Bach, Piazzolla honored at Cotik concert

Johann Sebastian Bach’s baroque compositions and Astor Piazzolla’s tango pieces represented contrasting ends of solo violin repertoire in an exciting performance by Portland State’s Dr. Tomas Cotik. The Oct. 22 concert in PSU’s Lincoln Hall celebrated the release of Cotik’s new CD Astor Piazzolla: Legacy, which features Cotik’s arrangements of Piazzolla’s music for violin and piano and includes a guest vocalist, two percussionists and a bassist.

Cotik opened with Bach’s “Partita No. 1 in B minor” then moved on to “Partita No. 3 in E major.” He used a baroque bow for both pieces for authenticity and demonstrated virtuosic technique along with crystalline tone. Bach’s solo violin pieces were some of the first composed for solo violin, and their breadth of musicality and technical difficulty cemented them as cornerstones in the violinist’s repertoire.

The partitas belong to Six Sonatas and Partitas for solo violin which Bach completed around 1720, but was not published until 1802—52 years after his death. There is a theory that the Italian name for the set of works, sei soli (“you are alone”), is a reference to the sudden death of Bach’s wife Maria Barbara.

After the Partitas, Cotik played selections from Piazzolla’s Tango Etudes, Libertango and Escualo, a newly recorded Legacy piece. The dancing melodies and busy accompaniment of the Piazzolla pieces evoked the romantic spirit of Piazzolla and Cotik’s native Buenos Aires. Piazolla’s Tango Etudes revolutionized the world of twentieth century tango music, which Cotik talks about in Vanguard’s interview with him.   

Cotik’s final number was a surprise. He and his violin students performed Piazzolla’s Ava Maria and Oblivion, arranged by PSU Orchestra director Ken Selden. The students swarmed the stage as he lead them in both pieces. Cotik is now in his second year at PSU, and this concert was a wonderful show of the hard work he’s put in here with his students.

As of January 2018, Legacy’s album has received the Supersonic Award from Pizzicato Journal, a Luxembourg magazine dedicated to classical music, and has been nominated in the 2018 International Classical Music Awards, as well as receiving rave reviews from international publications such as Downbeat and Textura.

Cotik is releasing two albums this winter: a collaboration with Cotik’s string quartet, The Delray String Quartet, featuring new music from American composer Richard Danielpour, on Jan. 12, and another with pianist and Legacy collaborator Tao Lin, playing Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s 16 Sonatas for Violin and Piano, to be released in February.