BATAVIA — Joseph and John Irrera have already won prestigious competitions, professionally toured France, Italy and Germany, performed at The Kennedy Center and Carnegie Hall (twice) and are planning a concert tour of Costa Rica at the invitation of the national university.
And the Batavia natives already know what’s to be their encore. It’s their first album, “Irrera Brothers, Beethoven & Prokofiev,” featuring Joseph on piano and John on violin.
The recording will be released Friday during a celebratory reception and concert at 7:30 p.m. at Hochstein School of Music and Danc, 50 North Plymouth Ave., Rochester.
The album contains two “substantial” works of about 30 minutes each. It begins with Beethoven’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano in G Major” and continues with Prokofiev’s “Sonata for Violin and Piano in D Major.”
“The Prokofiev, once anybody hears it, you instantly like it. It’s an exciting piece, it has a lot of energy and ... some pieces take one or two times to listen to and it grows on you. The Prokofiev, it’s instant. The melody and violin, you’re grabbed after four notes,” Joseph said during an interview while back in his hometown Sunday.
The other selection “is a more pastural side of Beethoven, like an old wiseman looking back and reflecting rather than an ambitious, young person ... more introspective, peaceful, serene,” he said. “It’s exciting. It’s a new experience and I just can’t wait to have it out there.”
Although their first album was not published as a tribute to world-renowned violinist and teacher Zvi Zeitlin, it has become just that, Joseph said.
Zeitlin, who had taught John since 2003 and considered the brothers “two gifted boys,” died May 3 in Rochester.
“It was devastating; it was kind of surreal. At first it didn’t register,” John said. “It was sad. He was very proud of me and how I have matured and made progress.”
Joseph said the brothers wanted to especially thank their parents, Dr. Joseph and Judy Irrera, and their mentor “Zvi” (pronounced Svee), the teacher whom Joseph said was responsible for the CD project. “It was all him,” Joseph said.
“We played this program a lot for John’s teacher, he helped us a lot. He was still teaching and still vital at 90, and while he was very old it was still a shock,” Joseph said. “Zvi felt very proud of John and how he developed. He thought of him as his own family, he’d say ‘oh my kids,’ he felt as though they were family. That’s what kept him going for so long, not retiring but having to be there every day for his students.”
Professor Barry Snyder performed with Zeitlin for some 40 years as a piano and violin duo and will continue that musical history as Joseph’s new teacher. They have just begun to work together, and Snyder already sees a promising future for Joseph.
“I think he's a very gifted young pianist,” Snyder said. “He definitely comes across as a very talented young man.”
The brothers, who live in Greece, are looking forward to “an exciting concert season coming up” after Costa Rica, Joseph said. There are “a ton of opportunities” though some are not yet confirmed, he said.
They plan to perform locally and throughout the United States.
The young guys — John is 27, Joseph is 30 and married — have classical music at their core. They speak of musical terms such as dissonance as if it’s everyday language. (Which it is for the two who are pursuing doctorates in musical education at Eastman School of Music in Rochester. For the rest of us, dissonance is a disagreeable combination of sounds.)
Their ultimate goal is to teach at a university. In the meantime have been entering prestigious invitation-only international competitions and teaching part-time.
Joseph said that classical music — “as we learn, experience, and live with it” — ages like a good bottle of wine.
“It may take a month or two to learn all of the fingerings and notes of a particular piece, however it takes much longer to express these things into an entire communicative piece of music,” he said. “The process of searching into a piece of music to find what it has at its core is a continually evolving and changing process as we ourselves grow and experience life. We obviously love what we do. It’s very exciting to walk out on stage and perform and the attention is great, but if that was the only thing I think that would eventually die out, but to play like these pieces that I know Beethoven played this, it feels like such an honor that you know was composed by someone like Beethoven, a genius, and you think of him almost like a God.”
John, the quieter of the two brothers, said that “basically, the music just speaks to you. You have a plethora of emotions that certain pieces bring out and you express through that. That’s a big part.”
Since practice means perfect, at least as close as the admitted perfectionists can get, it also means being inside much of the time. During their down time, they both enjoy the outdoors, whether it’s a bike ride or hiking in the Adirondacks for Joseph or going to a lake or ocean for John. And they not only complement each other’s musical talents but skills in the kitchen. While John may whip up roasted turkey with a port wine demi-glace, Joseph will do the dishes. The brothers and Joseph’s wife Gillian live in Greece.
The brothers will play both pieces from their CD, plus another by Clara Schumann during Friday’s reception, which is to include food and wine.
Copies of the CD will be available for purchase during the reception. In the next week or two the CD is expected to be available online at www.irrerabrothers.com .