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Compositions find new voice

Although W. Jay Sydeman’s 23 Violin Duos were written in 1975, the Nevada County composer considers Friday’s concert featuring the duos as a debut.

The Nevada County composer considers it a first in the sense that all the duos will be presented as a group.

To Sydeman, the duos have tremendous personal meaning; the compositions signal the second stage or in his words, a new beginning, in his career as a composer.



“I wrote them when living in Hawaii,” Sydeman explained, “I had left New York three years before because the avant-garde music was becoming sterile. I left my career, I stopped for five years, met a violinist in Hawaii and started writing again with a new lyrical impulse.”

Sydeman was a major figure in the New York avant-garde scene of the 1960s. He had commissions and premieres from organizations including the Boston Symphony Orchestra and the Lincoln Center. He is one of the country’s most published composers with a catalog of virtually every performing media: voice, chamber music, orchestra and opera.




Violinist Nancy Hill has performed several works by Sydeman.

“I like Jay’s music very much,” Hill said. “I think the works are very expressive, charming, humorous, it takes a very precise and tidy technical approach.”

Hill and Zach Zyskowski have earnestly rehearsed the duos since November in preparation for Friday’s concert because, she explains, “putting the voices together is very rhythmically demanding.”

These duos mark Zyskowski’s first time playing compositions by Sydeman.

“The Violin Duos are very interesting pieces,” Zyskowski commented. “Jay takes a lot from all time periods. He’ll write in baroque style, write in romantic style, write in classical style, modern style, everything. The music is very precise.”

– Carol Feineman


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