The NMU music department will be hosting a recital featuring the work of composer Edvard Grieg, performed by two guest musicians from the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point on Tuesday, Feb. 5.
Professor Steven Bjella and retired professor Michael Keller will be performing a duet of three famous violin sonatas written by Grieg between 1865 and 1887. The sonatas reflect Grieg’s rich Norwegian heritage, Bjella said.
Bjella has been studying music for 48 years, plays the violin and has also taught at the University of Wisconsin for 21 years in between doing freelance jobs.
From 1980 to 1982, Bjella taught at Northern Michigan University and still has friends in the area, he said. Bjella, who often performs on his own or in ensembles, has 15 concerts scheduled this year.
“It makes me a better teacher…it keeps the creativity flowing,” Bjella said. “It’s a juggling act, it’s fun.”
Keller recently retired from the University of Wisconsin, and he and Bjella practice at least once a month, said Bjella.
Bjella will be playing the violin while Keller performs on the piano. They have been practicing the three sonatas since this summer, Bjella said. He chose to do a performance of Grieg’s work because he thought it would be fun.
“The first two sonatas, Sonata in F Major, Opus 8 and Sonata in G Major, Opus 13 are not as well-known as the third, Sonata in C Minor, Opus 45, which is the most famous,” Bjella said.
Bjella and Keller were invited as guest performers this fall after speaking to professor Elda Tate from the music department. The Edvard Grieg program will also be performing in several locations in Wisconsin, Bjella said.
“We enjoy making the music and sharing the music,” Bjella said.
Professor Robert Engelhart is in charge of organizing the Grieg recital and other events similar to this over the semester. He said the music department generally has two to three visiting artists per semester, but that there are usually 25 to 35 events in total.
There will also be master classes taught by both Bjella and Keller at 4 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 5. Bjella will be giving lessons on the violin and Keller will be instructing students on the piano.
Engelhart said the Grieg sonatas are very beautiful music.
“The melodies have a folk feel,” Engelhart said. “[Grieg] had a devotion to the history and roots of his country. It’s a privilege to be able to bring this kind of event to campus; we have this service to bring culture into the environment.”
There is also substantial emotional depth to the pieces, Bjella said.
“The sonatas are full of passion, great melodies, there is a lot of joy,” Bjella said.
The recital will begin at 7:30 p.m. Tickets will be sold at the door and are $8 for adults and $4 for students. Most recitals are free of charge, said Engelhart, but the profits from this recital are going towards scholarships for music students.
For more information about the event, call the music department at (906) 227-2563.