Birgitte Schnakenburg (left) and Monica Strauss Joensen as they appeared on a recent CD cover.
Birgitte Schnakenburg (left) and Monica Strauss Joensen as they appeared on a recent CD cover.

Hungarian-born Frederic Balazs, a Tucson treasure, wears many musical hats. Renowned internationally as a violinist, composer and conductor (from 1952 to 1966 he led the Tucson Symphony Orchestra and built it into a major ensemble), Balazs has also devoted much of his musical life to mentoring young people and introducing the gifted musicians he meets all over the world to new audiences.

It was in 1998, at Summertonar, an annual festival of contemporary and classical music in the Faroe Islands, that Balazs first performed with violinist Monika Stauss Joensen, and they became close friends.  He has dedicated several of his compositions to her over the years, including a partita for solo violin she played at the International Bach Festival in Schaffhausen, Switzerland, in 2000.

Now Balazs has brought Stauss Joensen and pianist Brigitte Schnakenburg to Tucson for a series of concerts and master classes to be held in different venues around the city.  On Tuesday, January 15, they will make their debut at Academy Village, an active-adult community off the Old Spanish Trail, six miles southeast of Saguaro National Park.

This will be a concert that lovers of the virtuoso violin won’t want to miss. The instrument that Stauss Joensen plays was made around 1860 by the famous French luthier Jean-Baptiste Vuillaume.

Widely known on the European concert circuit, both women are on the faculty of the Faroese School of Music. Born in Zurich, Switzerland, Stauss Joensen began violin lessons at the age of 7 and earned a master’s degree at Winterthur Academy of Music and a LRSM (Licentiate of the Royal Schools of Music) diploma in performance and chamber music from the Royal School of Music in London.

A native of Denmark, Schnakenburg completed music degrees from the University of Copenhagen and the Royal Danish Academy of Music. In addition to frequent touring as an accompanist, soloist and chamber musician, she served 12 years as head master of two Danish music schools before moving to the Faroe Islands.

The highlight of the Tuesday concert will be “The Canticle of Brother Sun of Francis d’Assisi,” a violin and piano sonata composed by Balazs in 1981. The program also includes Edvard Grieg’s “Violin Sonata in C Minor”; Hora Staccato,” a violin showpiece by Romanian composer Grigoras Dinicu; and Fritz Kreisler’s Schön Rosmarin.

Submitted by Caroline Bates,  Academy Village Volunteer

Tucson Debut for European Duo: Jan 2013
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