Think of the marriage and the music making of cellist David Finckel and pianist Wu Han as two tightly entwined strands. But for this couple, there’s a dominant strand – the music.
“Our first commitment has always been to the music,” Wu Han said in a phone interview.
From that commitment they derive their greatest happiness.
“We both love to work and we’re incredibly appreciative and grateful for the opportunities that have been given to us,” she said.
Wu Han said she and her husband constantly emphasize the positive.
“I do not want to waste my time on any negative thoughts on life, on anything,” Wu Han said. “In terms of keeping a marriage, we are so busy we don’t have time to fight.”
Finckel and Wu Han have been performing together for 31 years. They’ve been married for 28.
For the June 15 concert at Simms Performing Arts Center, they’ll be collaborating as a duo. The concert is part of Chamber Music Albuquerque’s June Music Festival.
The program chronologically presents sonatas from over three centuries, from Bach to Benjamin Britten.
“This is a format we really like, not only for our own recitals but in presenting programs that do this,” Finckel said.
He thinks of the Albuquerque program of sonatas as having two pivots. The concert opens with Bach’s Sonata No. 1 in G major for viola da gamba and keyboards. Finckel said the first pivot “that steals from the past” is Beethoven’s Sonata in C major, Opus 102, No. 1.
“At this point in Beethoven’s life, he’s getting to the late period. He’s exploring the Baroque form. The first movement is in the style of a Bach trio sonata,” he said. “At the same time, Beethoven looks ahead.”
Following the Bach and the Beethoven, the remaining three works on the program are Mendelssohn’s Sonata in D major, No. 2, Opus 58, Debussy’s Sonata in D minor and Britten’s Sonata in C major.
The second pivot, Finckel said, is the Debussy.
“He’s widely regarded as the father of the modern age in music,” he said. “With Debussy all the sounds of Impressionism start to emerge. So it’s a transitional work. You can really hear music history developing right in front of you.”
Finckel thinks of the Britten sonata as one of the first great pieces for cello and piano: “The program ends in a very wonderful, joyful place …”
If Finckel and Wu Han give about 25 concerts a year as a duo, they also play 10 to 15 trio concerts with Philip Setzer, plus other performances.
For Finckel, his annual concert total is about 70, slightly more than half of the number when he was the cellist of the Emerson String Quartet for 34 years.
The musical activities for Finckel and Wu Han don’t stop at the stage. They are artistic directors of the Chamber Music Society of Lincoln Center and of a chamber music festival in South Korea. They participate in various music education programs around the world.
And in 1997 they started ArtistLed, classical music’s first musician-directed and Internet-based recording company. Three years later the label released “For David and Wu Han,” an album of music composed for them.
The publication Musical America named them Musicians of the Year in 2012.