Time for some musical romance

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By Kirsten Laskey

Romance can appear in many different forms. There’s the romance of getting a second chance to play a particular piece of music, the sentiment felt for a composer’s last work and the endearment of performing with a friend.


All these forms of romance will be present during the upcoming Los Alamos Arts Council’s Brown Bag show. The music begins at 12:30 p.m. June 3 at Fuller Lodge and will feature violinist Kay Newnam of Los Alamos and pianist Sergio Rodriguez of Santa  Fe.

A highlight on the program, Newnam said, is the “Sonata for Violin and Piano,” by Claude Debussy.

She explained she had played the piece years ago but felt she had not done it justice. Therefore, when Rodriguez suggested the piece for the concert, Newnam said the “opportunity to play it again with a lot more life experience appealed to me a lot.”

Plus, the background on the work has a lot of romantic stirrings. Newnam said the piece is special because it was written during World War I and Debussy had lost the love of his life. To add to that, Debussy was dying of cancer and it was the last piece he wrote and performed.  

Newnam said it is a work filled with sadness, yet it has a lot of whimsy and ambiguity. “It’s not a piece you can pin (down),” she said.

Each time Rodriguez and Newnam play the sonata, it seems different and it “takes a life of its own,” she said.

Another centerpiece in the concert will be “Sonata for Violin alone, op. 31, No. 2,” by Paul Hindemith.

Newnam said the work is beautiful and gives a glimpse of a German day.  

Other works include Arvo Part’s “Spiegel im Spiegel,” and Francis Poulenc’s “First Nocturne in C Major for solo Piano,” Antonin Dvorak’s “Romantic Pieces, opus 75” and a piano solo piece by Debussy titled, “La Plus Que Lente.”

Besides the loveliness in the music, there is the friendship between the two performers.

Newnam said she and Rodriguez knew each other peripherally but because they are both busy, they were never able to play together.

However, when the New Mexico Music Teachers held a meeting in Los Alamos, the two musicians started talking about performing together.

“We’ve had a fabulous time,” Newnam said. These days, she added, concerts are put together quickly; however, the duo has spent months preparing for the concert.

“We’ve gotten to know each better and the music has had a chance to ripen,” she said.

Newnam said she performed in a Brown Bag show “quite some ago” so she is “really delighted to be doing this.”

“For me, I love playing in Los Alamos … my roots are in this community.”

Newnam is a graduate of the Curtis Institute of Music in Philadelphia and studied with members of the Guarneri and Budapest Quartets, Jascha Brodsky and Ivan Galamian and worked with many of the world’s greatest conductors.  She returned to New Mexico to become concertmaster and violin soloist of the Orchestra of Santa Fe, an active member of the Ensemble of Santa Fe and a private violin teacher.  

Rodriguez has performed solo piano and collaborative concerts in southern California and throughout New Mexico.

He has been orchestra pianist with the Santa Fe Symphony and Santa Fe’s Musica de Camara Orchestra, soloist for the Symphony Club Musicale and soloist for the Santa Fe Symphony’s Beethoven “Sonatathon.”