Master classical musicians Alessandra Cuffaro and Simeone Tartaglione love their adopted hometown. After leaving their native Italy for the United States in 2005, the couple eventually found their way to the “family-oriented, very cozy and architecturally very pretty and unique” Kentlands community, Cuffaro said.
On the evening of Saturday, Jan. 26, violinist Cuffaro, accompanied on piano by Maestro Tartaglione, will present a concert in the Arts Barn’s intimate 99-seat theater. “How happy we are to share our talent and passion with the community of Kentlands!” she enthused.
The couple—who met as teenagers at a mutual friend’s wedding—has performed in the neighborhood before. On June 23, patrons of their free classical music concert overflowed the well-manicured lawn of the Kentlands Mansion. The show was the first effort of Musica Viva Kentlands to make the community a center for classical music.
Both have excellent professional credentials. Cuffaro, a violin faculty member at The Catholic University of America (CUA), is the first Italian woman to perform all 24 of Niccolò Paganini’s Capricci, a collection of highly challenging violin pieces, in one concert. To date, she has accomplished this 23 times. Tartaglione is also on the CUA faculty and leads five orchestras in Maryland, Virginia and Delaware, including the Symphony of Maryland Classic Youth Orchestras, a resident partner at the Music Center at Strathmore.
The Jan. 26 concert will feature “mostly virtuoso pieces,” said Cuffaro, among them Paganini’s “Campanella” Capricci as well as works by Spanish violinist-composer Pablo de Sarasate, Austrian violinist-composer Friedrich “Fritz” Kreisler and German pianist-composer Johannes Brahms.
Cuffaro last performed the Brahms violin concerto at the invitation of Tartaglione’s Newark Symphony Orchestra in October. She remembers getting “the most beautiful, powerful comment: ‘She plays like a goddess.’” In addition, an audience member offered her a full-time violin professorship at a “prestigious university,” which she refused because she and Tartaglione don’t want to relocate. She agreed to do a master class at a summer festival there.
On what basis did Cuffaro make the program selections? “I chose them because (my instrument), the Vincenzo Sannino, made in 1914 in Naples, sounds amazing with those pieces,” she explained.
That fine instrument acquired a nickname after her first performance with it in 2014 in Milan, she said. She credited an Italian journalist with writing, “Virtuoso Alessandra Cuffaro enchants the audience with her Magic Violin.”
Cuffaro, too, waxed poetic about the “characteristics of the voice of this instrument,” which she defined as “a warm tone, deep potentials on the gamma (musical scale) of forte (loud) and piano (quiet), melancholic voice, sweetness and strength at the same time, and even quality of sound in any register.”
At CUA, Cuffaro pays her passion forward. “I love teaching … analyzing (students’) potentials and guiding them throughout the pure, worldwide famous Russian Violin School of David Oistrakh and Yuri Yankelevich—I studied with their pupils!—to achieve the highest scenario of any violinist’s dream: playing well and maybe being a soloist.”
“Guiding students for ‘the top,’” she observed, “is a very specific job. The violinist in an orchestra doesn’t require the same training as a soloist. The orchestra player needs to blend his or her sound, interpretation, temperament, technique, while a soloist needs to stand out, be a leader, explain the depth of the piece, mastering it technically and emotionally.”
Cuffaro attributes her passions for teaching and performing to a single source: her need to share “the sound, (which) is the voice of the soul, a universal language that must travel through time and space and reach everyone ‘s heart and personal memories, unifying emotions. It is very deep indeed!”
Gaithersburg’s Arts on the Green concert series resumes with “Virtuosic Violin,” featuring Alessandra Cuffaro and Simeone Tartaglione, at 8 p.m. Saturday, Jan. 26, at the Arts Barn. The Arts Barn Pub is open one hour before the show and during intermission. Tickets—$25, $15 for ages 18 and younger—may be purchased online at artsonthegreen.ticketfly.com or by
calling the Arts Barn Box Office at 301.258.6394.