A conversation betweeen cello and piano


Rosanna Butterfield and her cello have seen the world. She was most recently in Miami where she spent four years with the New World Symphony, an orchestral academy for young musicians led by world-renowned conductor Michael Tilson Thomas. She has also played for Syrian refugees in a camp in Amman, Jordan, and coached in Colombia as part of an exchange.

She is now in Victoria with her very musical family (both parents and two uncles are professional musicians), and she is coming to Sidney with pianist Jannie Burdeti to perform music for cello and piano that she has called “Conversations.” It will be her first concert in the Victoria area, which she said will feature the “back-and-forth” between the two instruments.

“I hate the word accompanist, it’s a bit old fashioned, but it still gets used, so I said, let’s do a recital that really focuses on the partnership that’s involved with just one instrument with piano. A duo recital,” said Butterfield.

Butterfield first met Burdeti at a home recital. Butterfield volunteered as a page turner for Burdeti, who was collaborating with a singer she knew from Vancouver. Butterfield admired how Burdeti played the role of orchestra, providing “the other voice.” They got to chatting, and “as these things often go, it just fell into place, which was really nice.”

They are playing pieces by Bach, Beethoven, Barber and Boulanger, each of which require at least equal participation. The first half features better known compositions, whereas the latter half is designed to showcase pieces that are less often heard.

Butterfield described Beethoven’s earlier cello sonatas as having particularly difficult piano parts, but the third cello sonata in A Major, which they will perform, is “the first one where two instruments are completely equal voices and pass off the melodies to one another and really switch roles all the time which makes it really interesting to play.”

The Barber Cello Sonata has a special connection to Butterfield, because she first learned it when she was 16. Barber himself wrote it as a student (it is his sixth categorized composition), and “you can feel in the piece he was really exploring how to write for these two instruments,” and it gives equal voice to both. Butterfield looked back at her score and noticed that her old fingerings and bowings were “way more complicated than they needed to be. I think I was overthinking it a bit when I was younger!”

The Boulanger piece, which is not often heard, is comprised of three miniatures. Butterfield is particularly fond of the middle piece, a canon, where the piano imitates the cello part just one eighth note behind yet both parts mesh together.

Butterfield enjoys the variety that comes with being a professional musician. She is currently in rehearsal with the Victoria Symphony for their annual New Years concert, and recently played the cello for Rattenbury, a new opera by Tobin Stokes about the architect behind Victoria landmarks like the Parliament Buildings and the Empress Hotel.

”It keeps everything fresh and it keeps me aware of the kind of playing I’m doing…I’m never stuck playing in one style.”

Butterfield and Burdeti will perform at St. Paul’s United Church (2410 Malaview Ave.) on Dec. 17 at 2:30 p.m. Ten per cent of the proceeds will go to St. Paul’s United Church.

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