Maria Sampen

BG native Maria Sampen returns home to perform recital at Toledo Museum

By DAVID DUPONT BG Independent News Maria Sampen and violin did not get off to the best start. As a 4-year-old Suzuki student, she stepped on her violin. It was an accident. She says. Her parents decided maybe she should take piano lessons. She did eventually find her way back to her original instrument. Now Sampen teaches violin at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma Washington, and she performs around the world as a soloist with orchestras and smaller ensembles. Until January she hadn’t presented a solo recital in the area since she graduated from Bowling Green High School in 1993. She and pianist Thomas Rosenkranz played the first of two concerts titled “Brahms in Context” at the Toledo Museum of Art. The second concert will be presented Sunday at 3 p.m. in the museum’s Great Gallery. The concept for the concerts is to play all Johannes Brahms’ pieces for violin and piano and pair them with contemporary pieces, and in one case a piece by Clara Schumann, a friend and possible unrequited love interest of Brahms. The idea for the recital first germinated first in China. In 2015, Sampen had traveled to teach and perform at Szechuan Conservatory in China with her parents John Sampen and Marilyn Shrude, both members of the faculty of Bowling Green State University College of Musical Arts. Sampen needed a pianist and her parents suggested their BGSU colleague Rosenkranz, who was in Chengdu on sabbatical. The concert went well. So well in fact that several months later Rosenkranz contacted Sampen with the idea of performing the Brahms pieces in a recital with contemporary works. Performing with Sampen, had led him to reconsider the music of Brahms, which he had previously “never warmed up to,” he said. At the January concert he explained he discovered innovations and rhythm subtleties “under the surface” of the music. Rosenkranz suggested the museum’s Great Performances series as a good venue for the performance. That performance included William Bolcom’s jazzy Violin Sonata No, 2. Sampen knows Bolcom’s work well from her time as an undergraduate and doctoral student at the University of Michigan where he teaches. Sampen has frequently performed his violin concerto. On this Sunday’s recital the duo will play Brahms third sonata and his scherzo as well as Alfred Schnittke’s First Sonata for Violin and Piano, one of the most popular post-World War II violin sonatas. Sampen has fond memories of family visits to the museum with her parents and younger brother, David, who now lives in Los Angeles, where he performs in a rock band and acts. She also took art classes at the museum. That was just one of the ways she benefited from the area’s rich cultural offerings. The other was the musical instruction offered at BGSU. After the mishap with the violin, she…