116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
A violin duet Michael Kimber composed in 1964 is having its world premiere Sunday and Monday, under the artistry of Miera Kim and son Oliver Bostian.
Duet in G, written in the classical style of Mozart, will open 'Holidays with Wolfgang,” part of Red Cedar Chamber Music's Hearth & Home series.
The free concert features Kim on violin, husband Carey Bostian on cello and their sons Oliver, 18, on violin and viola, and Adrian, 16, on cello and piano. It will livestream from the family's Iowa City home, via links on Red Cedar's website, YouTube channel and Facebook page.
Rounding out the program are Corelli's 'Christmas” Concerto and Mozart's Piano Quartet in G minor.
Kimber, 75, of Iowa City, said it's 'kind of humorous, actually,” to have Duet in G finally making its world premiere.
'Here we are, 50 some years later than when I wrote it,” he said.
It's a minor miracle that it even still exists.
Kimber, who grew up in Lexington, Ky., chose orchestra over physical education and study hall in seventh grade, picking up his grandfather's violin. He had dabbled in composing even earlier, but ramped it up in junior high.
In high school, he joined the Central Kentucky Youth Symphony Orchestra, which he called a 'really formative experience, getting to play really great symphonic music.” He also composed some works for his high school orchestra, which he said were 'probably awful.”
He was 19 when he wrote Duet in G for himself and a friend who also played violin, but they never performed it. Kimber put it aside, and lost it. Years later, that friend sent him a copy, saying, 'Hey, look what I found.”
Now appointed Red Cedar's composer-in-residence from 2019 to 2022, he decided to show it to Bostian and Kim, to see what they thought of the piece.
'And lo and behold, here it is,” he said. 'I never expected it to be performed, actually. It's a few of my early works that have survived the rigors of time.”
At age 20, Kimber fell in love with the viola. He switched instruments and stopped composing so he could focus on his new passion, earning a Ph.D. in viola performance in 1975.
In 1985, a colleague urged him to begin composing again. Since then, he's created more than 90 works, which have been performed nationally and internationally. In 2015, his 'Vanishing Woods” for clarinet and viola debuted at New York's Carnegie Hall. He and others have recorded his works, as well.
But that's not all.
His vast resume also includes spending 25 years as a viola professor at the Universities of Kansas and Southern Mississippi; performing in solo recitals and with orchestras and chamber ensembles across the country and abroad, including the Kronos Quartet (1976-77), the Alexandria Quartet, an American ensemble in residence in Australia (1975-76), and The Air Force Strings in Washington, D.C. (1969-75).
Locally, he has taught at the University of Iowa in Iowa City and the University of Northern Iowa in Cedar Falls, and is currently on the roster at Coe College in Cedar Rapids. A member of Orchestra Iowa since 2004, he also performed with the Quad City Symphony Orchestra from 2004 to 2016.
Also an author and inventor, in 1990 he created an ergonomic poly-pad shoulder rest for violin and viola, more than 100,000 of which have been sold in the United States and 34 countries.
Clued in that Kimber was moving to Iowa City with his wife and son in the summer of 2004, Bostian couldn't wait to meet him, and contacted him a month later. Thus began a long-standing association with Bostian, Kim, and eventually, Red Cedar founders Jan Boland and John Dowdall. He has performed with the ensemble, arranged music and created commissioned works, and was named the ensemble's sixth composer-in-residence, serving from 2019 to 2022.
His 'Nutcracker” arrangements for Red Cedar were heard in the Nolte Academy's recent virtual production of that classic Christmas ballet, re-imagined for the pandemic, with a local flavor in sites and themes.
‘Holidays with Wolfgang'
In the program, Kimber is listed as the Duet in G composer, but the program notes reveal he wrote it under the pseudonym 'Ludwig Wolfgang von Kimber.” The real Kimber said he invented 'a mythical ancestor,” who was born 'just in time for lunch on New Year's Day in 1737, and persisted stubbornly until the early hours of 1898.” His fake bio exists online at Members.tripod.com/m_kimber/ludwig.html.
'I'm kind of a jokester at heart,” the real Kimber said. ' ... He was a rather incompetent character who lived for about 150, 160 years, and accomplished nothing in that time. All of his greatest works were discovered at the bottom of the compost heap. ...
'It's kind of a way of taking on an alternate personality or something.”
Kimber's Duet in G is full of personality. It rose to the top of three early violin duets he sent to the Bostian family for their consideration.
'Miera and Oliver played this one, and it was like, ‘Eureka.' It's incredible,” Bostian said.
'It's in the style of Mozart,” Kimber noted. 'It's an example of my chameleon-like ability to compose in lots of different styles. ...
I've always been interested in imitating or at least taking inspiration from different styles.”
Written with three movements, the first is 'lively and fast,” he said, while the second one slows down, before ending on a lively note.
'I characterize it as ‘slightly spicy Mozart,' because there's some really nice things,” Bostian added. 'Maybe Mozart wouldn't have chosen that particular harmony or that particular voicing, but it becomes very interesting. It has an effervescence of Mozart, especially the first movement. It just starts and you're captivated right away.”
That's why it's so well-suited to launch the holiday program - and plays nicely with the other two pieces. They not only offer a 'nice mix of instrumentation,” Bostian said, but also answer patrons' requests to hear something Baroque for Christmas.
'The Kimber really is going to establish a great energy,” Bostian said. 'The Corelli is something a little different in the middle, and then coming back to the Mozart, since the Kimber was written in the style of Mozart, in a quite different context. That's what holds it together - starting and ending with Mozart. I think it's going to be a really effective program.”
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At a Glance
' What: Red Cedar Chamber Music: 'Holidays with Wolfgang”
' Featuring: The Bostian family quartet
' When: 3 p.m. Sunday and 7 p.m. Monday (12/27-28)
' Cost: Free
' Extra: View or download the concert's program at Redcedar.org/performance-schedule/