Friday, January 11, 2019

Pierre Kunc

In addition to the Viola Sonata by Algernon Ashton, John David Moore and I will be playing Pierre Kunc's Viola Sonata on our January 20th concert. We got hold of the music purely by accident. John David requested something from interlibrary loan, and the Kunc Sonata came in its place. I like to think that a savvy librarian knew that we would like the piece and that we would perform it. That librarian was right!

There is close to nothing written about Pierre Kunc in English, but I did come across a French webpage dedicated to Kunc. I brushed aside the huge number of names dropped in this article, and learned that Pierre Kunc was the third of twelve children who were part of one of the most important musical families in France. He had several celebrated teachers, including his parents and the violinists Paul Viardot (the son of Pauline Viardot), and Charles de Beriot (the husband of Pauline Viardot's sister Maria Malibran).

[The Kunc family in 1905]

In spite of being overshadowed by his younger brother, Aymé, who won the Grand Prize in the 1902 Prix de Rome, Pierre Kunc had a great deal of success in France. From 1899 until 1925 he taught piano and organ at the Ecole Sainte-Genevieve in the rue Lhomond in Paris, and he held several important organ positions including one at Notre-Dame of Bercy in Paris and one at Saint-Suplice, which was also in Paris. He also served as the choirmaster at the Monte Carlo Opera, and in 1909 the Institute de France gave him the Prix Trémont. His work has fallen into obscurity because so little of his music was published. This Viola Sonata and his Rapsodie, also written for viola and piano, were Pierre Kunc’s only pieces of chamber music to see publication.

Kunc wrote his Viola Sonata for Paul-Louis Neuberth to play on his “Viola Alta,” a nearly 19-inch viola with proportions more like that of the violin. The instrument was developed in the 1870s and was abandoned (probably because of its unwieldly size) in the early 1920s. The work was completed in 1921, and Neuberth gave the first performance in 1922 with the pianist Rachel Blanquer.

I made a new edition of the viola part and uploaded a PDF into the IMSLP. After this concert I will start the piano part, which I hope to have completed by March or April. My hope is that our performance will be the first of many!

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