Vitlaus von Horn, Piano

Vitlaus von Horn was the first (and so far the only) pianist to perform the complete piano solo works of Sergey Prokofiev in concert. Having reached the pinnacle of his career and unable to top this achievement, he took a quarter-century-long sabbatical from piano, interrupted only by world première recordings of the complete works for piano and orchestra by Charles-Valentin Alkan on Naxos [8.553702] and of JW Hässler’s monumental cycle 360 Preludes in All Keys. Von Horn’s musical pedigree goes back to Beethoven himself, through Medtner, Leszetycki and Czerny.

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Is it the Concerto That Killed Stalin?

Well, maybe not quite.  The account given in the film “The Death of Stalin” is fictionalized.  It is, apparently, true that the great Russian pianist Maria Yudina recorded the concerto for Stalin overnight.  (Stalin was not a run-of-the-mill bad hombre:  he read some 400 pages daily, used to write poetry when he was young, and was a heavy-handed cultural observer.)  But it is not true that he had a heart attack after reading Yudina’s note; Yudina, who was a religious nut, did write it (a suicidal one), but the former seminarian for some reason ignored the note and did not have Yudina shot.  A happy end, of sorts. The recording made overnight on Stalin’s orders was eventually released by the Soviets.

But what of the concerto?  Despite its “killer” reputation, it actually is one of Mozart’s most successful and charming works, a composition of unsurpassed beauty (with a totally incongruous bit reminding one of “Dixie”), balance, and perfection.  Despite of this, or, perhaps, because of this, pianists usually give a wimpy and bland reading.

Except for the authentic instruments folk, that is.  As it turned out, playing Mozart on the instruments of his time gives a much more robust and forceful sound that we grew accustomed to as being produced by the mellow instruments of today.

So, setting aside the romanticized story of “Concerto That Killed Stalin,” we can honestly label tonight’s performance as “The Search For Non-Wimpy Mozart.”


Alex Dergal, Clarinet

Clarinetist Alex Dergal is currently a senior at the Oberlin Conservator of Music in Ohio where he studies with Richard Hawkins. At Oberlin, Alex has played in several Oberlin Music CD projects, including the Contemporary Music Ensemble’s recording of Richard Wernick’s Concerto for Cello and Ten Players with soloist Darrett Adkins, and the recording of Jesse Jones’ One Bright Morning.

During the Oberlin tour to Chicago in 2016, Alex was recognized in the Cleveland Classical Review twice, first for the Contemporary Music Ensemble’s performance of Stephen Hartke’s Meanwhile for “playing with melodic flair, incisive rhythm, and precise intonation,” and again with the Orchestra in Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring where he “deserves a special nod for excellent work” on bass clarinet. Alex has attended many summer festivals including Colorado College, Round Top Festival Institute, and Eastern Music Festival.

In the summer of 2018, Alex will be a part of the Youth Orchestra of the Americas month long tour across Eastern Europe with performances in Poland, Ukraine, Scotland, and Germany.

Zachary Bush, MusicaNova Composition Fellow

MusicaNova Composition Fellow Zachary Bush (b. 1993) studied composition with Dr. James David and bass performance with Dr. Forest Greenough at Colorado State University from 2011-2015. Zachary graduated from CSU in 2015 with degrees in Music Composition, Music Performance, and Music Education. While at CSU, he won two 3rd place awards in the CSU annual composition contest and received two commissions from CSU’s Middle School Outreach Ensemble. He also played in the Cheyenne Symphony Orchestra for 3 seasons and in the Fort Collins Wind Symphony for 2 seasons.

Zachary is currently attending Arizona State University and pursuing a double master’s in Music Composition and Music Performance. He is studying composition with Dr. Jody Rockmaker and bass with Professor Catalin Rotaru. Since starting at ASU in Fall 2016, he has received three commissions from The Harmony Project, collaborated with the Biodesign Institute at ASU.

He is the Principal Bassist of the MusicaNova Orchestra, and has performed with several local ensembles, including ProMusica, the Symphony of the Southwest, and the West Valley Symphony.