Known for toggling between short, high-energy pieces veering from the contemporary to the classical, the Louisville Orchestra musician plays sans accompaniment. His performances juggle Baroque with Americana, the Renaissance and the avant-garde, dancing from sarabandes to tangos.
Simonds will be at Las Puertas Event Center at 10:30 a.m. Sunday, March 17. The violinist will explore the connections between contemporary American composers and the music of the 17th and 18th centuries. The composers range from Bach and Telemann to two contemporary works written specifically for Simonds.
“I like the contrast of people looking forward and looking backwards, and I play off that idea,” he said.
He’ll open with a balance of the sacred and the secular in “Four Violin Studies” by church composer Patricia Van Ness.
“Her music is very informed by the Renaissance,” Simonds said. “It has four slow movements; the slower ones have a ritualistic side to them. The fast ones are foot-stomping, folksy, of-the-people quality.”
Two Baroque pieces by Purcell and Telemann will transport listeners into the past with a purpose.
“I like to show the Baroque period isn’t a monolith,” he said. “It spanned over 100 years and music was regional then. It’s a pretty big palette.”
At the time, Telemann was considered more progressive than Bach, he added, despite the latter’s regal legacy.
“I’m trying to get away from the Big Man problem,” Simonds continued. “There was more than one person playing this music. Telemann was looking forward to the classical period.”
He’ll follow the Adagio from Bach’s Sonata No. 1 with “Music for Violin” by Louisville composer Daniel Gillian.
“It’s sort of a meditation on that movement of Bach, so there’s a link,” Simonds said. “It’s a 21st-century form of Bach’s music.”
Phoenix composer and flutist Elizabeth Kennedy Bayer penned her tongue-in-cheek “I Lost My Lifesavings in the Bitcoin Crash of 2014” specifically for Simonds. Critics have described it as the music of Philip Glass shattered in a microwave.
“It’s sort of American minimalism, but sped up,” Simonds said. “There’s a lot of visceral music in it.”
The performance marks Simonds’ second at Chatter. He says playing solo gives him a break from his orchestral work.
“My day job is playing with 70 other people, so it’s the exact opposite,” he said. “It allows me complete autonomy.”