An Oconomowoc teen is joining the ranks of classical composers who made their debut at an early age, and he’s doing it in Door County style. This summer, 17-year-old Jacob Beranek’s composition Sonata for Violin and Piano will have its world premiere with Midsummer’s Music Festival during its benefit for Green Bay’s East High School on July 14.
While this isn’t the first major honor for the sonata, which took first place in Oklahoma City University’s Project 21 music composition contest and in the National Federation of Music Clubs’ 2016 Junior Composers competition, Beranek considers it the biggest.
The three-movement piece was composed over the course of two years, with the first and second movements inspired by Beranek’s Czech heritage and his off-season visits to Door County (his family owns a condo in Egg Harbor). All together, it blends influences from various eras and composers (Leoš Janáček, Bohuslav Martinů and Claude-Achille Debussy among them) to create what Beranek describes as a contrast “between musical extremes: humor with melancholy, folk with classicism, pensiveness with excitement, and plaintive feeling with exultant praise.”
“It’s almost like a conversation at times. I’ll have the violin do something and the piano answers,” Beranek said of the piece. “The violin says something and the piano counters. It’s kind of that fun relationship and it’s supposed to be fun for the two performers as well.”
Beranek has been composing music since age eight and began competing in composition contests three years later. Sonata for Violin and Piano came at a particularly interesting time as the young composer and pianist began modernizing his style.
“Sonata was really the first large piece that I had done after I had changed my style a little bit,” Beranek said. “It was a shot in the dark to see if I could handle a more modern, mature style and I couldn’t be happier with it.
“I’m one of those people who believe that music should have a melody,” he continued. “That it should be memorable, that it should convey something – emotions, a message. That’s how I go about writing a piece.”
Helping him shift that style and develop the sonata were his composition mentor Joel Blahnik, of Fish Creek, and his composition teacher, Ronald Foster, of Cedarburg. Foster, who has only worked with Beranek for a year, described the Sonata for Violin and Piano as a piece that balances repetition and variety while providing interesting surprises that will keep the audience engaged.
“This piece is going to exhibit all of those qualities – the serious side, the lyrical, the deep side, the sense of humor, a sense of surprise and some fun,” Foster said. “The last movement is fun but it still has a lot of surprises for you.”
It also represents the young composer’s drive to bring classical music to the forefront of the musical scene, which remains, above all, his biggest goal.
“I really believe in this young man,” Foster said. “He is going to make his mark in the musical world.”
For more on Beranek, visit BeranekMusic.com.