Klasična priča

The „Mary Jane“ sonata: a classical piece with the echo of the sixties

03. 06. 2021.

In the studio on the top floor of “Beogradjanka” building in Belgrade, the Infinity string quartet (Vladimir Uratarević and Ivana Mandić violins, Ivan Simeunović viola, and Sara Vučenović cello) is recording the Mary Jane sonata these days. The author is the American composer Michael Shaffer who dedicated his piece to Belgrade’s musicians.

The long and difficult love story stands behind these scores, explains the violinist Vladimir Uratarević for „ClassicAll“. „In the beginning, everything is sweet. Then, it floats chronically somewhere in the seventh sky, and finally, it ends up with blue notes. The first movement is ‘Cookie Jack’, the second is ‘Chronic Heaven’, and the third is Sour Blue Dream.

The inspiration for three-movement sonata Shaffer got from Traffic’s song Dear Mr. Fantasy, the classic Whiter shade of pale, and the blues standard Trouble in Mind. According to Uratarević, Shaffer „decomposed“ these songs and adjusted them to his musical language.

The Infiniti quartet: Ivan, Sara, Ivana and Vlada

Ivan Simeunović finds this music very complex and very peculiar: „We needed a bit of a time to get into the subject of the piece and I must say that everything is amazing. Especially the fact that this material is going overseas! And I believe that is not the end!

Most of Michael Shaffer’s opus consists of musicals, however, it is interesting that he also wrote theater plays. In the last couple of years, Shaffer is a regular visitor in Belgrade, a city that motivates him in a special way. It was here that he composed the Mary Jane sonata.

He’s found some kind of peace that he doesn’t have back home. Or it is different there. He has his morning routines and he is very serious when it comes to working. He is very disciplined, which is fantastic – to look at a 70-year old with that kind of work habits… And you realize that you, being much younger, don’t have any excuses for anything anymore“, says Vlada while smiling.

The cooperation between them has grown into a wonderful friendship. On this occasion Michael couldn’t make it to Belgrade, however, the two of them are permanently online. Besides the compact disc, a DVD from the studio will be released, and, Infinity hopes, the Belgrade concert premiere will follow.

Although this quartet has many years of experience, every performance carries a unique excitement and responsibility. In that way, Ivan Simeunović points out that it is important to stay focused, not ruin the continuity of the piece, and be able to transmit the suitable emotion.

Every movement is a challenge for itself. However, I believe that we are up to it. I believe that we will do a good job“, he concludes.

Ivana Ljubinković

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