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Rotunda Dome Room welcomes international harmony

A musical partnership uniting performers from Charlottesville and Hungary is bringing a variety of chamber compositions to the Dome Room of the University of Virginia’s Rotunda.

A free concert featuring members of UVa’s music faculty and that of the University of Pécs’ Institute of Music and Fine Arts in Hungary, set for 1 p.m. on Saturday, will let audience members hear the fruits of an ongoing collaboration.

Daniel Sender, concertmaster of the Charlottesville Symphony at UVa and associate professor of violin in the Department of Music, started building the relationships during his Fulbright Fellowship in Hungary from 2010 to 2011. The artistic and cultural collaboration Sender founded has led to his spending a semester teaching at the University of Pécs; a weeklong residency by UVa faculty members, students and recent graduates that included an internationally livestreamed gala concert; and a new biannual UVa course, “Experiencing Hungarian Music and Cultural History,” which offers students an opportunity to study abroad.

Saturday’s guest musicians include violinist Máté Szücs, an in-demand chamber musician who served as principal violist of the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra from 2011 to 2018; cellist Lázlo Pólus, who is principal cellist of the Hungarian State Opera and cellist of the Somogyi String Quartet; and violinist Zoltán Bánfalvi, who belongs to the Budapest Sextet and Hungarian Chamber Orchestra and is concertmaster of the Pannon Philharmonic in Pécs.

The program includes Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s “Oboe Quartet in F Major, K. 370,” which teams up oboist Kelly Peral and cellist Adam Carter from UVa with Bánfalvi and Szücs; Ernõ Dohnányi’s “Serenade in C Major, Op. 10,” featuring Bánfalvi, Szücs and Pólus; and, after a brief intermission, Felix Mendelssohn’s “String Quintet No. 2 in E-flat Major, Op. 87” with Sender and violist Ayn Balija from UVa performing with Bánfalvi, Szücs and Pólus.

“It’s a project I’m really passionate about,” Sender told The Daily Progress.

Sender and UVa pianist John Mayhood went to Hungary in 2019 to kick off the creative venture. The partnership unites musicians in two college towns with ties to two UNESCO World Heritage sites, but one is significantly older than the other.

“At the time we were celebrating our 200th [anniversary], they were celebrating their 650th,” Sender said. “We saw all these charming overlaps, and we wanted to do arts exchanges and enhance people’s lives.”

The COVID-19 pandemic and the shutdowns it triggered postponed one of the early trips.

“On March 5, 2020, bags packed and ready to go, we were told the day before that we could not go,” Sender said.

In March 2022, UVa students joined Sender in Pécs for a weeklong residency over spring break.

Sender said that listeners in the intimate Dome Room setting at UVa are likely to notice a distinct Hungarian sound. That’s a rare experience at a time when most countries’ ensembles are adopting an accessible and familiar international style.

“The Hungarian musicians are trained in a national style, and there are very few of those left,” Sender said. “There is still a Hungarian national style of music making.”

That aspect will make the performance of the Dohnányi work — music by a Hungarian composer performed by accomplished Hungarian musicians — a special treat for the American audience, Sender said.

“It’s one of the most outstanding trios in the repertoire, and they’re going to bring all their idiomatic style,” Sender said.

While they’re in Charlottesville, the musicians from the University of Pécs will attend Charlottesville Symphony rehearsals for this weekend’s “Dazzling Dances” concert, which will take place at 8 p.m. on Saturday in Cabell Hall Auditorium and 3:30 p.m. on Sunday at the Martin Luther King Jr. Performing Art Center. The guests also will present a free masterclass at 5 p.m. on Thursday in Cabell Hall Auditorium.

Parking for the Dome Room concert will be available on the street or in nearby parking garages. Audience members who ride the Charlottesville trolley to get there can disembark at the stop right in front of the Rotunda steps. For details, email or call (434) 924-3052.


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