Brahms in context

(left) Pianist Thomas Rosenkranz, of Bowling Green State University, and violin diva Maria Sampen of UPS will perform works by Johannes Brahms on Feb. 2. File Photos

From impoverished, young piano-hall player to exacting maestro who destroyed much of his earliest work, Johannes Brahms was an artist deserving of the reverence we give him today.

Among the German composer’s expansive collection of works were numerous chamber pieces that still excite and challenge virtuoso violinists and pianists today. Two of those pieces, and a contrasting contemporary work by William Bolcom, will be showcased at a 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 2, Jacobsen Series concert in Schneebeck Concert Hall on the University of Puget Sound campus.

Johannes Brahms. File Photo

“Brahms in Context” will feature violinist Maria Sampen, chair of the Department of Strings in the School of Music; and guest artist and pianist Thomas Rosenkranz, associate professor of piano at the College of Musical Arts, Bowling Green State University, in Ohio.

“The concert is part of a series by the same name that Tom and I are playing at the Toledo Museum of Art in Ohio,” Sampen said. “For that series we’re playing all of the Brahms’ violin and piano works in context with pieces by other composers in the violin and piano repertoire. The Tacoma concert will give audiences a taste of Brahms’ fine and dramatic work.”

The evening program will include: Violin Sonata No. 2 in A Major, Opus 100 by Johannes Brahms; Violin Sonata No. 2 (1978) by William Bolcom; Violin Sonata No. 3 in d minor, Opus 108 by Johannes Brahms.

The two Brahms sonatas are very different experiences for the listener. A reviewer on the All Music website described the A major sonata as “easygoing and radiates with warm melody from start to finish,” while the D minor sonata “is an athletic, fibrous, and at times even nervous affair that offers drama of a far more epic nature.”

American composer William Bolcom, winner of a Pulitzer Prize, National Medal of Arts, and Grammy Award, dedicated his Sonata No. 2 to the memory of the great jazz violinist Joe Venuti. The piece ranges from a swinging blues mood, to a ferocious staccato, to a finish in the vein of an ecstatic hymn. The three works together should offer audiences a musically inspirational night.

Sampen, professor and chair of the Puget Sound string department, is a concert soloist, chamber musician, recording artist and teacher who has performed in Europe, Asia and across North America. She is in demand as a performer of both standard and experimental works, and has commissioned and premiered many modern works. Sampen is a member of The IRIS Orchestra, Brave New Works, and Puget Sound Piano Trio. She has performed in venues including Carnegie Hall’s Weill Recital Hall Symphony Space, Lincoln Center’s Bruno Walter Auditorium, and Chicago Cultural Center, and has been a guest recitalist and master class clinician at University of British Columbia and Sichuan Conservatory in China. She has twice received Puget Sound’s Thomas A. Davis Teaching Award. For more visit:

Rosenkranz enjoys a musical life as a soloist, chamber musician, and artist teacher. Since winning the Classical Fellowship Award from the American Pianists Association, his concert career has taken him to four continents. He is a former cultural ambassador to Tunisia and Lebanon, sponsored by the U.S. State Department. He has been a soloist with the Indianapolis Symphony Orchestra, Sichuan Philharmonic Orchestra (China), and Lebanese National Symphony Orchestra, among others, and has performed in many major Asian cities. He is a member of faculty at the soundSCAPE festival in Italy, and he codirects Maccagno Piano Days Festival in the Italian Alps. Rosenkranz is associate professor of piano at the College of Musical Arts, Bowling Green State University, in Ohio. For more, visit

The Jacobsen Series, named in honor of Leonard Jacobsen, former chair of the piano department at Puget Sound, has been running since 1984. The Jacobsen Series Scholarship Fund awards annual music scholarships to outstanding student performers and scholars. The fund is sustained entirely by season subscribers and ticket sales.

Tickets are available online at, or at Wheelock Information Center, (253) 879-3100. Admission is $15 for the general public; $10 for seniors (55+), students, military, and Puget Sound faculty and staff. The concert is free for current Puget Sound students. Any remaining tickets will be available at the door.

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