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University of Utah professors to perform world premiere of Persichetti's Lost Sonata
First Published Sep 27 2012 01:40 pm • Last Updated Sep 27 2012 01:42 pm

For all of its virtues. classical music doesn’t normally conjure up thoughts of Indiana Jones.

But when Hasse Borup, associate professor and head of string and chamber music studies at the University of Utah’s School of Music, thinks about Vincent Persichetti’s so-called Lost Sonata, his memory flashes back to the closing scene of "Raiders of the Lost Ark."

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In that scene, as the credits begin to scroll, the Ark is sealed in a wooden crate labeled "top secret," and is taken to a giant government warehouse filled with countless similar crates — destined to be lost forever.

But in the case of Horup and Persichetti, the late American composer’s Lost Sonata has been rescued from the dustbin of history and will finally be performed for the first time in public — seven decades after it was written.

"It is a really unique piece of music that deserves to be heard," said Borup.

Tonight, Borup and University of Utah faculty pianist Heather Conner will make a rare world premiere of a lost 70-year-old sonata.

Though "Sonata No. 1" was composed in 1941, it was never premiered, for reasons that will likely never be learned.

Borup discovered the lost sonata in the storage archives of The New York Public Library, and his ground-breaking research led to the recovery of a composition that has only been played once before — inside Persichetti’s head.

"[Experts’] best estimate is that he got busy with something else and never got around to publishing it," said Borup, who began researching Pershichetti three years agp. This project will lead to Borup and Conner recording a CD of Pershichetti’s sonatas for piano and violin this coming week for the respected NAXOS classical music label.

While Persichetti’s name is not as immediately recognizable as those of Beethoven or Bach, he is now regarded as one of the most prolific and important American composers of the 20th century. Born in Philadelphia in 1915, he was a pianist, composer, and teacher, training many famed composers — including Philip Glass and Robert Witt — as the head of composition at The Juilliard. He also wrote one of the most definitive books on modern music theory, Twentieth Century Harmony : Creative Aspects and Practice. He died in 1987.


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"To find an unpublished [composition] is quite unusual for a 20th century composer," Conner said.

Tonight’s premiere is the culmination of years of work that had almost as many twists and turns than "Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom." Here is a brief encapsulation:

• With the purpose of recording a CD of Persichetti’s sonatas, Borup began comparing lists from Pershichetti’s publisher and the New York Public Library of Performing Arts, which holds the musical estate of the composer.

• He found a discrepancy, and with some old-fashioned detective work, Borup realized that there was a work in the library’s catalog that didn’t appear elsewhere.

• Borup had to get permission from Pershichetti’s daughter to sort through works stored at the Library and elsewhere. After months of looking, the manuscript was finally found — inside a largely abandoned library storage archive in New Jersey,

• The manuscript was handwritten, with indecipherable notes and scribbles, and was unusable in its state. "It was a very interesting jigsaw puzzle," Conner said.

• Borup asked U. of U. graduate student Dexter Drysdale to use his own knowledge, along with music composition and notation software to create a playable score. After months of work and vetting from other musicians and professors, the piece was ready to play.

"We don’t know whether he wanted the music to be performed," Conner said.

"[Persichetti’s] students feel it is a fully complete piece," Borup said. "For him, it was an experiment, but a successful experiment."

Vincent’s Persichetti "Sonata No. 1"

When • Sunday, Sept. 30 at 7 p.m.

Where • Libby Gardner Concert Hall, 1375 E. Presidents Circle, Salt Lake City

Tickets • Free admission

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