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Hebraique Elegie for two violins

February 20, 2022 – Paul Huang, violin; Danbi Um, violin

Daughter of acclaimed natural history artists Dorothea and Sy Barlowe, Amy Barlowe began playing viola in elementary school, but she really wanted to play violin. Her parents found her a local teacher and she was good enough to play very difficult repertoire even if her technique was unconventional. In high school she worked her way from the back of the second violins to concertmaster, but she needed a good teacher. The great Ivan Galamian accepted her after some “reconstruction work” with Margaret Pardee, and she won admission to the Juilliard School where she earned both bachelor’s and master’s degrees.

Barlowe’s playing career blossomed with acclaimed solo and chamber music concerts across the U.S., Canada, and Mexico. She toured the Northwest with the Oregon Trio and she performed and recorded with her husband, Alan Bodman, as Duo [AB]2 (AB squared). She has also taught extensively—at Willamette University, Juilliard Pre-College, New York’s School for Strings, and the Ohio Conservatory, as well as during summers at the Estherwood and Bowdoin Summer Music Festivals and—for over twenty-five years—the Meadowmount Music School.

The death of her father in 2000 gave the impetus for her to begin composing, and two years later, with the onset of an incurable tremor, composition became a more frequent outlet for her energy. She did develop techniques so she could still play the violin, but with the curtailment of her solo career, she realized “that the impending void could be filled if I were to become more creative than re-creative. If I were to write music that I envisioned, it would be another form of ‘world-building’ that I could explore for the rest of my life.”

Barlowe’s compositions and arrangements include many works for two violins and piano, solo violin, two Requiems—Aeternum in memory of her father and a Requiem for soprano and orchestra—and 12 Etudes in the Style of the Great Performers, which has won worldwide acclaim. Her arrangement of John Williams’s Theme from Schindler’s List for two violins or violin and viola with orchestra or piano won the endorsement of the composer.

More recently The Peace of Wild Things was premiered in June 2019 by Akron Baroque, a chamber orchestra founded by Barlowe in 2006 in which she plays assistant concertmaster to her husband. On the same concert he premiered her Sicliano, written as the middle movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 3 for which he left just two chords on which creative performers were meant to improvise. Even more recently, in October 2021, Barlowe’s Epitaph for viola and soprano was premiered at the Modern Art Museum of Fort Worth.

Barlowe composed her Hebraique Elegie in 2001 in memory of her father and has often performed it with her husband to great accalim. The piece has also received a number of performances by today’s violinists, Paul Huang and Danbi Um. Barlow has also arranged it for two violas and for solo violin. She writes: “There is something about the history of the Jewish people, their struggle for survival, their innate ability to buoy themselves from the depths of tragedy through the use of humor, that has always fascinated me. The Hebraique Elegie was born of the desire to find a home for the emotions I experienced at the passing of my father. The hypnotic dance at its core is a sweet reminiscence of dancing with my father at Bar Mitzvahs, while a very little girl, first with my feet atop his polished black shoes; then on my own. From the lonely, chant-like cadenza at its opening, to reflection and reluctant acceptance at its close, the Hebraique Elegie is a lament expressing the irony and juxtaposition of joy and suffering; the struggle with the inevitable.”

© Jane Vial Jaffe

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