“One cannot easily overlook the indelible love story that Messiaen shared with Claire. And all musicians — violinists in particular — are indebted to Claire in thanksgiving, since the only two pieces that Messiaen wrote for solo violin were written for his young bride.”
For Valentine’s Day 2023, we couldn’t think of a more appropriate piece to feature than the first public performance by the duo of violinist Kristopher Tong and pianist Miki Sawada, who met and married through their work as teachers at the Heifetz Institute. Kris is a member of the Borromeo String Quartet, our Ensemble in Residence during the summer months, and Miki is a member of our collaborative piano faculty. She also has launched an ambitious new project called “Gather Here,” taking her portable piano to venues large and small in all fifty states.
For their stage debut together, the duo performed Olivier Messiaen‘s Thème et variations, a piece the French composer as a wedding gift to his wife, the violinist Claire Delbos. As the Spanish essayist Pedro Beltran notes, “She was a pupil at the Schola Cantorum, a private music school in Paris, and later studied violin and composition at the Paris Conservatoire. Her skill on the violin brought her to the attention of the young Messiaen. They gave recitals together in Paris in the early 1930s, and were married on 22 June 1932.”
French composer Olivier Messaien and his first wife, violinist and composer Claire Delbos (1906-1959). The young couple premiered the Thème et variations in November of 1932.