I just read a short while ago that Valerie Heywood, a violist with the Buffalo Philharmonic Orchestra, recently passed away suddenly and unexpectedly. Harper served with the orchestra as principal violist from 1991 to 2017, and she remained with the orchestra after stepping down from the Principal Viola chair. The viola has always been my personal favorite of the string family for a number of reasons, but I am chiefly drawn to its mid-range tone between the soaring heights of the violins and the tenor body of the cellos. The viola tends to be overlooked a lot of the time, and while the concert literature abounds with great concerted works for violin and cello, there are fewer such pieces for the viola, so when the violist gets a chance to shine, it’s usually a special moment. The solo viola is used to amazing effect in Berlioz’s second symphony, Harold in Italy, but that work isn’t a concerto designed to exhibit the violist’s skill but rather a symphony where the solo violist is an extra, added voice that adds perspective to the symphony’s action.
Here, offered in remembrance of Valerie Heywood, is the Viola Sonata in D minor by Mikhail Glinka. Thank you for your musical gifts, Ms. Heywood.