The story behind Morris Rosenzweig's "Just One Step Beyond" goes back some 10 years. A dear friend and fellow musician of Rosenzweig's, Margaret McGlynn, had recently passed away. At pianist Susan Bruckner's suggestion, Rosenzweig wrote a piece that would commemorate McGlynn and keep her memory alive among her large circle of friends and acquaintances. "And as it turned out, it's been one of those pieces that has been done quite a bit," Rosenzweig told the Deseret Morning News.
A fairly short piece, "Just One Step Beyond" is a musical portrait of sorts of McGlynn. "It's very episodic and not elegaic," Rosenzweig said. "That wouldn't fit Marg's character at all." The piece, along with Dvorak's String Quartet, op. 77, will be played today at the University of Utah's Sundays@7 series in Libby Gardner Concert Hall.
Originally written for viola and piano, "Just One Step Beyond" has been recorded by Utah Symphony violist Scott Lewis. For today's concert, however, it will be played by Lewis' symphony colleague, associate principal violist Roberta Zalkind. But the version the audience will hear today will be what one could describe as a drastic rearrangement of the original. Rosenzweig has reworked the piece for viola and cymbalom.
Best known (if it's known at all) as an integral component of Hungarian folk music, the cymbalom has only recently been employed by classical composers. Peter Maxwell Davies and, in particular, Gyorgy Kurtag have written for the instrument. Kurtag, who is Hungarian, has employed the cymbalom rather extensively in his chamber music.
In describing it, Rosenzweig said that "the closest thing to a cymbalom in our culture would be the hammered dulcimer. But it's a much more modest instrument and not as robust as the cymbalom."
Why would a contemporary American composer want to write for it? "Well, we have in our midst Igor Iachimciuc, who is an excellent cymbalom player," Rosenzweig said. "He plays all over, including the Lincoln Center Festival. He is a very committed and remarkable musician."
The impetus for rescoring "Just One Step Beyond" came through Amy Leung, who runs the Sundays@7 series. "She asked me about doing something for one of the concerts," Rosenzweig said, "and since the series is designed to display the talents of the inhabitants of the school of music, I thought of reworking the piece for cymbalom."
But while the cymbalom has the range and dynamic capabilities of the piano, it wasn't an easy transfer. "Igor offered considerable input while I was working on it." And since Iachimciuc, who is a composition candidate at the U., has his practice room next to Rosenzweig's office in David Gardner Hall, Rosenzweig has fairly easy access to him.This new version of "Just One Step Beyond" is Rosenzweig's first piece that incorporates the cymbalom, although as the director of Canyonlands New Music Ensemble, he's conducted several pieces that use the instrument. "We have an unusual opportunity here because Igor is here at the U., and I wanted to seize it," Rosenzweig said. "And Igor is such a splendid player."
If you go ...
What: Sundays@7 featuring members of the Utah Symphony
Where: Libby Gardner Concert Hall, University of Utah
When: Today 7 p.m.