercise in merging classical elegance, form, and wit with the turbulent, heated pathos and fiery individualism for which L.V.B. is so well known. Rachmaninoff’s sonata was penned over one hundred years later by a young romantic, overwhelmed twofold by the success of his 2nd piano concerto premiered a few months prior, as well as his upcoming marriage to his childhood sweetheart. Rachmaninoff’s music has been dear to Alyona and me for many years, and to be able to play a work together by this idol of ours was to live a dream.

Each of the five concerts we gave had its own wide-ranging idiosyncrasies. For starters, every piano had a wildly different personality. I was amazed at my duo partner’s ability to adjust her technique and patiently explore each new piano until she and the instrument had made friends. Also, while traveling from place to place, we had all manner of weather! Frost crunched beneath our feet and hints of snow sent us back inside for more layers in the mountains of Western North Carolina (Asheville and Highlands). Montgomery, Alabama, on the other hand, welcomed us with a balmy humidity that held its warmth even after sundown. The perfect spring air of Columbia, South Carolina, perfumed with myriad magenta Camellia blooms, was downright intoxicating. And finally, the good old southern deluge of rain and lightning that greeted the final notes of our concert in Camden, SC amplified our sense of catharsis upon having finished our first tour.

We are happy to report that we are already booking our return to the southeast for March-April 2014. We will be fulfilling return invitations generously extended to us from this tour, as well as performing in new cities and venues. Stay tuned through our website and facebook page for updates!

Yours in music,